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.
Acuity Insights (Formerly Altus) Products
Altus currently offers three different types of assessment for health professions school application:
- CASPer gives insights into applicants' personal and professional skills
- Duet assesses for value-alignment and match between program and applicant.
The most common one is CASPer, a situational judgement test and an online screening tool adopted by a 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 continues to evolve and is expected to be composed of 14 scenarios. Ten scenarios are video-based and five word-based. Nine scenarios require eight typed responses and six video-recorded responses. Each situation relates to one or more personal characteristics. You will be asked how you would respond or behave in the situation portrayed. The limited time to type or verbalize 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 total test is expected to take between 90 and 110 minutes.
The CASPer test is administered by Acuity Insights (Formerly Altus) and has fees involved. Applicants to US-based UME programs will pay $85, which includes eight program distributions, and additional distributions are $15 each. 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 email@example.com at least three weeks in advance of your targeted test date. Be sure to read CASPer's FAQ.
All schools will continue receiving CASPer scores as usual and only schools that are selected to participate in Altus' early adopter program will receive a score from the video response section in addition to their traditional CASPer scores.
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. See Acuity Insight's CASPer preparatory resources.
- If you wish to practice with a few scenarios, see these MMI's preparation resources. Remember to practice both orally and in writing, 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 with written responses. 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.
The final Acuity Insight Assessment to know is Duet, the latest addition to its assessment suite. While CASPer was designed to help schools evaluate your professional skills and maturity, 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 PREview--formerly known as AAMC Situational Judgment Test (AAMC SJT)
The AAMC PREview™ "is designed to look beyond academic metrics to assess and evaluate personal competencies such as resilience, service orientation, ethics, cultural competence, and teamwork. When combined with other elements of the admissions process, the PREview exam provides a more complete picture of applicants and helps schools identify applicants who demonstrate these core competencies."
- There will be a $100 flat fee for applicants who take the PREview exam, including unlimited score distribution.
- The flat fee will be waived for applicants who apply and are approved to receive benefits through the AAMC Fee Assistance Program.
- The AAMC will continue to provide free test preparation products, including a full-length practice exam.
- Applicants will register for an exam date and complete the exam online at a location of their choosing (e.g. at home, a library, etc.) from March through October.
- The exam takes approximately 75 minutes to complete and will be secured by a live remote human proctor.
- Applicants and their participating schools will receive their PREview scores within 30 days of testing.
- The list of participating schools for the 2024 cycle will be posted in early winter 2023.
Check the AAMC PREview program page for more information on the free preparation materials, test registration procedures, request process for accommodations, and important dates and deadlines.
Note: the AAMC VITA (which rolled out with the 2020-2021 application cycle) was discontinued the following year. You may still find some reference to this assessment tool in old webpages, but please know you can disregard.
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/Duet, AAMC PREview and Kira can be good preparation in light of your future MMIs and traditional interviews.