CASPer Preparation: A Complete Guide

CASPer is a relatively new, yet crucial component of Canadian medical school admission. Recently, it has also become part of the application requirements for several residency programs. Hence, for both premeds and medical students, it’s important to understand this test and know how to prepare for it.

It’s essentially a computer test that is run by an organization called Altus Suite. It involves 14 scenarios. Each scenario has 3 questions, and you’ll have 5 minutes to answer them. The goal is to assess your situation judgement and decision-making aptitude in a non-clinical, non-academic environment. For many applicants, myself included, this is the last step in completing an application to medical school. It’s often written after the MCAT and it’s easy to overlook the importance of preparation for this test.

First, let’s take a look at which medical schols require CASPer as part of their admission process. McMaster is the most well known of these and publishes their formulae for pre-interview decision making. In the 2022-2023 application cycle, they considered:

As demonstrated above, CASPer equally as important as CARS and GPA.1 A strong or weak CASPer score will make the difference between receiving or not receiving an interview. Other Canadian schools that also look at CASPer include:

  1. McMaster University
  2. Queen’s University
  3. University of Ottawa
  4. McGill University
  5. Université de Montréal
  6. Université de Sherbrooke
  7. Université Laval
  8. University of Alberta
  9. University of Manitoba
  10. University of Saskatchewan
  11. Dalhousie University
  12. Memorial University

To prepare for the CASPer:

  1. Have a structured approach to each question. Much like an MMI, structure is important because it helps ensure that you do not miss anything. Everyone has their own approach and structure. That being said, I recommend including at least:
    1. Acknowledgment of every perspective. If there’s 3 people in the video, write at least one line on each of them. You need to at least show you considered all relevant parties.
    2. Make a decision on what to do (if appropriate for the question asked). CASPer often has no right/wrong answers – the most important thing is that you justify your approach. I often say this right at the start of my answer. A common pitfall is that applicants talk about each perspective, but it’s not clear what their final response is, and it’s harder to articulate this when you’re running out of time.
    3. State your goals. Why do you want to take the actions you laid out? For example, if faced with a tense group dynamic, I start by saying my goal is to first defuse the situation, as it would be easier to work through the issues if everyone is calm. I would do this by keeping a calm tone, talking to each person individually, etc.
    4. Finally, describe your actions in detail. While some things may seem obvious, you’ll have to describe them to get potential points, as the evaluator can only see what you’ve written down. For example, terms like non-confrontational, gently remind, assertive, or emotional supportive can go a long way in making your answer appear more genuine.
  2. Remember to answer the question and nothing more. It’s easy to jump ahead and describe your entire approach to the scenario in one question, but you’ll often find that this leaves you with nothing to say in the remaining two questions. I also recommend quickly skimming all 3 questions before starting any answers. Common questions include:
    1. What are some ethical considerations in this scenario?
      1. Common Pitfall – this only asks about considerations, not your actions. Focus on describing each perspective that you can think of.
    2. How would you respond to this scenario?
    3. Would your answer change if you were told “x”?
    4. Describe your approach to resolving “x”?
    5. What policies can be implemented to prevent “x” in the future?
  3. The bottom line comes down to practice. The more scenarios you do, the more familiar you’ll be with the format. I recommend searching for practice scenarios online, simulating the real test (set a 5 minute timer), and reviewing your answers with a peer. Reflect on the prompt after the fact, think about what else can be added, and create a more comprehensive answer. This will help you jump to those points faster on future prompts.
  4. The final thing to think about is typing speed. Applicants always tell me that they struggle with the time limit because of their typing speed. It’s worthwhile to practice this before the test, but not it’s not crucial. The faster you type, the more room for error you’ll have to re-write sentences or describe your thoughts in detail. However, if you’re the type of person who can articulate their thoughts succinctly, you may not require a high typing speed.

1. Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. (n.d.). McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences. Retrieved August 1, 2023, from