Rajani Katta MD & Jenny Li-Wang BA
How the Casper Test is Graded
Updated: May 18, 2022
In this post, I'll be addressing the question of how the Casper test is graded.
If you'd like to jump straight to your area of interest, please see these posts that address specific areas related to Casper test prep:
What does the Casper exam test for?
How does the Casper exam evaluate students on these qualities?
According to the creators of the test, the Casper “is designed to measure personal and professional skills and situational judgment.”
Specific skills and attributes that Casper assesses for include collaboration, communication, empathy, equity, ethics, motivation, problem solving, professionalism, resilience, and self-awareness.
And…that’s about the extent of what we know. There’s very little else that the test creators have published. There is no published test rubric.
What do I take away from that? Basically, although the test is designed to measure these specific qualities, it’s really hard to figure out exactly HOW the test is able to measure these qualities.
For example, do they grade your response on a scale of 1-10 based on how much your typed response demonstrates empathy? Do they grade every response on all 10 characteristics? I don’t know. (But keep reading for a few additional clues that Altus Suite has published on how students can do well.)
What do we know about how the graders are evaluating your responses? Per Altus Suite: the Casper test “asks what you would do in a tough situation, and more importantly, why.”
I interpret this to mean that they are evaluating:
Your recommended approaches to a particular challenging situation
Your explanation of why you would recommend these approaches
Your communication skills in discussing both the what and the why
I also want to include a few other pointers about those qualities.
Collaboration & Empathy
Almost every Casper question asks you to work with others. How can you demonstrate collaboration and empathy? By avoiding snap judgements, asking others for more information, taking the needs and desires of others into account, and by expressing your empathy and respect for others in your written and video responses.
Your responses should demonstrate how you value fairness and impartiality in your decision-making. While equality refers to the equal distribution of resources and opportunity, equity focuses on how to reach equal outcomes. Equitable treatment may involve paying special attention to those most disadvantaged.
Ethics & Professionalism
Ethics is a catch-all term for how we act on and uphold morality in our personal and professional lives. While Casper almost exclusively asks questions with no “right or wrong” answer, your responses should reflect a deep consideration of morality in any given situation.
One of my recommendations is to identify and verbalize the main issues, and then to think about and describe the impact on everyone involved. This allows you to demonstrate your understanding of the situation and your familiarity with basic ethics. A common ethical dilemma Casper presents is the tension between professional vs. personal obligations, so consider how you would navigate situations with this tension at play.
Motivation, Resilience, & Self-Awareness
There are a number of what I call “Personal“ questions on the Casper. These Personal questions might relate back to a particular scenario, or may be stand-alone questions. Some may be a form of a behavioral interview question (e.g. “How have you dealt with conflict in the past?”). Your response can demonstrate the motivation, resilience, and self-awareness that you experience or demonstrate in your personal and professional life.
The next two blog posts in our Casper test series describe general tips as well as specific strategies for answering common types of Casper questions. These strategies are designed to help you demonstrate your possession of these qualities.
Where can I find a Casper practice test and examples of responses?
In terms of practice questions, Altus has released 3 video-based scenarios and 1 text based question, each of which has an associated 3 questions. These practice scenarios are very helpful, and you should definitely practice (with a timer) responding to the associated questions.
Think about a time when you had to make a sacrifice in order to accomplish a goal
Again, you can find those practice questions here.
Altus Suite has also provided a full-length Casper practice test on their website. Once you are registered for the exam, you will have access to the practice test.
This practice test is essentially set up to replicate the official exam. You’ll have countdown timers and access to Casper scenarios and questions.
However, you won’t be submitting this practice test and you won’t ever receive a grade from the practice test. You also won’t be able to see or receive any sample responses.
In fact, at this time, there are no official graded sample responses available anywhere. Although Altus Suites provides sample questions on their website, I haven’t been able to locate any official sample responses that provide an explanation of what makes for a poor response or an excellent response.
*There are some sample responses online from different sources not affiliated with Altus Suites. These sample responses can provide a helpful starting point. However–and this is an important point–some aren’t actually feasible examples of a response that can be typed out in 90 seconds or so. Please keep that in mind if you’re scrolling online.
The last post in our Casper test series provides some of my sample Casper responses.
How is Casper graded? What are graders looking for?
At this time, Altus Suite has not published any rubrics showing how Casper is graded.
However, we do know:
“Each section of the test is scored by a unique rater”
These raters are “assigned to a particular scenario from a Casper test.”
These raters are provided with relevant instructions and background knowledge about the topic at hand.”
Casper responses are graded on content rather than style.
Basically, your 15 exam responses will be graded by 15 different raters. You could theoretically provide the same response for each scenario and it wouldn’t matter: each rater will only see one of your responses.
In addition, raters are given additional knowledge so they can become an “expert” on their own scenario.
Should I worry about spelling or grammar? Do I need to write my responses in complete sentences?
The test creators make it clear that spelling, grammar, and complete sentences aren’t as important as the content of your responses.
Per Altus Suite, students should “focus on the content of your responses, rather than spending critical time fixing minor spelling [or grammar] mistakes”.
In terms of the form of the typed response, as long as they make sense to a reader, acceptable answers can take the form of:
What if I run out of time and can't finish responding to the questions?
Altus Suites clearly states that many applicants run out of time while responding to a question. However, that's not considered a problem. Graders are told to ignore the fact that a sentence is incomplete, and instead focus on the content.
What I'm not sure of is what happens if you fail to respond to one or more of the 3 questions. Does that impact your overall score for this scenario?
I don't know. We reached out to Altus Suite, and they didn't provide any clarification, apart from reiterating that incomplete sentences are fine.
My recommendation, until I receive information to the contrary, is to try to respond to all three questions. If you know you'll be pressed for time, try to make at least one response as complete as possible.
How are Casper test scores reported?
How long does it take for the Casper test to be graded?
Altus Suite states that it takes 3 weeks for the Casper to be graded.
In previous years, students never received their test scores. Only their designated schools received their scores.
That recently changed. In 2021, the first cohort of Casper test-takers received their scores in the form of their quartiles.
How do medical schools view these quartiles? Great question, but there’s no way to know.
Most schools provide a similar (and somewhat vague) explanation, such as this one provided by the Baylor College of Medicine. Describing how they use Casper scores: “By implementing CASPer, we are trying to further enhance fairness and objectivity in our holistic admissions review process.”
I suspect that some schools will ignore quartiles for now as they decide how to incorporate this data point into their decision-making on interview invitations. I also suspect that other schools will consider the lowest quartile as a red flag on an application.
Why do some students score better than others on the Casper?
There are a few clues based on what the test makers have published on their website. I’ve taken this information and used it to guide my recommended strategies.
Here is what Altus has published as reasons why some applicants score more highly. (The highlighting is by me.)
Effort: they may have tried harder to respond to questions (for instance, they may have explained their position fully, or used the full amount of time before moving on to the next question, compared to those who applicants who place in the first quartile)
Empathy: they considered all perspectives in a meaningful way
Equity: they show the same high degree of respect for the experiences and needs of others
Communication: they demonstrated above-average ability to effectively articulate their ideas
Based on this, some of my take-aways are that:
It helps to explain your position more fully. Don’t just offer a potential solution. Make sure you explain your reasoning.
Consider everyone who might be impacted by this challenging situation
Respect everyone in the scenario
And back to communication: be able to explain your thought processes well
Will Casper ask questions about medicine or medical ethics?
The vast majority of Casper questions will not be about medicine or medical ethics. However…
As a future physician/PA/dentist/vet/other professional, you’ll want to make sure that you embody (and communicate) the values of your chosen profession.
At a basic level, it’s important to display ethical conduct in any hypothetical scenario. This means that an understanding of basic medical ethics can be helpful.
For example, patient autonomy is one of the major ethical tenets underlying the practice of medicine. This same tenet can apply to many scenarios, where you can discuss how important it is to respect the individual needs, values, and decision-making power of others.
And, of course, a knowledge of basic medical ethics won’t just help you prepare for the Casper. It’s important preparation for traditional and MMI interviews.
This podcast episode on basic medical ethics and this episode on issues related to autonomy and confidentiality are also helpful.
For more on how to prepare for the Casper test, please see the other posts in this series.
Dr. Rajani Katta is the creator of Medical School Interviewing 101, the course that teaches students how to ace their interviews. She is also the author of the Multiple Mini Interview: Winning Strategies from Admissions Faculty, the Casper Test Prep Guide, and The Medical School Interview. Dr. Katta is a practicing dermatologist and served as a Professor of Dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 17 years.
Jennifer Li-Wang is the author of The Casper Test Prep Guide and a graduate of Rice University with a double major in English and the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (SWGS). Jenny grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico and in her free time enjoys reading and running her small crochet business.