The CASPer test is yet another form of assessment that aspiring medical students have to overcome in order to gain admission at their school of preference, namely the University of Wollongong.

To answer the question – “what is CASPer?”, we should begin by decrypting the acronym. CASPer stands for Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics. While this may sound a little convoluted, this assessment is essentially a Situational Judgment Test. This means that rather than testing technical understanding like the GAMSAT, or achievements and communication skills like the interview or portfolio, the CASPer attempts to analyze your capacity to make effective and ethical decisions in the workplace. The scenarios that you may be asked to respond to are similar in nature to certain MMI questions you may have already encountered.

A good example of a CASPer personality test question is one concerning conflict resolution between your co-workers, and your supervisor. Or perhaps you may be required to respond to a moral dilemma in the context of your future medical training. The range of CASPer online test content is broad.

So, the Fraser’s Interview Training Team has put together a brief summary of CASPer tips, to help you familiarise yourself with the structure and expectations of this exam. We will also include some general CASPer test information to clarify questions of logistics. 

Who Takes the CASPer Test?

It is interesting to note that, unlike the GAMSAT exam, the CASPer online test is not unique to GEMSAS medical school entry. In fact, this situational judgment test is employed by many universities both locally, and internationally to rank candidates for a variety of courses. This is certainly the case that many U.S medical schools use the CASPer test as an additional admission criterion. Therefore, as medical school entry continues to become more competitive, it is not unreasonable to expect a similar adoption across Australian Universities in the near future.  

As it stands today, the CASPer online test is the primary interview ranking criterion for the University of Wollongong medical school. This means that gaining a satisfactory mark on this test is a prerequisite to achieving an interview at this university. 

What is the CASPer Test Looking For?

The best possible CASPer test tips all reduce into the answer to this question – professionalism. 

The CASPer is an assessment designed to evaluate your conduct in the high-stakes setting that is the medical workplace. The healthcare system is incredibly sensitive to mistakes, and the majority of catastrophic errors that occur are a result of miscommunication and mismanagement, rather than a failure of technical medical understanding. Inevitability, when medical students begin placement, they are thrust into the deep end of such a system. This is simply the reality of a training system that heavily focuses on an ‘apprenticeship – style’ of professional development.

There is no better alternative method for learning patient interviewing skills, medical communication, or surgical practical skills, other than through guided practice, under the supervision of a qualified professional. When we state that the CASPer test evaluates professionalism, we imply that this exam attempts to clarify whether you are going to be a responsible and dependable medical student that can effectively integrate into the hospital environment. It also evaluates your judgment in pressured and uneasy situations, to quantify your capacity to construct a balanced plan under uneasy circumstances. 

In terms of the CASPer test structure, there are two question stem formats that you will encounter in this exam. The first is a video scenario – this will require the candidate to watch a short video approximately one minute long. After watching the video, you will be asked to respond to questions that require you to evaluate the conduct of the characters in the video, as well as justify your own position on this issue at hand. The second type of question stem that the CASPer test employs are ‘word-based scenarios. These are significantly more open-ended than the videos and may even resemble a traditional interview question requiring candidates to present their past achievements and experiences. Another hallmark of CASPer word-based scenarios is that they are significantly more reflective compared to the analytical style of the question presented by video stems. 

Note: The following examples are adapted past CASPer questions available online:

Example 1:

VIDEO: Man wants to take paternity leave to be with his children, but feels conflicted that it will negatively impact his career.

  1. Would you recommend the man take paternity leave? Why or why not?
  2. What strategies could you offer to help the person make a decision that he feels comfortable with?
  3. Maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging. Why do you think, in particular, people struggle to find balance?

Example 2:

VIDEO: Customer comes in requesting a refund for a purchase that he/she does not have a receipt. The customer needs the money because his daughter has an illness for which he cannot afford medication. You are the manager.

  1. As the store manager, would you give this customer a refund? Why or why not?
  2. If you decide to abide by store policy, how could you refuse the refund in a way that shows empathy for the customer?
  3. In your opinion, what is the most essential quality to possess in a customer service position? Explain your response.

Example 4:

Word-based scenario:

Think of a time when you had to make a sacrifice in order to accomplish a goal.

  1. Briefly describe the situation and the sacrifice you made.
  2. Do you regret your decision to make the sacrifice? Why or why not?
  3. Did you learn anything from this situation that can be applied to your desired career? Explain your response.

How Long Does the CASPer Test Take?

The structure of the CASPer test consists of 12 sections. Each CASPer candidate has 60 to 90 minutes to complete the computer-based examination. There is also an optional 10-minute bathroom/stretch break that you can take midway through the examination. The CASPer exam is distinctly different from the GAMSAT however, you cannot simply work through all 12 scenarios at your own pace. In fact, once you begin viewing the prompt and questions for a particular scenario, a five-minute timer is activated. Once that timer is up, the CASPer computer software automatically redirects you to the next scene. Fortunately, the number of questions attached to each scenario is fixed – there are exactly three typed responses a candidate has to complete for each of the 12 sections. 

When Should I Take the CASPer Test?

As with most medical application exams, the CASPer test registration has deadlines that you should certainly keep track of in your diary or phone planner. Given the University of Wollongong is currently the only Australian medical school requiring candidates to sit the CASPer exam, the dates of this assessment are available on the CASPer website. In 2020, which was the first year that the University of Wollongong required such a situational judgment test, there were three possible CASPer sitting dates. These were spread across the month spanning from early May to early July. 

In order to reserve your test, there are a few pre-requisites to remember. Firstly, a CASPer candidate must have a valid GAMSAT ID in order to register. This means that it is not possible to register for this test as a practice attempt on a year when you do not have a valid GAMSAT score. Secondly, there is a cost associated with taking this assessment. Fortunately, the cost of the CASPer test is significantly lower than that of the GAMSAT exam, this fee being $80 payable at registration. 

How to Prepare for CASPer Test? 

An excellent place to start your CASPer preparation is the official website itself. Much like the case with ACER material, there are no answers provided, however, the four available scenarios include both video, and word-based question stems, as well as the accompanying questions. This will allow you to begin familiarizing yourself with the exam content, as well as thinking about approaches to CASPer questions. As with the GAMSAT exam, preparation for CASPer is exponentially improved by engaging with a study group – it is important to actively discuss your answers with peers in order to workshop the best possible responses. 

From a more technical perspective, the next steps in your preparation are available through Fraser’s Interview should you require additional help. This spans free resources and guides available as links at the bottom of this article, as well as our annual CASPer mock exams to help you simulate the time pressure conditions of the real test. Some additional tutoring may also be valuable if you feel that you require additional CASPer scenarios to analyze. Ultimately, this exam requires you to develop a systematic approach to managing ethically challenging scenarios. This plan should be fairly standardized, and therefore should be the focus of your early CASPer preparation. As your strategy for CASPer stems matures, it will become more valuable to start engaging in a greater number of CASPer practice test questions.

What Should You Try Next?

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