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The Changes You Need to Know About the CASPer

A couple of years ago, we introduced you to CASPer, the friendly ghost…err, the Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics test. Since then, CASPer has become even more popular among medical schools, including big names such as University of Washington School of Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, New York Medical College, and several osteopathic schools. And as national adoption of the test increases, so do the challenges of keeping CASPer fair in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Due to this, CASPer will be undergoing substantial changes for the 2022-23 administrations. But, before we jump into describing these changes, let’s quickly review the CASPer test and why you should care about it as a medical school applicant!

What is CASPer, and what does it test

CASPer is a situational judgment admissions test first developed by McMaster University in Canada. The test is administered through an online platform called Altus and costs $12 for a single attempt, with an additional $12 fee for every medical school you want to receive your results. Unlike the MCAT, which tests your critical thinking and content knowledge, CASPer is designed to assess traits like ethics, empathy, professionalism, and communication. I’m sure you will agree that all of the above are critical aspects of being an excellent physician. (And if you would like to brush up on your medical ethics, here is an excellent resource to do so!)

The format of CASPer and what has changed

Since its inception, CASPer has tested students by presenting scenarios as prompts, in a randomized mixture of written and video prompts. The goal was to respond to 3 questions associated with each scenario within 5 minutes. In the previous version, the student would respond to 12 scenarios, 8 video-based and 4 text-based, strictly by typing in their answers. This is where the new changes kick in. The new CASPer has increased the number of scenarios from 12 to 15, with 10 being video-based and 5 text-based. You’re probably thinking, “so what, it’s a little longer and I love taking the longest possible version of standardized tests!”

Well, what differs even further is that only 9 out of 15 responses will now be typed. The other 6 answers will now be given as video-recorded responses. This is an enormous change, and was explicitly made to help reduce demographic differences in test scores.

Of course, adding a new type of response section affects the order of the test. Since all answers were typed in the earlier version, the scenarios simply appeared at random. The new test preserves this randomness but with a modification. All typed responses will come first, with the video-recorded portion second. 

The new section also introduces additional subdivisions. Out of 9 scenarios requiring a typed response, 3 are presented as text-based, and 6 are typed responses to prompts in video format. And among 6 questions with a video response, 2 are displayed in text form, and 4 are shown as videos.

Lastly, all these changes understandably affect the total duration of the test, which has increased from 60-90 minute range to 100-120 minutes. You can view a table summarizing these changes directly on the Altus website

What does it mean for me

While all of this might seem overwhelming at first, keep in mind that it also introduces some predetermined structure to a previously random test. Knowing the video recording is coming up might also help a ton if you’re more confident speaking than writing! (And if you’re more confident writing than speaking, ⅔ of the responses are still right up your alley). So, don’t let any of the changes scare you if you had already prepared for the previous CASPer format. The test might be a little longer now, but there’s more variety, and more of a chance to showcase who you are in a fairer, less typing-reliant way!

Finally, as you add the CASPer to your list of to-dos this application cycle, don’t forget that CASPer scores are only one piece of the holistic medical school admissions process. The scores will supplement your longitudinal academic and extracurricular record, letters of recommendation, personal essays, and MCAT scores. Medical schools understand you’re more than just your MCAT score, and the CASPer is another attempt at assessing you as a well-rounded applicant.

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