The Ultimate Guide to the AAMC PREview

While the MCAT is the most daunting test facing most pre-medical students, the AAMC Professional Readiness Exam (AAMC PREview) and Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer) exams are rapidly being adopted by medical schools. Each of these are situational judgment tests, a form of psychological test used in many industries to see how potential employees or students would respond to realistic, hypothetical situations.

With an increasing focus on holistic application reviews, these situational judgment tests provide a standardized way to assess students’ ethics, morals, and professionalism. Knowing the differences between these two tests, and how to prepare for each of them, could be key to receiving interview invites this fall. 

What is the difference between the AAMC PREview and CASPer? 

There are many fundamental differences between the AAMC PREview and CASPer exams, from how you are tested, how they are scored, and which schools look at each test. Let’s break these down into their own sections:

Format:

AAMC Professional Readiness Exam (AAMC PREview): After being given a short paragraph that describes a scenario that students could face in medical school, you must rate potential follow-up actions as  either “very ineffective”, “ineffective”, “effective”, or “very effective”. Students have 75 minutes to address a total of 30 scenarios and 186 responses, leaving approximately 24 seconds per response (including time to read the scenarios).

AAMC Professional Readiness Exam

Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer): This test has changed format in recent years to become more holistic itself. It currently is split into two mandatory parts, a video response section and a typed response section, with some schools requiring an additional Duet questionnaire filled out at some point after taking CASPer. Let’s focus on the mandatory parts of the CASPer exam.

In the video response section, students are presented with two word-based scenarios (similar to the paragraphs seen in the AAMC PREview) and four video-based scenarios that appear in a random order. After each scenario finishes, you have 30 seconds to reflect on the scenario, and 10 seconds to read the follow up question (usually about your interpretation of the scenario, if it reminds you of a personal example, or a recommendation you would make). You then have up to 60 seconds to film a spoken response to that question. There are two follow-up questions per scenario in this section, and you can give up to a 60 second answer for each question.

There is an optional 10 minute break after this section, and in the typed response section, students face three word-based scenarios and five video-based scenarios (with an optional five minute break after the first four scenarios). Here, after finishing each scenario, you have 30 seconds of reflection time, and then are given five minutes total to answer three open-ended follow up questions in their text boxes. It is up to the student to choose how they spend those five minutes, but each question is graded independently, so it is strongly recommended that all three questions are given appropriately detailed answers.

Scoring:

AAMC Professional Readiness Exam (AAMC PREview):

While the exact scoring algorithm isn’t public, we do know that you get full credit for matching the medical educators’ rating, and some amount of partial credit is possible for being close to their rating. These ratings are decided upon after considering eight pre-professional competencies: service orientation, social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, ethical responsibility to self and others, resilience and adaptability, reliability and dependability, and capacity for improvement. 

In their answer explanations for the practice exam, the medical educators provide their rating and a short rationale, but don’t specify which ratings could earn partial credit. Your AAMC PREview score will appear on a score report as a single number between one (lowest) and nine (highest), along with a percentile rank that compares scores between all examinees. These percentile ranks will change each year, but you can see the 2022-2023 percentiles here. It takes about a month and a half to score this test, and registration closes two weeks before the test, so you need to plan at least two months ahead of when you want your score by

Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer)

For both the video and written portions of the CASPer exam, raters are instructed to ignore any accents/jargon and grammar/spelling mistakes and focus on the content of your answers. There are different raters for each of the different scenarios, so they are graded as independently and fairly as possible. While there are no truly right or wrong answers, higher scores are seen by students who focus on the key CASPer competencies: effort, empathy, equity, communication, and being familiar with the format. 

It takes 2-3 weeks for each CASPer exam to be graded, and while students will not be able to see their full score, they are told what quartile they scored in. Schools receive a more detailed version of your scores, but this is not publicly available.

  • 25% of students score in the first quartile (0-24 percentile, the lowest quartile)
  • 25% of students score in the second quartile (25-49 percentile)
  • 25% of students score in the third quartile (50-74 percentile)
  • 25% of students score in the fourth quartile (75-100 percentile, the highest quartile)

Note that for both tests, schools are not able to view individual responses, but rather only the cumulative scores. 

Schools requiring each test:

While these tests are being adopted more widely each year, you can find updated information on who is participating in the AAMC PREview and CASPer exams by clicking on each link. With that said, starting in the 2023-2024 application cycle, a student’s AAMC PREview score is added as part of their AMCAS application, so even if a school does not require the AAMC PREview, they will still be able to see a student’s score. 

In comparison, the AAMC Professional Readiness Exam (AAMC PREview) and Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer) exams are both situational judgment tests aimed at judging the ethics and professionalism of potential medical students. The AAMC PREview is strictly multiple choice and shares a more detailed score with students, whereas the CASPer exam requires free responses in video and typed formats and only gives students what quartile they scored in. With how many schools have adopted these tests in recent years, a large majority of prospective students will have to take at least one of these tests. 

For more CASPer-specific help, please reference my Guide to CASPer and MMI Tests

For more specific information on the formats and grading of these situational judgment tests, please reference the AAMC PREview Essentials and CASPer FAQs. 

For more personalized questions or one-on-one help preparing for these tests or any part of your application cycle, please consider signing up for admissions consulting or a FREE 10-minute consultation by sending a message to me or Andrew!

 

How to score highly on the AAMC Professional Readiness Exam (AAMC PREview) 

Now that the format and scoring of the AAMC Professional Readiness Exam (AAMC PREview) has been clarified, what can students do to score highly on this exam? 

1. Read all available information on the AAMC PREview sites

The AAMC has an entire webpage full of links to their preparatory materials for the AAMC PREview, including information for the current admissions cycle, a brief introduction, eligibility and registration, participating medical schools, preparation tips and resources, scoring details, test day details, FAQs, AAMC PREview essentials, accommodations, and 5 things to know. Any materials created by the test writers should be considered the gold standard, and are must-reads.

2. Be familiar with the eight pre-professional competencies tested, and how they are applied

Those 8 pre-professional competencies are the guiding lights for deciding if a follow up action to the scenario would be “very ineffective”, “ineffective”, “effective”, or “very effective”. Take some time to understand what each of these 8 tenets represents, and how they can apply to life as a future medical student.

Service Orientation – demonstrating desires to help others, consider others’ needs and feelings, and recognize and act upon responsibilities to society.

Social Skills – demonstrating respect and awareness of others’ needs and feelings and how social and behavioral cues affect interactions, leading to meaningful adjustments of behaviors.

Cultural Competence – demonstrating knowledge, appreciation and consideration for various forms of diversity, how socio-cultural factors shape relationships and teamwork, and properly addressing their own and others’ biases.

Teamwork – demonstrating collaboration with others to achieve shared goals, sharing information, feedback and knowledge freely, and prioritizing team goals. 

Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others – Demonstrating moral and honest behavior and reasoning with integrity, steadfastly following ethical principles and resisting peer pressure to do otherwise.

Resilience and Adaptability – demonstrating persistence, adaptability and tolerance of stressful, difficult and changing environments.

Reliability and Dependability – demonstrating consistency with meeting all obligations properly and taking responsibility for themselves and their work.

Capacity for Improvement – demonstrating consistent goal setting, learning, reflecting on how to get better personally and by asking for and acting on feedback. 

The responses to scenarios that best combine these competencies would be very effective, and responses that are clear transgressions of multiple competencies would be very ineffective. Considering the intersection of these competencies in each response is a good framework to approach the actions and see if they would be advisable or not.

AAMC Preview Guide

Note: On top of the 8 pre-professional competencies the AAMC PREview exam mentions in the graphic, they have additional competencies that are worth knowing for the rest of the application cycle. These include the  science competencies of human behavior and living systems, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific inquiry, and oral and written communication.

3. Complete the AAMC PREview practice exam and study each answer explanation

After reading all available AAMC materials regarding this exam and carefully learning the eight competencies testing, complete the full length AAMC PREview practice exam, which is available as a PDF with different versions for Macs and PCs. Practice this under true testing conditions (no phones or outside distractions, with appropriate timing of 75 minutes for the whole test and no breaks, etc.) and write down your choices for each response.

After completing this practice test, spend at least as long reviewing the answer explanations as you spent doing the test. Now that you are familiar with the eight competencies, track which competencies were used to judge each response. Make sure your understanding of each competency matches how the medical educators are using it! 

4. Prepare for test day

Make sure that you register for the AAMC PREview test at least 2 weeks before your desired testing date (with tests only occurring once a month, so plan accordingly!). After doing that, make sure you log in before test day to verify your information, run the tutorial, and make sure that your laptop or computer is capable of running the necessary proctoring software. You should not use a phone or tablet for this exam, and your testing setup needs a continuous webcam and microphone

After taking these steps, you will be as prepared as possible for this daunting situational judgment test. Remember that the AAMC Professional Readiness Exam (AAMC PREview) is just one part of a holistic application review, and just put your best foot forward! You may actually face some of these scenarios in medical school and beyond, so this is not just a test, but also a reflection point for you. Good luck on your path to becoming a future physician!

For more specific information on the formats and grading of this situational judgment test, please reference the AAMC PREview website. 

For more personalized questions or one-on-one help preparing for these tests or any part of your application cycle, please 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 an internal medicine resident at Brown University 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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