Guide to the CASPer and MMI Tests

Overview

The MCAT and CASPer’s Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) formats are on opposite ends of the medical school application spectrum. For the MCAT, we have well-defined content to study and clearly graded practice tests to gauge our progress. We put in hundreds of hours over the course of MCAT studying to make these improvements. Through practice problems, we can identify what aspects we need to focus on if we want to continue improving, especially using our MCAT Study Plan and practice exam trackers.

CASPer, meanwhile, is a video and typing version of an MMI. You get a short video prompt or a common, broad scenario, like “Recall a time you had to stand up to someone in power and how that went.” Then, you have five minutes to type an answer to three open-ended related questions. There is no verifiable right answer and your only method of practice consists of a few practice questions available (plus the official FAQs). There may not even be a correct position to take on a prompt at all. Rather, these questions are designed to show your complex, moral thought processes and your ability to make tough decisions and explain them under pressure. 

 

The information on how CASPer is evaluated is also limited. We do know that each of the 12 sets of prompts is graded by a different “rater”, and reading their TakeCASPer Tips for applicants supposedly increases your score by a sixth of a point (on a scale of 1-9). As a warning, other third party companies can spoil the official CASPer practice questions, and should not be looked at until after you have practiced. 

MCAT Self Prep already has an in-depth course on Admissions Consulting and how to prepare for interviews of any kind, giving you over 500 practice interview questions to work through and tips. Additionally, we offer one-on-one interview practice sessions with our highly trained admissions counselors. Because there’s a real lack of practice questions for CASPer online, however, I’m going to create a practice prompt for CASPer (with notes on what you should have gotten from the video).

Video Practice Problem

Imagine a minute-long video of two friends asking for your advice. They live with a third roommate who wants to break their lease 10 months early to go live with her fiancé, who no longer has to work in a different city. The friends are upset by the roommate wanting to break the lease so soon but are not sure what they should do about it.

The three questions to accompany this video prompt could be:

  1. As their trusted friend, what would you recommend these two roommates do?
  2. What strategies could the two roommates use to have a productive conversation with the roommate that wants to break the lease?
  3. Do you believe that, when you’ve signed a legal contract with someone you trust, you should do everything you can to try and uphold that agreement?

For answering either of these types of problems, the STAR method of interviewing can readily be applied to build a good answer. It consists of 4 simple steps to frame your answers in a productive manner.

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Situation: Give context or background for what you are trying to describe. For CASPer specifically, incorporate some details from the video prompt, or if it is a written question, start setting up the scenario or story with a quick sentence. 

Task: This is where you actually present the choice you had to make or the challenge you faced. This is especially important for the written questions with no video prompt, so the rater understands why you chose to write about this.

Action: Make it very clear what action you took or would recommend. You should have given enough context between describing the situation and the task that your action makes sense. It’s also a good idea to acknowledge an action you chose not to take and its merits. This shows you are a complex thinker and understood the task at hand and why you chose the action you did. 

Result: Describe what the outcome of that action was, including if there were any benefits or costs from it. You can directly relate the action to how it has changed the situation here.

Implementing the STAR Method on CASPer

  • As part of the situation set up in the STAR method, always consider asking for more information. More information helps you make a more informed decision, so specify what information you’d like to get and how you’d get it. Example: “Before making a decision, I’d like to ask my friend X about Y.”
  • It’s great to write a conditional answer (If X is true, then I would do Y) based on that above information. This is my most common way of answering these questions, since it shows I am evaluating the information at hand and how it would influence my decision. It’s an automatic way to show your thinking and that you’re considering multiple opinions. 
  • Considering multiple perspectives is an absolute necessity. As a future physician, you have to make sure you consider the evidence-based medical aspect, the patient’s best interests and priorities, and any barriers to care you face. You may not even get to make the final decision in a scenario, 
  • To do all of the above, make sure you acknowledge the opposite side’s merits before taking your stance. I often phrase this like “Although there is X fact from the scenario, I would still do Y because of Z.” This way, it’s clear I considered not just the different options, but also their pros and cons. 
  • Type quickly and answer all 3 questions. You can’t know that you aced what graders were looking for in one or two of the questions, so give at least two sentences for every prompt. This would be like leaving questions blank on the MCAT. You won’t lose points for filling it out, and CASPer in their limited test prep FAQs have 2 sections on reading all 3 questions fully, planning your responses, and responding to all 3 questions.  
  • Don’t do anything that is markedly unethical or illegal. If you wouldn’t want to tell a five-year-old cousin or someone on the admissions committee to do this action themselves, don’t write it.
  • When in doubt, try to find a solution that minimizes any potential harm to all parties involved or find a simple compromise.

They know you’re tight on time, so it’s ok to have spelling or minor grammar mistakes. However, make sure your sentences make enough sense that readers can follow your ideas and appreciate the content of your thoughts.

Let’s Look at the Video Practice Prompt Again

Imagine a minute-long video of two friends asking for your advice. They live with a third roommate who wants to break their lease 10 months early to go live with her fiancé, who no longer has to work in a different city. The friends are upset by breaking the lease so soon and suddenly but are not sure what they should do about it.

  1. As their trusted friend, what would you recommend these two roommates do?

To best understand their situation, I would try to get more information about the third roommate’s perspective and ask how any past discussions with them have gone. If this roommate has not committed to moving out and these two roommates are hesitant to find a new roommate or move, they could start a discussion about getting the third roommate to stay or have his fiancé move in with them. If that roommate is very set on moving out, they could examine their lease’s rules on subletting, finding a new tenant, any early termination fee, and use this information to start planning the future move with the third roommate and try to find an amenable resolution for all parties.

  1.  What strategies could the two roommates use to have a productive conversation with the roommate that wants to break the lease?

This is a difficult situation to navigate because we know very little about the third roommate’s perspective, and conflict resolution only works if you acknowledge everyone’s perspective and build from there. The best first step is to have all of the roommates sit down together and start the conversation by asking how they feel about the situation and why they feel that way, and validate the different experiences and emotions each of them feels. I would want to make sure all three roommates feel understood and appreciated, and make the conversation as non-judgmental and open as possible. If this conversation still does not bring a compromise that satisfies them, they can talk about the next steps and ways to reach such a compromise, like reaching out to the landlord or having further discussions.

  1. Do you believe that, when you’ve made a formal commitment to someone you trust, you should do everything you can to try and uphold that agreement? 

Although circumstances may make this difficult, I do see trying to uphold that commitment as a priority. Since I have already made this commitment to someone, I have to remember the context and situation that led to us making this agreement and keep our end goals and results in mind as we work towards those goals. If the circumstances are creating barriers and preventing me from following exactly what we agreed upon, I would want to reach out to that person or group of people, share with them the challenges I am facing, and do my best to start a conversation on how we can best work together to still achieve those goals and results, since there may be other actions or steps I can take to still fulfill our agreement.

If you have any more questions about CASPer or the MMI consider signing up for admissions consulting or a FREE 10-minute consultation by sending a message to me or Andrew!

Warm Regards,

Timothy

MCAT self prep tutor Timothy NolanMCAT Self Prep Elite Tutor Timothy Nolan

Timothy is a medical student who has helped over 100 students succeed on the MCAT. Not only did he score in the 99th percentile, he also has extensive understanding of MCAT questioning and has written hundreds of practice questions!

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