• Rajani Katta MD & Jenny Li-Wang BA

Types of Casper Test Questions and How to Answer Them

Updated: May 18


In this post, I'll review the types of Casper test questions and how to answer them.


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:

  1. Background on the Casper test

  2. Format of the Casper test

  3. How is the Casper test graded?

  4. Tips and strategies for how to prepare for the Casper

  5. Types of Casper test questions and how to answer them

  6. Example Casper questions and responses

  7. The Casper Test Prep Guide (with full-length sample test)



What kinds of questions are asked on the Casper test?


As a refresher, the Casper exam tests your responses to challenging situations. It does so by presenting you with either a scenario to watch or read. Then, you're asked three questions about each scenario.


I group these Casper questions as falling into 5 general categories.

  • Situational

  • Reform

  • Personal

  • Behavioral

  • “Big” questions


The types of questions that you’ll be asked will vary in each scenario.


Infographic on the five main question types on the CASPer test
There are five main question types on the Casper test


The 5 main types of Casper test questions


  • Situational Judgment Questions


Situational Judgment questions ask how you would respond or react in a given scenario. They often focus on the micro-level interactions between individuals.


Example: You work the opening shift at a coffee shop. Your coworker, Matthew, is chronically late to work. Another coworker, May, tells you she is frustrated that Matthew is not doing his fair share of work, especially because your mornings are so busy and the shop is already understaffed. She wants to confront Matthew with her frustrations. What would you advise her to do?


  • Reform Questions


Reform questions ask how you could improve policies, practices, or expectations in order to prevent or better handle similar scenarios in the future. These questions may refer to specific settings, or they may focus on the macro-level interactions between individuals and groups, institutions, or systems.


Example: In the coffee shop where you work, what changes would you propose to your manager to improve your workplace?


  • Personal Questions


Personal questions ask for your perspective on general principles or issues related to the scenario.


Example: In your opinion, what is the most important quality you need to be a good teammate?


  • Behavioral Questions


You might be familiar with behavioral questions from other interviews. Behavioral questions ask how you’ve handled certain situations in the past. They speak to your personal experience.


Example: Think about a time when you worked in a team where there was an unfair distribution in workload. How did you handle it?


  • “Big” Questions


The fifth category of Casper questions are what I call “Big” questions. These questions are often conceptual and broad in scope. In my opinion, they’re so challenging because they’re so profound—how can you answer questions (for example) about the essence of humanity and goodness in a mere 90 seconds??


Example: In your opinion, why are some teams so great?



Strategies for answering the 5 main types of Casper test questions


Once you identify what kind of question you're facing, you can use specific strategies to tailor your response.


How to answer Situational Judgement questions


Situational questions ask: How would you handle this specific situation?


Because you have so little time, I recommend coming up with a framework that you can deploy over and over again.


That's why I recommend the "I3P" framework to my students:


infographic on how to answer a situational judgement question on the Casper test using the I3P approach
Use the I3P approach to improve your answers to situational judgement questions


  • Issues: What are the issues that arise from this situation?

  • Impact: Who and/or what is impacted in this situation?

  • Information: What information are you missing, and how would you ask for this information?

  • Potential approaches or solutions: What potential approaches could you recommend to help resolve this challenging situation, using if/then statements based on the variables in the situation?


For the I’s, it doesn’t matter what order you use in your response. I do like to end with the P (for potential approaches).


Let me briefly expand on each one of these.



Issues


What are the main issues that you identify in this situation? This can help clarify your thought processes.


Examples: autonomy, work-life balance, professionalism, feedback, confidentiality, professional and personal boundaries, beneficence


Impact


Who and/or what might be impacted by this situation? By verbalizing the individuals/ organizations/relationships that might be impacted here, you’re demonstrating your respect and consideration for all parties involved.


Examples: family, co-workers, supervisors, the company, the administration, the professor, relationships with co-workers, physical health, well-being, relationships with your spouse or children, professional standing, reputation, important values


Information


When responding to any challenging situation, you’re almost always going to need more information in order to make an informed decision.


The two rules of information:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions.

  • Ask for information

Remember, you have a two minute scenario. That’s rarely enough time to get all of the nuances of the situation.


Did your coworker really insult you? Does your supervisor really think your promotion is going to be dependent on this one vacation?

  • Don’t make assumptions, and always consider potential alternate explanations. In the real world, we give people the benefit of the doubt. Just because Julie said something about Matthew, it doesn’t mean that’s the last word on the subject. The same is true in a Casper test scenario.

  • Ask for more information. “I would ask my supervisor about…”


Potential approaches or solutions


Notice the use of the plural "approaches"/"solutions" here.


I didn’t say “recommend the perfect solution”, because the test creators clearly indicate that there’s no right or wrong answer.

  • Instead, you’re offering up potential solutions.

  • Remember, challenges in the real world rarely come down to a binary decision.

  • It’s best to offer several potential approaches

  • Use if/then statements to describe your potential approaches. “If it turns out that x, then I might suggest y. If instead it turns out d, then I might suggest f."



Practice Casper Test Scenario on Situational Judgement : Conflict Between Co-Workers


You work at a jewelry store, and your salary is partially determined by commission. In other words, if you sell more jewelry, you will receive a bonus payment based on the sales that you make every month. Daphne is your coworker, and she approaches you one day, very upset.


She has developed a long-term relationship with a customer, Mrs. Jones, who has purchased multiple pieces of jewelry from Daphne over the previous two years. Mrs. Jones came in last month with a concern about a loose gemstone from a ring that she had purchased from the store. Ellen, another coworker, was working that day and helped Mrs. Jones with the repair. During that process she helped Mrs. Jones purchase an additional ring.

Daphne is now very upset. “Ellen knew that Mrs. Jones was my customer, and she just swooped in there to make that sale. That’s completely unprofessional, and I need to talk to our supervisor about this.“

Situational Judgement Question: What would you advise Daphne to do?

Example of a 1-minute video response using this framework: (Note that because this is a video response, you now have the time to be able to provide a longer, fuller response.)



Response: This is a challenging situation, because it brings up issues of professional boundaries and relationships in the workplace, and it has the potential to impact Daphne‘s relationship with her customer and supervisor as well as her overall job performance. I would first advise Daphne to not jump to conclusions and to obtain more information. She could start by respectfully asking to speak with Ellen and then explain her concerns. If, for example, Ellen had specifically asked Mrs. Jones if she was able to return on another day but Mrs. Jones had been unable to, then Daphne can feel more comfortable about the situation. On the other hand, if she senses that Ellen was trying to co-opt the customer relationship, then she can respectfully discuss professional boundaries and steps that they can take the next time such a situation occurs.



Can you see my formula here?

  • I know how I’m going to start this sentence, with a few standard phrases that I have ready to go to help prime the pump: "This is a challenging situation, because…"

  • I know where I’m going next: I'm going to highlight the issues. "Because it brings up issues of…"

  • I'm also highlighting who and what will be impacted: "It has the potential to affect Daphne's relationship with.."

  • Information: These are brief scenarios, and there's almost always going to be more information that would be helpful. It's also important to question everything-is there any chance that the person is making an assumption that could turn out to be incorrect? "I would recommend that Daphne find out more about..."

  • Potential approaches: (almost always plural): If it turns out that x, then I might suggest y. If instead it turns out d, then I might suggest f.

  • Note also the use of words that explicitly describe professionalism, such as "respectfully ask to speak with..."


How to answer Reform questions


When you’re presented with a specific scenario, oftentimes the first question is a Situational question. These refer specifically to the individuals involved in the scenario.


A later question may ask you what I call a Reform question. “How would you make the system better?”


In other words, you're being asked to zoom out from the individuals and now think about this problem from a systemic lens. How would you reform the system, culture, or social expectations to prevent issues like this from happening in the future? What new policies or procedures would you implement?




Casper practice test scenario on a Reform question: Establishing a hospital visitor policy



Let me give you an example. In the Casper scenario, let’s say you’ve been asked to help your colleagues at the nursing station in front of the ICU. They have been speaking to a patient’s granddaughter and she is very upset.


Unfortunately, she arrived one hour after visiting hours had already ended. She tells you that she was never told that “visiting hours ended so early.” Your colleagues have told her that due to hospital policy, she won't be able to visit her grandfather at this time, and she's very upset.


The first question, a situational judgment question, asks you: "How would you advise your colleagues to handle this situation?"


The second question is a reform question. “How would you work to prevent such situations from occurring in the future?“


When answering these types of questions, it’s important to:


1. Obtain more information.

  • It’s especially important to gather more information from all stakeholders.

  • For example, if your hospital was considering a new visitor policy, you wouldn’t just discuss your new policy in a meeting of the departmental administrators. Instead, you would want to speak to patients, families, nurses, physicians, administrators, security, and others to try to find out how your policy would affect all the individuals who might be impacted.

  • How might you obtain this information? You might conduct surveys, town halls, or focus groups, or you might ask for confidential employee feedback.

  • Before setting a new policy, it’s also helpful to learn from others. Can you learn about visitor policies at other hospitals?

You won’t be able to write all of this information down, but it’s helpful to start thinking about these aspects of policy creation and implementation.


2. Think about policy goals.

  • What are your goals for the policy? It can be helpful to state that.

  • “I would work to create a policy that helps patients and their families during a very difficult time, while also allowing physicians and nurses to provide the highest level of medical care and allowing for appropriate hospital security.“


3. Tie your response to the scenario. Was there a particular concern in the scenario that related to this policy?

  • For example, was a visitor upset because they were turned away from the patient's bedside because they came outside of normal visiting hours?

  • If so, you may choose to address that here.

  • “In the future, I would make sure that our visitor guideline policy was clearly visible on every hospital floor and on the website, and that a copy was provided to every new patient.”



Casper Practice Test Scenario: Example of a typed response to a Reform question



The family member was very upset because she wasn’t aware of the visitor policy and thought it was too restrictive. How would you prevent this situation in the future?


In this case, since you're submitting a typed response, you'll probably only have enough time to complete about 3-5 sentences. Remember that for typed responses, you'll have an average of 90 seconds per question. (You are asked to respond to 3 questions total within a 5-minute time period, although you can allocate your time among these questions as you choose.)


“I would work to create a policy that helped patients and families during a very difficult time, while also allowing for the highest level of medical care and hospital security. I would start by surveying patients, families, medical staff, and security, and then get feedback on our proposed policies. Once we finalized this, I would make sure it was posted prominently on all floors, elevators, and on the website.”


How to answer Behavioral questions


What if you were asked “Tell me about a time when you were disappointed in your performance.” What would you say? If you’d like to see how we would respond to that question, please see these videos:


  • This video highlights a before-and-after response to this behavioral interview question.

  • This follow-up video walks you through our step-by-step approach for how to craft your own responses, using the STAR approach.

  • This blog post provides a deeper look into how to answer behavioral interview question.


Behavioral questions classically start with “tell me about a time when…”

  • You experienced conflict with a classmate or coworker

  • You experienced an awkward or uncomfortable situation

  • You had to deal with an unfair situation

  • You witnessed an unfair situation

  • You had to consider reporting a classmate or colleague to an authority figure

  • You had a disagreement with a classmate or coworker on how to handle a situation

  • You had to help two friends/classmates/colleagues through a disagreement or conflict

  • You had a disagreement with a supervisor

  • You had to help out a stranger

  • You had to help someone else at a cost to yourself

  • You made a sacrifice


How to answer Personal questions


In our opinion, Personal and “Big” questions are challenging because you can't plan out your response until you read the question. We simply recommend that you present reasonable opinions to Personal questions.


Remember, you need to state your position as well as present convincing justification. It’s unclear how Casper raters value either of those elements, but we believe both are crucial for a high-scoring response.



How to answer “Big” questions


“Big” questions address big topics, but this doesn’t mean that your response needs to be abstract.


It’s hard to boil down these types of questions to a concise strategy. I think the most important point is this: Sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re asked to give a concise view on a big, complex topic. I would advise you to let go of perfectionism. The test is literally asking you to do an impossible task. Just write down what you can, as quickly as you can.


The next important piece of advice for you that I have is to stay informed on current events. This can help provide you with important background knowledge and examples that you can use in your responses. And, of course, staying on top of current events will help you in both your Casper and MMIs.


One helpful resource that I use myself is the free morning email newsletter created by the New York Times, which sends a brief daily dose of current events directly to my email. They also have a special COVID newsletter, which has been especially helpful during the pandemic.



For more on how to prepare for the Casper test, please see the other posts in this series.

  1. Background on the Casper test

  2. Format of the Casper test

  3. How is the Casper test graded?

  4. Tips and strategies for how to prepare for the Casper

  5. Types of Casper test questions and how to answer them

  6. Example Casper questions and responses

  7. The Casper Test Prep Guide (with full-length sample test)


 

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.





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