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How Do VITA, SJT, and CASPer Differ?

This application cycle brings a host of complicated issues stemming from COVID (cancelled and postponed MCAT dates) and new tests for medical school applicants. The CASPer test has been around for awhile and is now required at many medical schools. It is a situational judgment test that presents scenarios via video after which applicants must write an essay about how they would handle the situation. It is open-ended in terms of the responses. The results are shared with medical schools but not with applicants, leaving them in the dark regarding their performance on the test.

New this year is the AAMC’s Video Tool for Admissions (VITA), which is an online tool with six text questions, answered by recorded video. The VITA aims to assess an applicant’s preparation for medical school (their journey, i.e. the experiences that have prepared one for medical school) along with five of the competencies that medical schools value in entering medical students (social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, reliability/dependability, and resilience/adaptability). The idea behind this is that since all medical school interviews are virtual this year, this tool will eliminate the need for actual interviews to spend time assessing these traits; it frees up more time in interviews to market the school and to assess other aspects of an applicant’s background. The VITA is meant to complement a medical school’s actual interview instead of replace it. For the details regarding the format of the test please click the above link. Medical schools can view your video responses and interpret them how they wish; VITA is not scored nor do you receive information as to how you performed. Not all medical schools are requiring the VITA this year; for the list of those that require it click here.

Again new this year is the AAMC’s Situational Judgment Test (SJT), which has been eight years in the making. It is being piloted at only two medical schools this year, the University of Minnesota and the University of California at Davis.  This test assess eight pre-professional competencies that medical schools value highly (and which overlap with the VITA):  social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, reliability/dependability, resilience/adaptability, service orientation, capacity for improvement, ethical responsibility to self and others (the additional competencies tested on the SJT as opposed to VITA are bolded). The SJT is designed to promote holistic review of applicants such that schools can assess them more broadly. It is a remote proctored examination that tests applicants’ understanding of effective preprofessional behaviors; they are not expected to have mastered these behaviors. Unlike the VITA, the SJT is a scored exam with results between 1 and 9 (9 being high); the score is reported on a scale with a rank. For the details on scoring and other particulars of the test, please visit the link above and the AAMC’s other materials on the SJT.

It remains to be seen whether the SJT, VITA and CASPer will be required in future application cycles; my guess is that the SJT may supersede the CASPer and obviate the need for the latter exam. The CASPer is not designed specifically for medical school whereas the SJT was designed by medical schools in conjunction with the AAMC. The VITA may only be used in this cycle; time will tell.

For information about how to prepare for these exams or to schedule a mock interview please contact me at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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