August 28, 2019
How to be a good CaRMS match: everything IMGs need to know
Are you on track to finish your medical studies in Canada – or trying to get there? Planning to become a physician in a Canadian city, like Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal or Vancouver – or perhaps serve a town or rural community? Perhaps you did your graduate medical degree in Europe, Asia or the U.S.… and now need to take the next steps to complete your education on Canadian soil. First, you’ll need to receive a CaRMs match by being accepted into a good Canadian post doc medical program.
Stellar applications, successful placements
This blog will help you understand CaRMs, its requirements, your eligibility, a typical CaRMS timeline, the CaRMS deadline – and how to effectively apply to get the best possible CaRMS match. We are pleased to offer tips, tricks and suggestions to enable you to submit an outstanding application to get where you want to be.
What is CaRMS:
The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) is a national, independent, not-for-profit, fee-for-service organization that provides, as it states on its website, a “fair, objective and transparent application and matching service” for medical training across Canada. In essence, it works with medical schools to provide a computer-based match for students to enter into postgraduate training in Canada. It doesn’t matter whether you have studied here in Canada or abroad, all graduates must apply through CaRMS if they wish to pursue postgraduate, or residency training in Canada – and that pertains to any specialty in medicine. Those who are applying to complete their training the U.S. must follow a different program. For Post Doctorate Medical Training in the US, consult the ERAS guide here.
In a nutshell, CaRMS enables post doctorate program applicants to choose where to pursue residencies and apply — while also allowing residency program directors to effectively choose applicants who are the best fit.
The CaRMs Application
The CaRMS application process should begin during the fall of your final year in medical school. You should have completed about 12 months of core rotations and electives and become clear in your mind which specific programs you really want to apply to. Also, it’s a good idea to select a minimum of 3 preceptors who you can ask to serve as your CaRMS match referees.
The CaRMS application has five components:
- Curriculum vitae (CV)
- Medical Student Performance Report (MSPR)
- Reference letters
- Personal statements (PS)
Let’s look at each of these components in detail to ensure you have a winning application:
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CaRMS Curriculum Vitae (CV) – What to include:
- Your educational and academic background, in reverse chronological order
- Honors and awards
- Your employment history
- Professional organization memberships and volunteer work
- Research completed or ongoing, noting publications or presentations of relevance to your application.
- Elective experiences. Don’t be afraid to include your extracurricular activities as program directors are looking for well-balanced individuals.
Important CaRMS CV tip: Be sure to carefully proof and format your CV so it looks as good as your credentials read!
- Canadian students: your medical school will automatically send your transcript to CaRMS.
- International students: You’ll need to ensure a sealed copy of your transcript is sent from your medical school to CaRMS by the deadline.
CaRMS Medical Student Performance Report:
Who prepares it: the dean of your medical school.
Who sends it: Your school will automatically send it to CaRMS.
What it includes: Your performance report includes every score you received on elective or core rotations, as well as comments from each rotation preceptor, as they appeared on your rotation evaluations. Note: Take special care to perform well on each rotation and receive the best score possible as it may affect your CaRMS application and CaRMS match.
What you need to do: On the last day of your rotation, ask your preceptor to fill out the form. Be sure to request that they spend a little time with you to go through each section and provide constructive feedback as they fill it in. You may wish to ask them to add comments on your special strengths right at the end. Taking the extra time with your preceptor and ensuring that they fill it out carefully with you will ensure a stronger and more detailed performance report. And that should significantly strengthen your CaRMS match application.
CaRMS Reference Letters: what you need to know:
- Most programs require 3 reference letters (be sure to check specific requirements)
- At least one letter should be from a physician in your chosen specialty, ideally in your chosen city or location
- Research supervisor letters may be relevant If you have completed extensive research or an advanced degree while in medical school
- When applying to more than one specialty, carefully pick which referees you would like to assign to write letters for programs you are applying to. From there, you can specify which letters go to which programs.
- Only physicians or professors should be chosen as referees to write your reference letters
- Medical students are responsible for ensuring their CaRMS reference letters are mailed to CaRMS by the deadline. It is advisable to:
1. Provide your referees with pre-addressed envelopes for your reference letters. Once complete, you can pick them up and mail them directly to CaRMS yourself.
2. Use a tracking number for your mailed letters, so you can make sure they have reached CaRMS.
CaRMS Personal Statements – what you need to know:
- Consult your specific program to learn what precisely you should discuss in your personal statement, including required word or character limits
- Start with an outline of general thoughts about your medical school experiences, including:
What led you to choose this specialty – and this program?
Why you want to pursue residency training in this specialty?
What challenges do you expect as a practicing physician?
What makes you the most passionate about this specialty?
Any precise career plans and goals?
- Highlight your personality and non-cognitive skills.
Communicate clearly what particular traits you possess that makes you a perfect fit for the specialty and program of your choice.
- Complete a first draft Once you have a strong, clear outline, the first draft will come easily.
- Check for good statement structure: Include an introduction, body, and strong conclusion
- Do a second draft – and proofread before sending – at least twice!
And best tip of all:
- Study a list of excellent CaRMS personal statements before you commence writing.
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- Select 1 Medical Speciality
- Reference Letter Review
CaRMs Application Timeline: What you need to know:
As an applicant, your current medical school will input their information to your CaRMS application. Once this is received, you should receive login information from CaRMS which is sent out in September prior to your graduation. Please note: you must apply to a specific program, not just a specialty. In addition to the university, be specific about which campus, speciality and program to which you are applying. Sometimes the application process can take some time, so keep your eye closely on CaRMS deadlines.
Important note: Below you will find a general guideline to CaRMS timelines only. It is not 100% guaranteed. Sometimes specific dates change based on the year, so be sure to cross-reference the CaRMS website for current deadline dates.
August – Select your referees
- CV preparation begins, including development of your personal statements
- Finalize your selection of referees
September – Finish CV by month end
- Access CaRMS portal,
- Provide referees with all relevant information to enable them to send in your letters
- Finalize your CV by month end
- Medical Student Performance Report (MSPR) and transcripts are due
November – Application by month end.
- Submit online application
- Submit personal statements
- Submit reference letters
December-January – Applications are reviewed
- Waiting period while your CaRMS applications are sent to programs to which you applied
- Expect contact from programs for interview set up
January-February – Interviews take place
- Attend Interviews to programs (usually during the last 3 weeks of January)
- Rank programs in your preferred order (by late February) order
March – Match day
- CaRMS Match day!
- Second CaRMs Match day
May – Match Day 2
- Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination – Part 1
June – Graduation
- Welcome to your career as a fully qualified doctor. Congratulations. On to residency
July – Residency commences
- All residency programs begin
CaRMS Eligibility for International Medical Graduates (IMGs):
If you are an international medical graduate and wish to apply for a medical residency in Canada, you must first make sure that you are eligible to do so.
As an IMG, to Be eligible to Participate in the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), you:
- Must attend or have graduated from a school listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools and
- Have written and passed the Medical Council of Canada Evaluation Exam (MCCEE).
- US Medical Examinations (USMLE) do not replace MCC;
- Have written and passed the SCC examination, which is also administered by the CMC, and can only be completed after the end of the MCCEE. The last time you can take the NAC is the same month of September that you want to play.
- Must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada. Visa holders are not eligible.
- Please note that the CAN assessment can only be done once the MCCEE has been adopted.
Further Requirements to Complete Your Medical Residency in Canada
The criteria mentioned above are the basic requirements for you to participate in CaRMS matching. There are other criteria for applying for positions in the various Canadian provinces. Visit this link, to find the Provincial Criteria section of the CaRMS match website. This will inform you to successfully apply to all programs in the province of your choice. Please note: It is your responsibility to ensure that you have read the information provided as part of the provincial restrictions to ensure you meet all the necessary provincial program requirements.
To see the list of CaRMS program descriptions available for the R-1, please click here: http://www.carms.ca/en/residence/r-1/program-descriptions/
- Is solely responsible for the application and the document.
- Will indicate which documents are required, which examinations must pass and which provincial assessments are preferred.
The CaRMS match process is not a walk in the park. It requires discipline and focus – just like running a successful medical practice. By fully understanding the process and being prepared well in advance, however, you stand a better chance of achieving your goal. That is, successfully matching to your ideal medical specialty, school and program.
Want to stand out with a truly exceptional CaRMS application – and need further assistance?
Our doctors can help you excel – and ultimately get the CaRMS match you really want.