Open response situational judgement tests in UK admissions

A lack of empathy from a professional, such as healthcare professionals, can cause a huge distrust between the service user and professional that may last for years. There may also be other situations where professionals lack the soft skills required in these types of roles. This is where Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) come in to provide that early glimpse of personal and professional characteristics and possibly provide guidance for areas of future development. 

SJTs measure non-cognitive skills, such as motivation and empathy, by presenting “applicants with a series of…situations and [asking] them questions about how they would respond”. They also give an early glimpse into likely future behaviours. 

There are two main formats: open response and fixed response. Open response SJTs allow the applicant to explain in their own words how they’d respond to a situation. These types of SJTs are not used widely in UK university admissions. A quick Google search shows universities use fixed response SJTs, which require the applicant to select an action they’d take from a predefined list.

Fixed response SJTs

There is evidence indicating the use of fixed response SJTs hold little predictive validity. The main advantage of this type of assessment is, it tests knowledge of ‘standard responses’ and societal norms. However, it is prone to coaching and inauthentic responses within admissions. Fixed responses may be subject to “implicit bias and not relate to individuals’ diverse experiences and perspectives”. 

Open response SJTs

SJTs with an open response format are beneficial for high-stakes situations, such as admissions. This is due to being less prone to coaching as there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. Involving an open response SJT has found to elicit widening participation in medical education for a number of underrepresented minority groups. There is also evidence of predictive validity which “are not otherwise predicted by traditional screening measures”.

What is Casper?

Casper is our online, standardised, open response SJT used to help screen applicants as part of the admissions process. It evaluates applicants’ social intelligence and professionalism. Applicants respond to 15 video and text-based scenarios within an allocated time frame. They respond using either typed or video responses. 

Each of the applicant’s responses is rated by a different rate, allowing the final z-score to reflect diverse perspectives on the applicant’s performance. This shows the full spectrum of the applicants’ abilities.

With more than 15 years of supporting scientific research and development, researchers at McMaster University in Canada developed Casper. This SJT measures the following skills:

  • Collaboartion
  • Equity
  • Empathy
  • Ethics
  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Professionalism
  • Resilience
  • Self-awareness
  • Motivation

Over 450 higher education institutions worldwide use Casper to ensure applicants possess suitable personal and professional qualities that make them more likely to succeed in their chosen profession. Research has found Casper holds predictive validity, internal consistency, and reliability.


Although fixed response SJTs have benefits within high stakes decision making, such as admissions, open ended response SJTs have been found to be more effective. An open response format can benefit your course by allowing applicants to showcase their analytical and evaluative skills, as well as their life experiences and personal values. The applicants can also justify their answers within their responses.

Casper is uniquely designed to assess social intelligence and professionalism, it avoids coaching of responses, it is accessed remotely therefore is highly accessible, and has over 15 years of supporting scientific research and development. There is currently no other open response SJT available for admissions within the UK. Casper brings all these benefits to help create a world served by exceptional professionals by going beyond book smarts and promoting a fair admissions process.

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