Information about Situational Judgement Exams (PREview and CASPer)

The PREview professional readiness exam is designed to gauge your judgment in professional situations and your development of some of the AAMC core competencies (specifically, service orientation; social skills; cultural competence; teamwork; ethical responsibility to self and others; resilience and adaptability; reliability and dependability; and capacity for improvement). The CASPer has a different format but measures some of the same characteristics.

The best way to prepare in the years prior to applying to medical school is to place yourself in situations where you’re interacting with others as part of a team and developing your professional judgment. PREview  isn’t a content-based exam like the MCAT – you aren’t expected to memorize facts. It’s an exam where familiarity with how people may effectively approach difficult situations can be helpful. In the years before you apply, you may also want to read through or take the practice exam to get a feel for the format and the questions that are asked.

In the spring before you apply to medical school, you should familiarize yourself with the actual exam formats, expectations, and logistics of taking them (which will be in the spring/summer you apply to medical school). You’ll want to read all of the free prep resources posted online and attend any webinars that introduce the exams.

PreVIEW is a multiple choice exam offered seven times this application cycle, from March through October, with scores released about 6 weeks after you take the exam. Some pointers to get you started on thinking about PreVIEW:

  1. Register early in case dates fill up, but they shouldn’t fill as quickly as MCAT. The test is taken on your own but with a live virtual proctor, not at a testing center, so there isn’t the same limitation on the number of seats (although there is some limitation due to the number of proctors).
  2. Take the test by July if you can so that your score is available by mid-August: some schools may use scores as part of screening for interviews, so an early score could be an advantage.
  3. We don’t know what schools’ policies will be yet. That information will be populated in MSAR as schools make decisions. Last year’s policies are captured in the “Additional Required Assessments” report on the AAMC MSAR Report page.

For CASPer, you will respond to 8 video-based scenarios and 4 text-based scenarios and scores are sent to medical schools about three weeks after the test is taken. We recommend taking the exam so that your score is available around the same time that your secondary, letters of recommendation, and MCAT score arrive at schools, ideally by mid-August. This would mean taking the CASPer by early July. CASPer’s website recommends registering at least three days prior to your preferred test date, which implies that seats won’t “sell out” quickly as they do for MCAT, but you may feel more comfortable registering further in advance.

It’s clear that medical schools are eager to understand your ethical decision-making, professionalism, and maturity in addition to your scientific knowledge, and your ability and interest in serving others with health needs. They’re continually trying to determine ways to quantify these qualities. There’s debate about how effective these tools are in meeting this goal, how much bias is embedded in them, and the added stress that these kinds of assessments add to applying to medical school, but for now, they’re part of the process, so understanding what they’re trying to measure and how they’re trying to measure it will help you prepare. Like everything else (experiences, attributes, GPA, MCAT, etc.), these tests are one piece of many being considered as part of holistic review in admissions, so take them seriously, but try not to lose sleep over them.

Written by Kate Fukawa-Connelly, Princeton University