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Why Is Social Intelligence and Professionalism Important to Programs?

Have you ever been to a doctor’s appointment and felt like their bedside manner was lacking? Perhaps you’d received a stressful diagnosis and a medical professional delivered the news without much empathy; or they made you feel excluded from your own medical decisions. There’s a reason why social intelligence and professionalism is crucial for medical professionals — because technical skills are simply one part of the job. Of course, this isn’t true just for healthcare professionals; many professional roles require interpersonal skills.

Casper is a situational judgment test (SJT) that helps to ensure applicants have the social intelligence and professionalism required of their profession. It does this by measuring the applicant’s ability to effectively reflect on and communicate responses to interpersonal and professional dilemmas using critical reasoning and social interpretation.

What Is Social Intelligence and Professionalism?

Casper measures social intelligence and professionalism, but what does that mean, exactly?

Through the use of specific scenarios that probe for 10 identified aspects of social intelligence and professionalism — Casper assesses an applicant’s ability to effectively reflect on and communicate responses to these interpersonal and professional scenarios using critical reasoning and social interpretation.

Casper was born out of a desire to provide a holistic impression of applicants by providing academic programs with a reliable and valid measure of social intelligence and professionalism to complement the technical skills that are typically assessed during the application process.

Why Does It Matter?

In 2019, Dr. Stephen Trzeciak and Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli published a ground-breaking new book titled “Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence That Caring Makes a Difference.” The central question of the book asks: Does compassion matter in a healthcare setting? Through scientific research and literature the authors make a compelling case for compassionate care—going as far to say that a compassionate healthcare professional will see improved patient health outcomes. In short: Kindness really is healing. One study examined “the impact of patient-centered care on outcomes,” and found that patients who felt they had positive communication with their physician, which includes finding common ground, ended up with better outcomes than those who didn’t.

Not only does compassionate care produce better patient health outcomes, but cultivating compassion in students leads them to feel healthier and more well-rounded. A 2019 study published in BMC Medical Education examined the impact of a three-year pilot study at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The pilot study focused on 45 medical students who chose to enroll in an elective, which taught them the practice of compassion, mindfulness and acting without judgment. The results showed that the mindfulness program taught students how to process situations with compassion and without judgment. Students reported that the practices they learned improved their own ability to manage stress, but also improved their relationships with patients.

How Does Casper Work?

Casper assesses social intelligence and professionalism through its open response assessment format. An open response question requires applicants to respond to the question posed and offer reasoning behind the response. The SJT consists of 15 unique scenarios that capture how an applicant would respond to tough situations, and why. Casper provides admissions committees with information on applicants’ social intelligence and professionalism that can be used in conjunction with other metrics, in an attempt to create a more holistic evaluation of applicants to professional fields.

Casper’s assessment is open response because it allows for diversity and uniqueness in responses and provides the applicant an opportunity to explain the reason behind their chosen action. An open response assessment is valuable because it allows applicants to recognize the uniqueness of each situation, draw from their own lived experiences and values and present their solution based on critical reasoning. In addition, research shows that open response formats are less biased than closed response assessments; such as multiple choice questions. With Casper, the applicant explains the reasoning behind their response. The ‘why’ is even more important, because the applicant has a chance to be authentic and show who they are, and why they believe what they do.

10 Aspects of Social Intelligence and Professionalism

The 15 scenarios presented in Casper’s assessment probe for 10 aspects of social intelligence and professionalism. These aspects were developed from several professional colleges and governing bodies’ frameworks; such as the AAMC’s core competencies for medical students.

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Empathy
  • Equity
  • Ethics
  • Motivation
  • Problem Solving
  • Professionalism
  • Resilience
  • Self-awareness

How These Aspects Relate to a Scenario

When an applicant responds to a single scenario on their assessment, they have the opportunity to reflect on one or more of the above ten aspects of social intelligence and professionalism. Our Test Prep page offers a few examples of the scenarios that may be presented. A word-based scenario might say:

Think of a time when you had to make a sacrifice in order to accomplish a goal.

1. Briefly describe the situation and the sacrifice you made.
2. Do you regret your decision to make the sacrifice? Why or why not?
3. Did you learn anything from this situation that can be applied to your desired career? Explain your response.

When answering whether or not they regret the decision, the applicant may show signs of self-awareness or ethics. The sacrifice discussed might demonstrate empathy, and the lessons learned may show resilience. Any number of the 10 aspects might be present in the response, it all depends on how the applicant answers the questions.

Why Are These Aspects Important to Programs?

In order to ensure that program applications are comprehensive, more professional programs and graduate programs are leaning on a holistic review process. What does holistic review look like?

In addition to typical admission tests, such as the MCAT or LSAT, schools are also looking at an applicant’s experience, background, social intelligence and professionalism. Assessments like Casper help to offer a more holistic view of the applicant.

We’re seeing that there’s an appetite for hiring future professionals who can go beyond recalling textbook knowledge; many programs and hiring practices are now focusing on a holistic review of applicants — these programs want to see skills like empathy, communication and ethical problem solving.

Not only is a holistic review process important to evaluate for a well-rounded applicant, but it also helps to level the playing field in these incredibly competitive programs. Technical skill assessments are known for being riddled with inequality; if we only go by these assessments large groups of people are left out of the application process. A student who misses the mark by a small percentage may be head and shoulders above other applicants in their social intelligence and professionalism — which is why looking at these 10 aspects are so crucial for the future of many professional fields.

Can You Improve Your Social Intelligence?

We encourage all applicants to have a look at our Test Prep page to ensure that they are prepared for the test, which includes becoming familiar with the online format, completing a ‘System Requirements Check’ to avoid technology difficulties, and other practical tips. We find that applicants that take our practice session typically perform better than those that don’t — however, the best way to improve their Casper scores is to focus on self development.

It’s important to note that taking test prep courses to attempt to ace a test is not an effective way to succeed on Casper. Research does suggest that anyone can improve their social intelligence by investing in their own self development, which includes improving empathy, listening skills and self-awareness. Focusing on self improvement is the best way to prepare for Casper, but more importantly, it’s the way to ensure you’ll be the best version of yourself and will lead to better chances of success as a professional.

Looking for resources to support your own development? Check out these articles

  1. Read our blog about how storytelling and vulnerability can have a positive impact on your mental health and self awareness.
  2. Check out Berkeley’s article titled “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People,” and don’t forget to take the empathy quiz!
  3. ReadCompassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence That Caring Makes a Difference” by Dr. Stephen Trzeciak and Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli.