CaRMS is the online portal that applicants use to apply for a medical residency training position in Canada. This process can feel overwhelming and intense. This is why we have put together this guide to give you some insider CaRMS tips for your residency personal statement, reference letters, residency CV, and so on. It will also cover what medical students can do throughout their medical education to prepare for CaRMS applications. Lastly, it will cover every aspect of the CaRMS process and make helpful suggestions to ensure your application stands out among hundreds.
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CaRMS Residency Match Rates by School
- Memorial University – 95.1%
- Dalhousie University – 90%
- Université Laval – 93%
- Université Sherbrooke – 95.3%
- Université de Montréal – 90.7%
- McGill University – 93.5%
- University of Ottawa – 95.2%
- Queen’s University – 97%
- Northern Ontario School of Medicine – 100%
- McMaster University – 95.5%
- Western University (Schulich) – 94.6%
- University of Toronto – 93.4%
- University of Manitoba – 88.6%
- University of Saskatchewan – 90.5%
- University of Alberta – 93.4%
- University of Calgary – 93.4%
- University of British Columbia – 94.4%
What Is CaRMS and How Does it Work?
The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) is a not-for-profit organization and residency match service that works with medical schools in Canada to provide a computer-based match for students to enter into postgraduate medical training. Any medical graduate, whether they are based in Canada or abroad, must apply through CaRMS if they wish to pursue postgraduate, or residency, training in any specialty of medicine in Canada. Canadian medical graduates can also apply to residency positions in the US through the ERAS application service.
CaRMS efficiently allows applicants to choose where to pursue residencies and residency program directors to effectively choose applicants who best fit their programs through the help of an algorithm. Even though Canadian medical graduates (CMGs) have earned a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree and the title of Doctor, they must pursue 2-6 years of residency training before they can practice medicine in Canada. During residency, you will rotate through clinical experiences in various specialties, gaining hands-on knowledge, skills, and abilities which will allow you to effectively practice medicine without supervision.
Since a medical graduate requires postgraduate training prior to being able to practice medicine in Canada, CaRMS is important. Every Canadian medical student and even prospective students should familiarize themselves with the requirements of the CaRMS application. A final-year medical student will be preoccupied with not only CaRMS but clerkship rotations, exams and being on call, so familiarize yourself with the process early.
The CaRMS website has important information for students wishing to match to a Canadian medical postgraduate training program, including eligibility, policies, procedures, CaRMS match results, and deadlines for document submission. Every applicant to CaRMS should thoroughly review their website to ensure they are aware of this information.
How Competitive is the Canadian Match?
The Canadian residency match is generally more favorable to Canadian medical graduates, with a match rate of over 96%, according to the latest data from CaRMS. The top residencies for Canadian graduates are the family medicine residency and internal medicine residency, which continue to have the highest match numbers.
US medical graduates (USMG) applying to residency positions in Canada also have a generally high match rate of 63.1% International medical graduates (IMG) applying to residency in Canada are at more of a disadvantage.
Residency Match Rates in Canada
IMGs can only participate in the match if they are Canadian citizens or Canadian permanent residents. In some cases, they may be eligible with the right residency sponsorship. This means IMGs, even those Canadian citizens or permanent residents who graduated from medical school in the US or from international medical schools, have a decreased chance of matching to their top choice residency program.
Specialties with highest match rates (1st choice CMGs)
- Family medicine – 890
- Internal medicine – 469
- Anesthesiology – 184
- Psychiatry – 182
- Pediatrics – 166
- Emergency medicine – 121
- Obstetrics/Gynecology – 111
- Diagnostic radiology – 104
- General Surgery – 97
- Ophthalmology – 76
Specialties with highest match rates (1st choice IMGs)
- Family medicine – 609
- Internal medicine – 124
- Pediatrics – 64
- Psychiatry – 75
- Pathology – 28
Are you an IMG applying to Canadian residency programs?
How to Apply Through CaRMS
The CaRMS application process is lengthy and can be overwhelming for first-time applicants. In this next section, we’ll look at CaRMS eligibility requirements, what you need to know and a step-by-step guide on how to apply through CaRMS.
To apply through CaRMS for Canadian postgraduate medical training, you must first meet the eligibility requirements. The first requirement is that you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, as we’ve already discussed. To meet eligibility requirements, you must also have graduated from:
- An accredited Canadian medical school
- A school of osteopathic medicine
- An international medical school listed with the World Directory of Medical Schools
There are two iterations of the CaRMS match offered each cycle: the first iteration includes the R-1 Main Residency Match, as well as separate matches for subspecialties in internal medicine, family medicine and pediatric medicine. Only applicants who have received no previous postgraduate training are eligible for the R-1 Match. The second iteration is for applicants who did not match in the first iteration and gives programs a chance to fill any remaining vacancies with applicants who went unmatched.
IMGs and USMGs from DO schools will need to meet two additional requirements. First, you must have either written or be scheduled to write the NAC OSCE by September before the Match cycle begins. Second, you must have either written or be scheduled to write the MCCQE Part I by November before the start of the Match cycle. These are qualifying examinations that all medical students in Canada must write prior to starting their postgraduate training. Fortunately, there are MCCQE prep courses for international students and help for preparing for the OSCE as an IMG so you can get a head start on exam prep.
How to prep your residency app through CaRMS
Here’s a quick guide to how the Match works for CaRMS and the steps you’ll take:
After checking that you meet all requirements, the next step is to register for the match and start uploading your documents. This will be a familiar process to the medical school application process. Here’s some more information on registering for the Match through CaRMS, depending on applicant type:
Creating Your Residency Rank Order List
Each postgraduate training program will be ranking each applicant that they have interviewed. At the same time, each CaRMS applicant will be making a residency rank order list (ROL) of each program they interviewed at. Once the CaRMS deadline for ROLs has been reached, neither programs nor applicants can change their rank orders. The CaRMS algorithm then matches applicants to programs and notifies both parties on Match Day. CaRMS match results will be released after match day in March.
Creating this residency ROL is useful for you as the candidate to evaluate your options for residency training. It can help you determine how many residency programs to apply to and pinpoint which programs are the best fit for you. You may also want to think about how long is the residency program you’re choosing.
Each applicant must decide which priorities are most important to them and order their ROL accordingly. For example, if you wish to be close to your family in Winnipeg but are okay with either family medicine or emergency medicine, your list may look like this:
- Family Medicine – University of Manitoba (Rural)
- Emergency Medicine – University of Saskatchewan
- Family Medicine – University of Saskatchewan (Urban)
However, if you strongly wish to practice emergency medicine and no other specialties, your ROL may look like this:
- Emergency Medicine – University of Manitoba
- Emergency Medicine – University of Saskatchewan
- Emergency Medicine – University of Toronto
By entering their preferred order of programs and not withdrawing from the CaRMS application, applicants have signified their willingness to begin postgraduate training at any program on their ROLs. If you have matched to a particular program, you must show up on July 1 to begin your residency. Do not rank any program that you absolutely do not want to complete residency training at; not even as a backup. You should only rank programs you would be OK with attending and completing a residency at. You do not have to rank every program you interviewed at so simply leave off programs you do not wish to study at.
Applicants should not feel limited in how many programs they rank. In fact, most applicants should rank a minimum of 6 programs. Although prioritizing closeness to family or friends or your preferred specialty is important, it is much more important to be matched and receive a postgraduate training position. After completing residency training, it is possible for physicians to tailor their practices so they are doing their preferred work and to move to different provinces to work. It is advisable for candidates to rank multiple programs as they will have a much higher chance of matching to one if they rank more than a couple of programs.
How to Ace the CaRMS Application
Although the match rate for CMGs is high, to get matched to the most competitive residencies in Canada and get into your top choice program you’ll need to ace the CaRMS application and interview.
Next, we’ll look at what you can expect from the CaRMS application process and how to craft a stellar application.
CaRMS Application Components
- Residency CV
- Medical Student Performance Record (MSPR, or MSPE)
- CaRMS Reference letter
- Residency Personal statement
Below, you will find tips to improve each component of your CaRMS application.
#1 Residency CV
Your CV should list, in reverse chronological order, your educational and academic background, honors and awards, employment history, professional organization memberships, volunteer or extracurricular activities and any research you have completed, highlighting any publications or presentations you have completed. Your CaRMS CV should also include your elective experiences. Don't be afraid to include your extracurricular activities. Activities like music and sports are unique to you and program directors are interested in seeing that you are a well-rounded individual. After drafting your CV, ensure you have formatted it so it easier to read. Residency CV editing is an easy way to ensure your resume is polished before submission.
If you are a Canadian student, your medical school will automatically send your transcript to CaRMS. If you are an international applicant, please ensure a copy of your transcripts has been uploaded through the CaRMS Online Undergraduate Portal by the applicable deadline.
The Medical Student Performance Record is prepared and signed by the dean of your medical school. It is automatically sent by your school to CaRMS. The MSPR includes every score you received on elective or core rotations, as well as comments from each rotation preceptor. These will be the same comments that appeared on each of your rotation evaluations. It is important to perform well on each rotation and receive the best score possible, so it’s a good idea to learn how to prepare for clinical rotations in med school.
On the last day of your rotation, you will ask your preceptor to fill out this form. Sit with your preceptor and ask them to go through each section of the MSPR form and give you feedback. You can ask them to leave some comments at the end speaking to your strengths or how well you fit with the CanMEDS roles framework. If you simply ask your preceptor to fill out the form, they may simply check off the boxes and leave short comments that do not give much insight into your abilities. Take the time on the last day of each core and elective rotations to ensure your evaluation form is filled out to your satisfaction.
#4 Reference letters
Each student should ensure they have checked each program's specific directions for how many letters to submit. It's usually 3 letters per program. At least one letter should be from a physician in that specialty, if not that particular city or location. For example, if you are applying to Emergency Medicine: University of Toronto, you may want to pick two emergency medicine physicians you have done electives or core rotations with and one family physician for your last referee.
Electives are also a great way to receive reference letters. Try to schedule your electives prior to the CaRMS deadline for having reference letters in. This way, if you have a wonderful experience and believe your preceptor can write you a strong letter, you will be able to do this prior to the CaRMS deadline. Electives are quite competitive and must be scheduled up to 6 months in advance, so you should start working on this as soon as you receive your clerkship schedule, which is typically sometime during your second year of medical school.
If you feel like you have had a strong rotation experience, ask your preceptor on the final day of your rotation to not only complete your evaluation but if he or she will write you a reference letter. Follow up with him or her via email following your rotation, thanking your preceptor for the experience and reminding him or her of the reference letter you will be asking for. You will stay in regular contact with your preceptor throughout the CaRMS application process to ensure your reference letters are completed.
If you have completed extensive research or an advanced degree while in medical school, you can certainly consider asking your research supervisor to write a reference letter for you. International students can gain referees through IMG electives and clinical experience, which can provide stronger reference letters writers who can attest that you have experience in the Canadian health care system.
If you are applying to more than one specialty, you can pick which referees you would like to assign to which programs you are applying to. Within the CaRMS system, you will be able to specify which letters go to which programs.
In general, only physicians or professors should be used as referees. Non-medical work or volunteer supervisors, or friends or family members, are not suitable referees for your CaRMS application. Medical students are responsible for ensuring their reference letters are uploaded to the CaRMS online portal by the deadline.
#5 Residency personal statement
Each program will specify exactly what you should discuss in your personal statement. Ensure you have read not only what they are asking about but what the word or character limits are for the statement you are writing. Many programs will ask for a general personal statement outlining why you are choosing the specialty and the program you have applied to.
Begin by outlining your general thoughts about the experiences you have had during medical school. What experiences led you to consider this specialty? What solidified your decision to pursue residency training in this specialty? What do you foresee as challenges as a practicing physician? What do you like best about this specialty? Do you have any specific career plans you want to outline? Why would you like to attend the program you have applied to?
Just as your medical school application essays were meant to show off your personality and non-cognitive skills, you want to highlight these in your personal statements. Think about which traits you possess that complement the specialty and program you are applying to. Once you have outlined your thoughts, you can begin writing the first draft of your personal statement. Your statement should have an introduction, body, and conclusion and be free of any grammatical or spelling errors. It does not have to have any fancy words but should be written clearly, allowing anyone to follow your thoughts easily. Have as many people as you can proofread your personal statement before submitting, or have a residency application consultant give you professional feedback on your statement.
Check out this video to learn how to avoid red flags in your residency application:
How to Prepare for the CaRMS Interviews
Now begins the fun part of CaRMS – the CaRMS interview prep. Unlike when you applied to medical schools, the programs are not just interviewing you; you are interviewing each program you visit. Remember that you will be ranking each program in your preferred order so the interview is a critical part of the CaRMS process.
Start preparing for your interviews now. You may have an interview in person, over video chat, or over the phone. Some of the surgical specialties are known to make applicants perform a manual dexterity task and answer questions at the same time, similar to the dental school manual dexterity question. IMG residency interview prep is critical since you are at more of a disadvantage as an international graduate. Use the residency interview to propel yourself to the top of the candidate list by showcasing why you are the best choice.
Remember that the interviewers want to get to know you, your personality, and how suitable you are for the profession. Simply speaking, you are going to be their colleague for at least the next 2-6 years, and potentially for many decades. They are hoping to get a sense that you are a mature, ethical, professional colleague who will add to their program. Think of bullet point answers for each of these questions and practice them in front of a mirror or with a friend. You want your answers to be polished but not sound rehearsed.
CaRMS Interview Questions
You should be prepared to answer commonly asked CaRMS interview questions like:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Describe a patient experience you learned a lot from.
- Why should we choose you for our program?
- How will you contribute to our program?
- What are your future career plans?
- Describe a time you collaborated in a group setting.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Describe a time you had to resolve a conflict.
You are also interviewing the program. You must have read up on each program you are applying to and be prepared to ask questions about the program at the end of your interview. Examples of questions you can ask include:
- Do you feel like there is a good balance between providing service and learning for your residents?
- What can a resident do to ensure success in your program?
- What are recent graduates of your program currently doing?
- What support systems are in place as residents navigate the stresses of being on-call?
- What are the research opportunities available for residents to pursue?
Once programs have invited you for interviews, make sure you first reply to their emails and thank them for the opportunities. If your interviews are to be in person, you will need to start scheduling flights and hotels for your destinations. Since most programs will start emailing you at the end of December or beginning of January, try to plan your travel so you are traveling one way across the country (east to west or west to east). This will save you a lot of flying back and forth across Canada.
Remember to brush up on some common residency interview questions, too, including questions for specific specialties like family medicine residency interview questions and internal medicine residency interview questions. A good way to rehearse for your interview is to use a mock residency interview, which is one of the best tools to prepare for your interview, boost your confidence and get feedback on your interview answers.
CaRMS Application Timeline
Your CaRMS timeline is important for keeping yourself organized and on time throughout the application process. Below we’ve listed the important dates and deadlines you need to know about the CaRMS match.
Please note this is a guide only, as specific dates change from year-to-year. Refer to the CaRMS website for up-to-date deadlines.
Want our help with your residency application? Here's what our student success stories say about us:
What If I Go Unmatched?
Although there is a second iteration of the CaRMS Match, going unmatched is a stressful, anxiety-inducing situation for any medical student to be in. Imagine you are in your final year of medical school, having accumulated so much knowledge (and debt), and you find yourself not having postgraduate training lined up. This means entering the CaRMS Match and paying the application fees again; otherwise, there is no way for you to practice medicine. The good news is, there are ways to improve your residency app after going unmatched.
The reality is that more and more Canadian medical students are finding themselves in this situation. Familiarizing yourself with the CaRMS application, preparing your documents, and practicing your interviewing skills well in advance are keys to success and will make the application process less stressful. All medical students want to match during the first iteration of CaRMS, to their first-choice specialties and programs. The second iteration matches those unmatched students with the programs that have empty spots remaining after the first round, similar to the US residency SOAP program.
Familiarity with CaRMS will only enhance these residents' applications when the time comes for them to reapply to these programs.
1. What does CaRMS do and how does it work?
CaRMS stands for the Canadian Resident Matching Service, and it pairs medical school graduates with postgraduate residency training programs in Canada with the help of an algorithm. CaRMS is the Canadian equivalent of the US National Resident Matching Program’s ERAS application service.
2. What does CaRMS look at?
CaRMS evaluates candidates based on their medical school transcripts, their medical student performance record (MSPR), reference letters, personal statement and sometimes their residency CV and licensing exam scores, such as the MCCQE and NAC OSCE.
3. Can non-Canadians apply through CaRMS?
Yes. US medical graduates and IMGs can apply through CaRMS, so long as they are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
4. Can Canadians apply through CaRMS and ERAS at the same time?
Yes. Canadian medical graduates can apply to residencies in Canada through CaRMS and residencies in the US through ERAS at the same time.
5. What happens if you don’t match in CaRMS?
If you don’t match in the first iteration of the match, you have a chance to match in the second iteration. If you still don’t match, you can reapply in the next match cycle and work on improving your application to increase your chances of matching.
6. How many residency programs are there in Canada?
There are 37 residency programs offered at the 17 medical schools in Canada.
7. How do I prepare for a CaRMS interview?
The best way to prepare for your CaRMS interviews is to use mock interviews. This way, you can simulate the real interview environment and practice answering common interview questions. It’s best if you have help from residency interview preparation services such as an advisor or professional residency consultant to give you feedback on your performance and help you sharpen your responses.
8. How do I increase my chances of a residency match in Canada?
To increase your chances of a residency match, it’s important to research the programs you plan to apply to so you know what residency program directors look for in their candidates. Armed with this knowledge, you can start crafting a stellar CaRMS application and start creating your residency rank order list. Acing the residency interview can also significantly increase your chances of a match.
9. Can I change my mind after I’m matched with a program?
No. Once you’ve committed to a rank order list, you cannot back out of a residency match if you are successfully. On the other side, a residency program is bound to train you once you are matched. This is why it’s important to consider your ROL carefully and only include programs you really want to match to.
10. What is the CaRMS couples match?
CaRMS has a ranking tool which allows couples to submit a shared rank order list so that partners may match to the same residency program. In this case, you and your partner would submit a paired rank order list rather than two individual lists of programs. This allows you to match as a pair to a single program, but it does slightly decrease your chances of a successful match.
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