All About the CASPer Test

If you’re applying for Canadian professional schools – whether it be dental school, medical school, nursing, or otherwise –  the CASPer Test might be required as a part of your application process. Our goal today is to help you better understand why so many professional schools use this assessment as part of their recruitment process. 

What is the CASPer Test? What does it tell programs about you? How can you prepare for it? Keep reading to discover these answers and more. 

What Is The CASPer Test and How Does It Work?

The CASPer Test is one of three components of the Altus Suite – an assessment used by professional schools to evaluate some of your personal qualities. The second component is called Snapshot, which involves a short video interview whereby you are to answer a set of three questions within 10 to 15 minutes. There is no interviewer on the other side of the screen; instead, your answers are recorded and then later assessed. The third component of the Altus Suite is only administered in the U.S., and is used by medical programs to compare what you’re hoping to gain from a professional school program to which you are applying with what that program has to offer. 

The CASPer is a situational judgement test, which presents you with hypothetical situations and asks you to develop the best response to the scenario. CASPer questions require you to resolve various ethical dilemmas as a measure of your honesty and integrity. Above all, it’s a test of your interpersonal skills. While situational judgement tests are often presented in multiple choice format, the CASPer involves either typing or speaking out your responses.        

The test includes fifteen hypothetical scenarios and takes about 2 hours to complete. The scenarios are presented in two different ways: either as a block of text or through a video. The first section of the test is composed of three word-based scenarios and six video-based scenarios, each followed by a set of three questions. You are given 5 minutes to type out your responses to each set of questions before moving on to the next scenario.  

The second (and final) section is composed of two word-based scenarios and four video based scenarios which are also proceeded by three questions. However, instead of typing out your responses, you’re given one minute to record a video response to each question. This means that you’re given a total of three minutes to answer all of the follow-up questions (instead of the five minutes that you’re given in the first section of the test).  

Here’s a table to further clarify what each section looks like:

Video responses are a new addition to the CASPer Test in 2022. Previously, the entire test involved only written responses. This change is primarily due to Altus’ research findings which showed that video responses helped minimize potential cultural biases in the scoring process. As a result, they reformatted the test to take their findings into account. You can read more about it on their FAQ page

The scenarios presented may ask you to reflect on a hypothetical scenario such as this one: 

You are working on a group project where each individual is graded separately on their contribution. One of your groupmates – Liam – has been distracted and hasn’t been responding to the group’s attempts at contacting him. You have another class with him so, a few days before the project is due, you stop him after class to see if he’s okay and to try to find out why he hasn’t been responding to anyone’s texts or emails. He confides in you that his dad is really sick and he hasn’t been able to concentrate on anything else. You ask him if there’s anything he needs and he asks you if you could help him write up his portion of the project.

  • Would you do it? Why or why not? 
  • How else could you help him?
  • A few days later, Liam confides that he got someone else to complete his portion of the project. What do you do?

They may also ask you to reflect upon your own experiences. For example: 

Advocacy is a critical part of being a physician.

  • Provide an example of when you had to advocate for someone. 
  • What obstacles did you face?
  • What would you have done differently? 

While the test is conducted entirely online, you still have to register in order to take the exam on a specific date and time. The cost to register is a $40 CAD flat fee plus $12 for each school that will be receiving your test scores. These fees provide you with access to all three Altus Suite tests. If the professional program to which you’re applying also requires you to complete Snapshot, you will have to submit it within 14 days following the CASPer Test. After that, your CASPer results and the answers you submit for the Snapshot component are all sent directly to your prospective programs. 

Although you don’t receive a copy of your exact scores, you do receive your quartile scores for (only) the written component (not the video responses) a few weeks after taking the test These scores demonstrate how well you performed relative to the other test-takers. This is how the quartiles break down:  

  • 25% of test-takers in the first quartile (0-24 percentile)
  • 25% of test-takers in the second quartile (0-49 percentile)
  • 25% of test-takers in the third quartile (50-74 percentile) 
  • 25% of test-takers in the fourth quartile (75-100 percentile)

So, for example, if you place in the third quartile, that means you performed better than at least 49% of all test-takers who completed the same test, but were outperformed by at least 25% of test-takers. 

Why Is CASPer Used? 

Research shows that there are several benefits to conducting situational judgement tests, including the fact that they have fewer cultural biases than cognitive or personality tests. They can also be administered to large groups at once. Another study also found that prior knowledge of an individual’s interpersonal behaviour can be used to make incredibly accurate predictions of their academic and professional success. 

Professional schools receive thousands of applications each year. Since academic achievements aren’t the sole indicators of success in a given field, professional schools narrow their candidate pool based on their mission and values. They’re looking for students who possess the personal and professional qualities that predispose them to success, not only during their university years, but in their profession. Some Canadian programs use the CASPer Test in tandem with Snapshot so that they can get a more comprehensive understanding of who you are, rather than rely on your written application alone. 

CASPer Test Results and Raters

In order to minimize potential cultural biases, your CASPer responses are scored by a diverse group of raters who culturally reflect the population writing the test. They undergo a thorough training process that teaches them how to assess your responses while disregarding certain irrelevant elements. 

For example, how you format your response doesn’t matter. You can present your answers using  bullet points or in paragraph form. You could even have a few spelling or grammatical errors here and there without impacting your score. It’s the content of your answer that matters. Raters are even trained to ignore incomplete sentences; they’re taught to follow your train of thought to understand the points you’re trying to make. So if you run out of time and leave a question only partially answered, don’t sweat it! 

When it comes to their scoring system, Altus shares very little information. The only information they’ve made public is that each rater is assigned a specific scenario to assess. This way, each scenario you respond to is evaluated by a different individual. They score your responses in relation to all of the other responses they’ve received to that specific scenario. In addition, your responses are only compared to others who took the test on that same day and time. 

Altus notes that the test-takers who perform well do so for a number of reasons, including…

  • The amount of effort they put into the test. Test-takers who perform well tend to use up the entirety of their allotted time to fully explain their perspective.
  • Their ability to respond in an empathetic and equitable manner, showing a high degree of respect for the different perspectives presented in the scenarios. 
  • Their communication skills and their ability to articulate their thoughts through both their written and video responses.

CASPer Test Tips

Since this exam is conducted entirely online and you’re completely in control of the setting, it’s important to carve out a conducive working environment. If you’re taking the test at home, clean up your workspace to make sure you don’t have clutter around that could potentially distract you. You also need to make sure you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection. 

If you can’t find a clear space at home or your Wi-Fi connection isn’t great, talk to your local library! You might be able to book a study room which addresses both your environment and your Wi-Fi connectivity issues. Some libraries also have a hotspot lending program which allows you to take a hotspot home and use it for your internet connection. 

Otherwise, the best thing you can do to prepare for the CASPer Test is to practice, practice, practice! Altus has a few practice questions available on their website for you to use during your CASPer Test prep. It’s also highly recommended that you take the CASPer practice test which  you can access through your Altus account. The format of the practice test is identical to the one used on test day, so taking it will help you become familiar with the layout. 

Looking for more tips to help you ace the CASPer Test? Book a free consultation with one of our specialists to learn all about our CASPer Test prep. We’ll work with you to improve your analytical and communication skills, teach you how to identify and address key ethical concepts, and improve your speed and efficiency so that you can confidently tackle any CASPer scenarios that come your way!

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