This guide was written by a team of Canadian doctors to help you prepare for the CASPer Exam. We hope you find this information helpful!
One of the most competitive medical schools in Canada is the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University. As of 2011/2012, the pre-interview formula for McMaster Medical school is:
Now that your GPA and MCAT are already determined, your CASPer score is the only thing left in your control. Thus, how well you do on this one test could be the difference between an interview and rejection.
To help applicants out, here is our Guide to Acing McMaster CASPer. We hope you find this helpful!
Over 7 years of research and work at McMaster University has gone into the development of CASPer. There is a lot to be learned from publicly available research articles about its development and we encourage you to read them. You may gain insight into what they are looking for in applicants. Our very own MedHopeful has written a great summary of that information here. The citations for those articles are:
Medical ethics are likely to be on your CASPer scenarios. Know your principles of medical ethics (autonomy, beneficence, non maleficence and justice) and how they apply in different medical situations, such as patient confidentiality and respecting patient autonomy. Check out a great online resource from the Canadian Medical Association Journal to get yourself started:
You might be asked for your opinion on challenges facing the Canadian health care system today. This requires an understanding of how our health care system works, problems patients, health care workers, organizations and governments are facing, and an awareness of ideas that could help improve the system.
To start you off, Health Canada provides a great introduction to our health care system:
In addition, ethical scenarios will often be based on recent, real life health care dilemmas. We suggest following Canadian health care news for any of the major stories going on. In the news, you are likely to encounter the different prespectives on challenging, controversial issues, which will help you to formulate your own opinions ahead of time.
Here are some good links to check out on a regular basis:
Also, learn the Canada Health Act: a piece of federal legislation from 1984 that funding for our health care system is based on. Understanding its 5 key principles are important for addressing scenarios on how we fund and deliver health care in Canada. You can learn more about the Canada Health Act here.
To better prepare yourself for CASPer, you must get to know yourself better:
spend some time going over your CV and autobiographical sketch and reflect on experiences that are important to you. For each event, write down what happened, what was your reaction, how did you resolve or failed to resolve it, what skills did you utilize or have learned from it, how did the experience change your perspective about medicine and other aspects of life.
repeat the above exercise with close family members and friends who are willing to share with you their experiences. Ask them the same questions and ask yourself how would you have handled it. Spend much more time reflecting on these events and mentally experiencing them as if they did happen to you. Keep doing this for the next few days until the test, and you will subconsciously think of the most optimal strategy (combined inputs from everyone you know) when you encounter a difficult situation. Keep doing this whenever you can because the more you practice the better you will perform.
know where you will be taking the CASPer test and the hardwares (computer, internet connection, browswer, set of keyboards you feel comfortable with, where to place your study notes, and the list goes on and on). Also, identify and eliminate any sources of distraction. These seemingly minute details when combined can have a profound effect on your performance. You have to create the perfect environment for your big day.
how motivated are you to prepare for CASPer? How confident do you feel about competing against 3500+ candiates? Surely, future doctors should be more collaborative than competitive, but the unfortunate reality is that the current admission process requires us to compete for a few spots. There are simply too many qualified candiates for the number of spots in medical schools. If medical school is your dream, you need to prepare as much as you can to optimize your chances of admission. You need to be willing to compete and you need to be willing to put in the preparation and hard work.
while you might be busy preparing for the test, don't forget to eat well, exercise, sleep, and breath! Staying healthy is important because a lifelong and rewarding career is just ahead of you.
4 of the 12 sections will be “Personal”. We expect answering these questions to often require bringing up your experiences on leadership, communication, team work, health care, volunteering, professionalism, etc. Five minutes is not a lot of time to think of examples - you need to have these examples thought of ahead of time.
The CanMEDS roles are well-known competencies that doctors are expected to meet: Medical Expert , Communicator, Collaborator, Health Advocate, Manager, Scholar and Professional. We suggest being able to provide an example where you demonstrate each of the CanMEDS qualities. It’s likely one of these CanMEDS roles will match the sections and questions that ask more about you personally.
For more information on CanMEDS:
While you must take CASPer on your own and without help from others during the test, there is nothing against making a personal study guide and having it next to you while you take the exam. Fill your study guide with medical ethics ideas, health care system facts and personal experiences you might want to draw from to support your answers. If you get lost, then you can quickly look at it to get some ideas!
Remember, time is valuable! You are only given 5 minutes for 3 questions. While CASPer limits each answer to 1024 characters (approximately 200 words) and would not expect essay-type answers, you certainly cannot provide a simple one or two sentence answer (we often see this happening simply because students blank out and panic!).
Having said that, the more scenarios you see and incoporate into your study guide, the less likely you will blank out during the exam. Now you've seen the importance of compiling notes, here are some tips for optimizing your study guide:
The scenarios and questions will be challenging. There will often be ethical dilemmas where there may be no correct answer - there will be many options you can take, each with different consequences. But FIRST, identify the issues at play! It is important to show that you can appreciate all sides of the issue. You can show a lot of maturity by being able to recognize the different options available and how the potential consequences for each of those actions. If you are being asked to make a decision, explore the pros and cons of each. Explain how your decision might affect the different players involved in the situation. Explore the future repercussions of such a decision on the rest of society. Make your answer as complete as possible.
For example, consider a CASPer scenario where a patient becomes unconscious and requires a blood transfusion. However, you learn that she is a Jehovah's Witness who expressed prior wishes to not have any transfusions under any circumstances.
Begin by asking yourself - what are all the options and consequences?
Option 1 - Transfuse. Consequences: Patient's life wil be saved, however it goes against her expressed wishes, and does not respect her autonomy. Her family will also be extremely unhappy. Finally, the medical code of ethics requires you to respect her wishes even though it may cost the patient her life.
Option 2 - Do not transfuse. Consequences: Patient will die, but her autonomy and expressed wishes are respected. In addition, you will not be breaking the medical code of ethics (and thus, not breaking medical law).
As you can see, breaking down a scenario by options and their consequences can help you to systematically explore scenarios, even if you're not sure what to do!
Each scenario presented to you will be followed by up to 3 questions. We strongly advise that you read ALL three questions first before trying to attempt them. Why? For a few reasons:
Essentially, you should quickly look at the entire page of questions and plan your strategy accordingly. Always be planning - whether that be weeks before the exam or even during the exam. A good plan will lead to good results.
It is tempting to be a perfectionist and try to get every single question perfect - but that might mean not completing every question. You want to avoid that. While it is not clear exactly how CASPer is marked, we suggest you work quickly to attempt all of the questions on a page. For all you know, you get a minimum mark just for trying. Don’t leave anything blank. Work quickly and efficiently!
The video scenarios may display difficult and emotionally charged situations. It's important to keep your cool and not be overwhelmed by the emotions of the situation. Aim to be objective and focus on the issues at play. It is of course okay to feel compassion or concern for the characters in the situation, but do not let that impair your ability to think critically about the situation. CASPer is a timed exam - so keep your focus!
CASPer has 4 personal sections which ask for your own perspectives and experiences. This serves the same purpose as an admission personal statement or the previously used 5-question autographical sketch by McMaster Medical School. This is really an opportunity to let the admission committee know you better.
You might have a hard time deciding on which experiences to share, simply because most people have many meaningful experiences. Therefore, you must be selective in your answers and be smart about the process:
CASPer is not like an interview where you can just practice with a friend. It’s not like your university math course which provides you with practice tests. CASPer is a unique, online, timed test.
So...you've been compiling exam notes and practicing CASPer, what now? Get feedback! This will help you improve tremendously in order to perform better on the real thing. A few sources to get useful feedback:
Of course, you might want to get feedback on how you are doing from actual medical students. Here at MockCasper, you have the opportunity to not just practice for CASPer, but actually learn how to improve from real Canadian medical students. Click here to get started.
Whether or not you choose to work with us at MockCasper, we hope you found this guide helpful and we wish you the best of luck on your CASPer test and in the rest of the admissions process. Medicine is an extremely rewarding career, and if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can do it!