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McMaster University Faculty of Medicine

In an earlier posting on the OECD’s PISA tests, there was some discussion about what was NOT measured in standardized tests of reading, science and math.

The Faculty of Medicine  at McMaster University, in industrial Hamilton, 65 kilometres south west of Toronto, has always been a leader in innovation in medical teaching, many years ago pioneering problem-based learning.

In yesterday’s Globe and Mail, there was an interesting article about a new online assessment of personal characteristics (CASPer = Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) that is used for selecting students for admission to its medical school. CASPer is a computerized version of a previously face-to-face interviewing schedule called the Multiple Mini Interview developed by Professor Harold reiter at McMaster that is now used by 12 of the 17 Canadian medical schools. CASPer uses videoed scenarios to which students must quickly respond as part of a two hour test.

What jumped out at me is that now grades counted for only one third of a student’s admission score. CASPer is now weighted double the students’ grade point average.

What are these computerized tests measuring? Good decision-making, ethics, communication skills, cultural sensitivity, etc.

Now it should be noted that students still have to have the highest standard in grade point average to even get to be interviewed by CASPer, so it is already choosing from the very bright, but it is an interesting example of the importance of measuring students on a wide range of factors and not just test scores alone.

Bradshaw, J. (2010) Brains alone won’t get you into med school Globe and Mail, December 13, p. A11


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