More and more medical and other health professions schools have started adopting various forms of virtual screening assessments to support their holistic admissions strategy. In general, these tools are designed to assess applicants' competencies, decision-making, and ethics. Let's look at at the most common ones.
Altus Suite Products
Altus currently offers three different types of assessment for health professions school application:
- CASPer gives insights into applicants' personal and professional skills
- Snapshot lets programs assess their communication skills, self-reflection and motivation, and
- Duet assesses for value-alignment and match between program and applicant.
The most common one is CASPer is a situational judgement test and an online screening tool adopted by a growing number of medical and other health profession schools to evaluate certain key personal and professional characteristics relevant to the medical profession, such as professionalism, ethics, communication, and empathy. The incorporation of CASPer into the holistic review process is an additional way to evaluate each applicant as an individual, weighing personal attributes in equal or similar measure with academic metrics and life experiences. Similar to the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), CASPer is designed to evaluate core personal characteristics. However, while the MMI is used to assess these personal attributes in the interview phase, CASPer results are considered a reliable and predictive screening tool to assess personal attributes in the pre-interview screening phase of the holistic review process. Not all medical schools employ CASPer in the same way: some use it more as a pre-screening tool leading up to a possible interview offer, others more as a part of the whole review process in general; some schools may recommend applicants to take it, others require it.
The CASPer test is composed of 12 sections. Each section contains either a brief video- or word-based scenario, followed by a series of three open-ended questions for which you will have five minutes to answer. Each situation relates to one or more personal characteristics. You will be asked how you would respond or behave in the situation portrayed. See abbreviated sample test for illustrative purposes. The limited time to type your answers and the requirement to use a computer with a webcam are linked to security issues (i.e., ensuring that test takers are not consulting with others, or having someone else taking the test on their behalf, etc.).
The CASPer test is administered by Altus Assessments and has fees involved. You will have to register for the test at least three days in advance and will be given an opportunity to ensure your computer meets the technical requirements first. If you need to request accommodations, submit your supporting documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org at least three weeks in advance of your targeted test date. Be sure to read CASPer's FAQ.
In terms of preparation, here are a few basic tips:
- Although no special training, discipline-specific knowledge or experience are required to take CASPer, you will benefit from familiarizing yourself with the test format, timing and the technical environment in which the test will be provided, and by reflecting on the key competencies a medical school admissions committee may be looking for because it is these competencies that are likely to be tested in your CASPer. Familiarization with the test format will also reduce anxiety and prevent annoying technical issues on test day.
- If you wish to practice with a few scenarios, see these MMI's preparation resources. For this type of test, remember to practice in writing, not orally, aiming for concise and clear answers stating your position.
- During the test it is important that you read each scenario carefully using only the information provided in the video or statement to formulate your responses, striving not to make assumptions or at least being cognizant of the assumptions you may be making. Your honest answers should draw from your general knowledge and life experience.
- Don't be overly concerned with grammar and spelling when typing your answers. Supposedly, raters are asked to ignore spelling and grammar errors, so remember to focus on the general concepts you want to share. Even incomplete sentences are acceptable as long as your responses and position about each prompt are clearly stated. Similarly to MMI's scenarios, medical schools are not looking for a right or wrong answer, but rather for evidence of your reasoning and rationale.
In 2020, Altus unveiled CASPer Snapshot, another shorter form of virtual, asynchronous testing consisting of just three questions, which candidates only have two minutes to answer--on video--with no retakes. Responses are then sent to the allopathic and osteopathic medical schools that require the CASPer test. It is up to the individual medical schools how they will use the answers.
More recently, Altus also released Duet, the latest addition to its assessment suite. So with the 2021-2022 application cycle, you may start hearing about schools requiring this assessment as well. While CASPer was designed to help schools evaluate your professional skills and maturity--and Snapshot your communication skills--Duet is supposed to evaluate whether your goals, values, and characteristics are a good fit for the programs to which you are applying.
Association of American Medical Colleges Situational Judgment Test (AAMC SJT)
With the 2020-2021 application cycle, a very small number of schools have started to adopt the Association of American Medical Colleges Situational Judgment Test (AAMC SJ). The test is offered at no cost to applicants and it is administered online and supported by remote proctoring. Like other forms of SJT, the AAMC SJT is designed to provide a standardized assessment of the pre-professional competencies needed to succeed in medical school. The AAMC has created free resources to help you prepare for the AAMC SJT exam, including a practice test. See this site for general information about the AAMC SJT, which schools recommend it or require it, and how to register to take it, FAQs, and more.
AAMC VITA, Video Interview Tool for Admissions (discontinued for the 2022 application cycle)
For the 2020-2021 application cycle, the AAMC rolled out VITA, a virtual assessment tool designed to provide admissions officers with information about an applicant's journey toward medicine and five of the 15 core competencies for entering medical students, specifically: Social Skills; Cultural Competence; Teamwork; Reliability and Dependability; and Resilience and Adaptability. AAMC VITA was intended to complement the live interview process but each participating medical school determined how it would incorporate it into its process--for example, as part of the initial application screening, secondary screening, or as a complement to the traditional interview process. However, feedback from both schools and applicants alike clearly indicated a strong preference for live virtual interviews vs. asynchronous interviews, so the AAMC decided not to offer VITA for the 2022 application cycle.
Kira Talent Interview
More common with dental schools and a few osteopathic schools, Kira is a virtual, competency-based, asynchronous interview. It will require you to submit timed video and/or written responses to questions that have been pre-recorded by the school. You'll be able to record your responses from the comfort of your home, and you can do so in your own time. Kira offers you the opportunity to demonstrate your personality and communication skills. Similarly to other asynchronous interviewing/assessment modalities, the best way to prepare is to reflect on your experiences over the last several years and what you have learned from different situations. Learn more about the type of questions to expect and how to prepare.
For efficient, self-directed, virtual interview practice, take advantage of Big Interview, a tool brought to you by the UM University Career Center. Here is how: Go to Big Interview --> Log in with your umich credentials and create a basic profile as a "Student" --> Click on Practice --> Practice Interviews --> Admissions --> XXXXX School (Medical, Dental, Optometry, Veternary, etc.). For specific practice with behavioral type questions, see also the modules for Organizational Skills, Prioritization Skills, and Time Management. Have fun practicing!
If you want to see a silver lining in this process, remember that CASPer/CASPer Snapshot/Duet, AAMC SJT and VITA, and Kira can be good preparation in light of your future MMIs and traditional interviews.