McMaster University

McMaster University

Are you ready for CASPer?

by Guylaine Spencer

Published: Feb. 16, 2016

If you're applying for admission to the undergraduate program in nursing at McMaster University, Mohawk College or Conestoga College this year, Tuesday, February 16 and Sunday, February 21 are crucial dates. On each day, there are three separate times slots when you can take the CASPerTM test, a new requirement for the BScN application process this year. The cost to take the test is $50 ($40 for the test and $10 distribution fee) and you can register here:

[Take CASPer Test]  

What is CASPerTM? Why are we using this test?

CASPerTM stands for Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics. It's a web-based situational judgement test, and it takes the applicant 90 minutes to complete. The applicants watch and read a series of scenarios and then have time to respond in writing to questions about the situation.

Carolyn Byrne, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing, explains why the school is adopting the new assessment tool: "In the past for admission criteria we've used strictly grades. We've taken very bright students, with grades of 92 or 94% coming out of grade 12. You have to be bright, but nursing is more than being bright. It's about being able to make decisions, ethical decisions. It's about your character. The CASPerTM assessment puts you into a situation where you have to make your own personal decision about a dilemma or situation, and it measures your character or your critical thinking or your fairness. I think that's essential for nurses. So we're combining the CASPerTM scores along with the grades. It will hopefully give us a more balanced student. We'll follow it over time."

Can you prepare for the test?

Some applicants have been asking how they might prepare for the test.

Ola Lunyk Child, Chair of Admissions, tells students not to worry about it. "They can't study for it, nor should they take any high-priced preparatory courses," she says. "We recommend that they not do that. It's simply their life experience that prepares them for answering these questions. Rather than a test of their cognitive ability, it's a test of their personal characteristics such as communication, teamwork, ethical/moral development, empathy, caring, and professionalism."

Another key trait a nurse needs is resiliency, says Lunyk-Child. "Graduate nurses enter the real world of nursing practice and must survive and thrive. Hopefully that resiliency will be identified by CASPerTM."

Parents have also asked, "How can I help my daughter or son prepare for this test?"

Lunyk Child tells them:  "You've been preparing them for the past 18 years. The support, the nurturing environment, and the ethical/moral upbringing you've given your child, that's what going to help them write this test."

How was CASPerTM developed?

CASPerTM is a "made-at-McMaster innovation" by Dr. Harold Reiter and Dr. Kelly Dore. In 2010, the School of Medicine at McMaster University introduced CASPerTM as a way to screen all applicants and select those who would go to the next stage in the selection process, the Multiple Mini Interview.

Today, a company called Altus Assessments makes the test available to other disciplines and universities. They work with admissions offices to custom-design the tests so each discipline can identify the traits they are seeking in applicants.

McMaster's School of Nursing is one of the first nursing schools to adopt this assessment tool. York University requires applicants to their Internationally Educated Nursing and Second-Entry Nursing programs to take CASPerTM. Other medical schools that are using their own custom-designed version of the assessment include:  University of Ottawa (uOttawa), New York Medical College (NYMC) and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Since its inception in 2010, over 50,000 applicants have been screened using CASPerTM.

CASPerTM isn't the only situational judgement test (or SJT) out there. In the United States, the Association of American Medical Colleges is looking into developing a standardized SJT for applicants to medical schools.  In Belgium's Flanders region, medical school applicants have been taking a form of SJT since 1997.  And most departments of medicine in England have been using a similar test for the past few years.

Altus Assessments will submit the results to the admissions office of the School of Nursing at McMaster University once the CASPerTM tests are marked (by human evaluators, not computers). The school will use these results along with academic grades to assess a candidate's admissibility to the nursing program. Admissions Chair Lunyk Child says she expects that offers will be sent out in mid-April 2016.

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