Many medical students think about using residency prep books to plan for this next step, further their skills, or establish what they really want out of a career in medicine. When you are figuring out how to prepare for residency applications, books could potentially give you the information or motivation you need to succeed. With a plethora of publications available, it may be difficult to discern which types of books will be the most useful for you.
This article provides some examples of residency prep books that could kickstart your residency journey but also discusses whether books are a viable tool to prepare for residency. We cover their pros and cons and how to incorporate other forms of preparation, such as professional residency help, alongside your reading.
Disclaimer: Please note: although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa.
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Types of Residency Prep Books
There are many options available for books to guide you through your residency application, but here are some useful resources pertaining to various aspects of the match process:
1. BeMo Ultimate Residency Guidebooks
BeMo Academic Consulting offers two affordable and helpful books that are meant to inform medical students about common aspects of preparing for residency. BeMo’s Ultimate Guide to Residency Personal Statements teaches medical students how to grab the reader’s attention when writing their personal statement for residency. It includes proven strategies and examples that are sure to help any applicant stand out from the crowd. This book will help you avoid the most common residency personal statement mistakes and improve your chances of receiving that coveted match. Prospective medical residents usually focus on their medical knowledge as their ticket to getting a match but can overlook many other important skills as they move on to the next phase of their careers. Writing is a skill that is crucial to life as a doctor. Therefore, your personal statement is a first impression for residency program directors to see how you express yourself.
Are you preparing yourself for your residency interview or your personal statement? Watch this video:
Meanwhile, BeMo’s Ultimate Guide to Residency Interview can help you prepare for the various interview formats you may encounter in the medical field, such as traditional, panel, and multiple mini-interview (MMI). This volume includes essential residency interview tips, strategies, and sample questions to facilitate practice for the real thing. It will help you anticipate any type of interview question that may be thrown at you to ensure you sound intelligent when answering them. Your responses will be more likely to be unbiased and consist of logical arguments. The interview is the most important deciding factor for residency programs and is often the last stage before acceptance letters are sent. There is a misconception that you cannot prepare for an interview but knowing how to approach every type of question you could encounter is better than simply winging it.
2. Writing Guidebooks
In addition to the personal statement, having a mastery of language and communication is key to working as a doctor. It may not be immediately obvious, but writing and grammar-related books such as Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style can be a great help in this respect. Widely regarded as a classic manual for writers known for its unique tone, this book can make a big difference in your English written material. In addition, the latest edition of the Little, Brown Handbook includes discussions of critical reading, media literacy, argumentation, and more, which can significantly alter the way you see and interact with the written word.
Errors can cost a lot in a field such as medicine, but you can benefit from improving these skills in all areas of your life. When people need to understand you, your grammar and sentence structure should be flawless. Style guides could heavily contribute to your residency personal statement editing to avoid having your application discarded due to poor grammar or syntax. In the ideal personal statement, each sentence should naturally lead into the next without hesitation. Books can be a viable solution to evade any issues with your writing.
3. Philosophy and Essay Books
The medical profession is inherently linked to ethics, moral codes, and philosophical concepts. As you approach residency, you will become increasingly acquainted with some of these debates. You may remember from when you applied to medical school how hard you worked on your MCAT CARS strategy by reading highly challenging texts. You may have even used some MCAT prep books for this purpose. Certainly, you will have encountered MMI ethical questions, and actual ethical issues may have come up in clinical rotations. By now, you will recognize how theories you read about also apply to your personal ethos as a doctor. In this field, you will be making difficult decisions every day and dealing with people in vulnerable positions. A good ethical standing is required to be a great physician, and books can help you maintain that foundation. Moreover, your values and priorities will inform how you plan your future after residency, so self-awareness and reflection are important.
For fundamental texts, Immanuel Kant and Jon Stuart Mill are considered some of the more prominent thinkers of the Western world. However, books by Nassim Nicholas Taleb are examples of contemporary philosophy that can be relevant to a career in medicine. The Black Swan focuses on improbable events that have massive consequences and how society justifies these events in hindsight. There are many unpredictable aspects of the medical profession that can be related back to this theory. Another book of Taleb’s, Antifragile, demonstrates the ability to flourish in chaos. As a doctor, you will need to embody this concept and thrive through stress and disorder. If you sometimes ask yourself, "Is med school worth it?" a philosophical approach, though counterintuitive, may be grounding. Taleb’s books illustrate many philosophical topics that can influence medical professionals around the world.
4. Admissions Books
Books that detail the application process can be beneficial to any medical student preparing for residency, especially if they are a non-traditional applicant. The Successful IMG: Obtaining a U.S. Residency by Anagh Vora is a guide for those who received a medical degree abroad. If you’re looking into how to get into residency programs as an IMG, a book could be the right option for you to learn more about residency programs that are open to accepting international applicants, exams you need to take, required certifications, and more. Strategically applying to IMG friendly residency programs will give you the best shot at getting matched, despite the odds.
Behrouz Moemeni, the CEO of BeMo Academic Consulting and an admissions expert, has also written a book on the 14 Rules for Admissions Screening in Higher Ed. This publication is a short and accessible read that critiques how colleges, universities, and residency programs select the candidates they do. As a solution, Moemeni constructs an action plan for how to change traditional admissions proceedings to make them fair for all applicants. The book debunks common myths about admissions screening and promotes intrinsic motivation as a solution to remove bias in higher education. Reading as an upper-year medical student or future resident, you will put yourself in the shoes of a program director and have empathy for the person selecting you. It is also your chance to get to know what is lacking about the current medical admissions process and discover ways to change it.
Should You Use Residency Prep Books?
When pondering whether residency prep books are worth it for you, think about where you are in your career. If you are applying to residency, your medical school tenure is almost over. Now is the time to really evaluate your place in the field of medicine. While books are a great way to begin learning, it often takes more than books to prepare for residency.
When preparing to become a resident doctor, you are quickly becoming a practicing physician who needs specific skills to succeed. These skills cannot be honed solely through reading books. They are not sufficient on their own to give you the proper level of preparation you will require for residency. There are some definite benefits to using residency prep books, but they also have glaring limitations that are hard to ignore.
Pros and Cons to Using Residency Prep Books
1. Books are a good foundation. Reading residency prep books can be a great way to get started. For those who may have gone through medical school admissions but are less familiar with the specificities of residency applications, a book could be the perfect introduction to learning how to prepare. They can acquaint you with topics and skills you can then research further.
2. Books improve communication skills. This may seem rather obvious, but exposing yourself to many different types of written texts will evidently help you in your daily life as a professional. Doctors are constantly reading information that could be vital to someone’s health. Most medical students do not have as much training in the humanities and are not as used to reading texts. The more you read well-written literature or other documents, the more your reading comprehension and communication skills will improve.
3. Books will further your interest in medicine. Residency prep books can provide you with knowledge that could be valuable to you and help you further your passion. They can help put your thoughts and feelings about the medical profession into words. If you are interested in a specific field or topic, reading books to learn more about it will never hurt you. Books can also be talking points in a residency interview to explain your enthusiasm or philosophy for practicing medicine. You can take valuable lessons or teachings from books and connect them to your own experience. The books you have read can inform how to answer the interview question “why do you want to become a doctor?". Books can give you a better sense of self, which is always a plus when applying to residency programs.
1. Books are not all-encompassing methods of preparation. Books are simply not the only form of prep for residency or any other application process. It is true that you can learn about something by reading about it, but that doesn’t mean you have learned how to do it. You can read a book on how to ride a bike, but that does not mean you are ready to participate in a race. There is no way for a book to fully teach you, meaning they are often an incomplete mode of preparation. To be truly effective, they need to be paired with other preparation methods, such as a residency prep course. Being a doctor also has very important interpersonal components that cannot be accessed just by reading prep books. You need to be both socially and culturally aware, manage the emotions of those around you, and solve puzzles with missing pieces. You really need to develop these skills beyond the pages of a book.
2. Books are an individual experience. While books can be great places to start, they do not necessarily provide you with the most room for growth when it comes to actually performing better on your personal statement or in your responses to residency interview questions. You need to actually put in the effort. Live prep from a residency application consultant or speaking with an admissions expert is much more likely to help you actually improve your candidacy. A book will not be able to adapt to your personal strengths and weaknesses. You will not get tailored feedback addressing your specific needs as you submit your residency applications. It is a one-sided conversation. Feedback is such an important part of growing in any discipline. That entire aspect of preparation is lost if you are only reading prep books.
3. Books are too general. Prep books are meant to appeal to a wide audience by design. This is to be as helpful to as many readers as possible. Books would not sell if only a few people in the country could benefit from their content. They can give you advice on how many residency programs to apply to, for example, but they do not have the context of your own unique situation to ensure that the advice is relevant. Often, you may find that some of the information included in a prep book is of no use to you. They may not be able to tell you how to tailor your application to the specialty you are applying to. They may not be writing about the particular residency match services you are using and how to use them effectively. A book could inspire ideas or inform you about potential options for you to consider, but that is usually the extent of their purpose.
If you are asking yourself “What do residency program directors look for?”, books can be a great initial step toward preparing for your residency. Whatever you learn from these materials can usually be applicable to many parts of your life, not simply your residency application or career. With that in mind, books can be an essential component of your residency preparation.
However, the important thing to remember is that books alone will not cover you completely. Seeking help when you need it can sometimes mean the difference between getting a match and not getting one. There are distinctive ways to improve your residency application after going unmatched, but this is not an ideal scenario for any aspiring doctor. You will want to make the biggest impact you can on your first try. This will lead to a higher chance of success.
1. Do I need books to prepare for residency?
This question does not have a definite answer, but the more preparation you do for residency, the better off you will likely be. The right books can be of service to you, but they should be used in tandem with other preparation methods to make sure you are truly ready for a residency program.
2. Are there resources online?
Yes, definitely. Some free resources are available online if you search for them. For instance, we have tips and other information on our blog or our YouTube channel without the need to purchase or access a book. The AAMC also has tools and worksheets for residency applicants that may be useful to you.
3. Do residency match services have their own resources?
Match services such as ERAS for the United States and CaRMS for Canada will also provide information on how to go about your application, as well as data and reports from previous years that you can peruse. Their websites will usually have the latest news regarding the residency match published so you can stay up to date.
4. How long does preparing for residency take?
You are essentially preparing for residency the entire time you are studying in both your undergraduate courses and medical school. However, the most critical period for residency preparation specifically comprises your second and third years of medical school. By then, you should be thinking about how to choose a medical specialty and how to maximize your chances at getting into your dream program. Just like when applying to medical school, getting started as early as possible is your best shot.
5. Can residency prep books help me with licensing exams?
While they are typically more expensive, there are books that could help with preparing for exams such as the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, and the MCCQE Part 1. The websites for these organizations will also have resources to help with studying. Getting a good score on these exams will greatly improve your chances of getting accepted to a residency program, so taking every avenue available to you is essential.
6. What are match rates like for medical schools?
If you check out the medical schools with the best match rates, you will notice that these rates are generally pretty high (around 92.8% for MD schools and 89.1% for DO schools). Regardless, there are still many medical graduates that go unmatched every year. Preparing yourself accordingly is one of the best ways to get matched.
7. What is a residency prep company?
A residency prep company offers services to help MD or DO graduates prepare for their application, interviews, or becoming a resident doctor. If a student enlists with a residency prep company, they will be assisted with all aspects of their application from A to Z. In addition, they can be coached on how to perform well in a residency interview and how to successfully navigate their first year of residency.
8. What can a residency prep company give me that books cannot?
Admissions experts that you will be working with can deliver valuable feedback on your application documents, such as a residency letter of intent. The feedback you will receive is personalized and tailored to your needs. Consultants can also assess your strengths and weaknesses to develop an appropriate application strategy or help organize your residency rank order list. Human interaction is a luxury that books unfortunately cannot provide. Speaking with a dedicated advisor about your future will give you the best shot at being matched to a residency program.
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