Hi. I'm an incoming med student, who got into McMaster despite having a weak GPA (3.45). My MCAT/CARS was good (129 CARS). People keep asking me how I managed to get in. In fact, when I had told people that I was going to apply with my GPA they told me:
I wouldn't get interviews
I would need to do a fifth year of undergrad
OR I would need to do a Master's and possibly a second undergrad.
And to be honest, they were completely right. With my GPA and MCAT, I wasn't really a good candidate for anything. But, I placed all my hope on the wildcard that is the "CASPer" test.
It's up to you whether or not you want to take it seriously, but I'll explain how to approach CASPer the best I can.
The CASPer is a 90 minute test of your ability to answer ethical problems... and realistically to just type fast. They want to see you see both sides of every issue they give you and how you'll solve the ethical dilemma without breaking the rules
So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to tackle the CASPer test. Here's what I did:
It literally drives me nuts to hear people say "You can't practice/study, so I won't even try." For me, it was going to be as important as my GPA (which I poured my blood, sweat and tears into) and the CARS section of the MCAT (which also killed me inside as I studied). I practiced my ass off. For me, I used the CASPerfect tests. I paid for their evaluation, which gave me good advice and the tips I list below.
Even if you don't go through with paid evaluation, consider buying unevaluated practice tests. Take the time to analyze your responses and figure out how you can get better at this. Once again, it is entirely up to you to pay for prep - but it worked for me. You decide if you want to pay for prep - there are free services, and free official practice materials from the CASPer test makers too.
For me, practicing for CASPer meant:
Prepared by reading up on medical ethics.
This sounds silly, but I read [Doing Right](http://www.amazon.ca/Doing-Right-Practical-Trainees-Physicians/dp/0195428412) before even doing the test. It's a classic book for interview/MMI prep, so I figured I'd get a head start on it. By practicing for CASPer, you're really strengthening the skills that come in handy for the MMIs. For that reason, when you're done with your apps, working on CASPer is pretty much prepping early for interviews (which you can get! You've got this bro ) The UWashington Bioethics page is also great.
I reviewed my ECs and application
The CASPer has a personal statement every third question where you have to discuss yourself and your background. Here, they're looking for you to be thoughtful and self-reflective. Ultimately, I believe they want to see that you can take what you've learned from your experience and apply it to your future in medicine. For me, I ended my paragraphs with "I will take what I learned from this example into my future in medicine someday." or something like that.
Have a game plan and strategy
For me, I planned my responses like this:
Discuss the issue from both sides (there are usually two parties involved).
Discuss the issue in the context of "society." (How would cheating on a test affect the student cheating, other students, and then all of the future employers/patients/etc that will rely on the cheating student someday?)
Answer with a decision that is ethical and doesn't break any rules.
(If possible) Come up with a creative solution that minimizes punishment/harm/damage to any of the other people involved.
Improving my typing speed:
While the CASPer markers say that the amount of text isn't important, logically if one has more ideas down they'll likely score better, right? That seemed to be pretty basic to me. I practiced typing with the practice tests I mentioned at TenFastFingers. Note that this typing practice isn't as good as real CASPer practice tests because the time it takes to think and type >>> the time to type these random paragraphs quickly.
Getting better at thinking through the formula I devised quickly. This is where the practice tests were extremely useful for me. I recommend practice for this reason - you need to strengthen your ability to type fast and ethically.
How the CASPer is scored
Knowing how CASPer is scored is important as well. To begin with, CASPer markers mark a given question for a set of test-takers. For example, a marker may mark 1000 applicants answer to Question 1 and only that question. Why is this important? Because of two reasons:
It means you can be repetitive with what you say, the style and phrasing of what you say
And importantly, you need to stand out against other writers who are writing that same question. What this means is that showing that you think/reason more clearly, show more empathy, and/or come up with a creative solution will all push you higher up that bell curve.
The CASPer is scored using z-scores (a type of statistical measurement that is similar to a bell curve). You can check out the official CASPer marking guide from the people who made the CASPer here.
Finally, realize that saying the wrong thing can get you and your exam red-flagged. That likely means a score of 0, or potentially having your application removed entirely. It's not clear what that means, but you can read about it in the official marking guide above. If CASPer is holding you back, you may be getting red-flagged.
Unfortunately, regardless of how you feel about the test, it matters. Here's how much it matters, in Canada (I'll add US values if people know them):
Feel free to DM me with questions, or ask here.