International Medical Graduates

Updated: December 2020

Update: Check out the latest CaRMS Timeline for the 2021 R-1 Match! 

Update: Changes to the September 2020 NAC Exam due to COVID. No standardized patients and scoring changed to Fail/Pass/Pass with Superior Performance. See here:

I am a Canadian who went abroad to Europe to study. I didn’t realize what a challenge it would be to return to Canada in the hopes of matching into a residency program! There are many hoops, challenges, obstacles that we have to go through and at one point or another we start asking ourselves these questions:

  1. How badly do we want it?
  2. What will we do after graduating with an MD to set ourselves apart from the other IMGs in Canada?
  3. If not residency, what do we next with our lives?

Over time I will continue to update this page with various pieces of information to help others and provide some guidance. Now that I can say that I have matched into a Canadian family medicine residency program, there are things that I have done that I believe helped me to get into the system.

Read My Match Story!

What Canadian examinations do you need?

  • NAC-OSCE (mandatory)
  • MCCQE1 (mandatory)
  • MCCQE2 (not mandatory for many programs)

For information about the examinations, dates to apply, fees etc. please see Medical Council of Canada.

For more information on the EE and QE1 changes, please see: MCCEE and MCCQE1 changes

For information on what programs are looking for in an applicant, please see CaRMS – IMG applicants

What will help me stand out as an applicant?

It seems it is still much of a mystery what programs are looking for in a candidate! Information here has been gathered from 1) speaking to various residents/doctors who have matched 2) program directors 3) online forum information

It may take years for us IMGs but I believe KNOW now, whole heartedly, if we are persistent and keep improving our CVs and experience we will make it.

Score well on your NAC-OSCE & MCCQE1

Approximately how high depends on each specialty and what school. If you log into the CaRMS portal and check out the descriptions of each program they should mention it.

  • Ontario family medicine 2021 Match: The six Ontario Family Medicine Programs usually receive over 1300 applications and can only offer interviews to a maximum of approximately 300 applicants. NAC and MCCQE1 are required and candidates must submit results of NAC and MCCQE1. Approximately 300 candidates with top scores in the NAC and MCCQE1 will be invited for interviews.
  • Score well!
    • If you have passed your NAC OSCE and received a low score, you can retake it, with a maximum of three attempts.
    • NAC OSCE retake link 
    • Take your MCCQE1 and score well! Right now Ontario programs have not decided on a cut off, so if you have not taken your exam yet – aim to score HIGH!
    • Research into other specialties on the CaRMS program descriptions to see if they have score cut offs and whether you meet them!

RECENT clinical experience in Canada

  • If you graduated recently (within the past 2-3 years) good for you! You have recent clinical experience from medical school, but what happens to the rest of us who have graduated with our MD many years ago!
  • In Ontario you can do observerships with physicians. It’s difficult because first you have to
    • find a doctor willing to take you
    • OBSERVE because there are strict rules against touching patients. Believe me, the doctors feel your frustration, there is so much they want you to do but their hands are tied because of the rules. Unfortunately, many residency programs have written on their descriptions that they do not count observerships as clinical experience.
  • In OntarioQueens Graduate Diploma in Medical Sciences
    • I met with many people who have graduated from this program and matched!  This program is getting quite popular and becoming competitive to get into. It is expensive but you do get clinical hands on experience, working one-on-one with patients within the clinic setting at Queen’s!
  • In British Columbia you can be a clinical trainee/observer.
    • College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia: Clinical observer information for IMGs
    • I pursued this for two years before moving back to Ontario. I absolutely LOVED it. I had the responsibilities of a fourth year medical student. I performed H&Ps, minor in-office procedures, wrote SOAP notes in the EMR, wrote up referrals etc. all under the supervision of my attending physician.
    • For this you need to find a doctor who is willing to take you on as a trainee. You can cold call physicians and see if they will take you, OR contact The College and they can email you a list of physicians who take trainees (but the list is outdated unfortunately). You MUST purchase malpractice insurance as a clinical trainee through CMPA.
  • In Nova Scotia, IMG Clerkship program at Dalhousie
  • In Alberta, AIMG and CPSA of Alberta
  • In Manitoba, IMG program
  • If you are an IMG and/or a resident of Québec, take a look here! MDCM program
    • 2 year program for Québec residents, 4 year program is for non Québec residents also. It is basically medical school all over again. This is very competitive to get in if you are not a resident of Quebec. I applied, got rejected, but got into residency, so no tears for the med school rejection 🙂
  • Physician Assistant school
  • Go to the United States and do observership/externships! It may be expensive but I have a friend who went to New York to do an externship in neurology and eventually ended up matching into the same program in the US! (going through the whole US route is another topic all together, USMLEs, etc. ) 

Research? Publications? Medical education/teaching? Volunteering? Medical missions abroad?

-> Read my experience here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

  • This information was pounded into my head by MANY people I spoke to. This will really set you apart as an interesting, unique candidate. 
    • Family medicine programs really like to see meaningful volunteer work with marginalized populations (First Nations communities, HIV, refugees, homeless etc.)
  • How to find this? Emails! Phone calls! Talk to people! Google search! Someone is bound to say yes!
  • Look at various medical school departments, faculty names, what research are they conducting? Write an email that shows interest in their research, NOT a generic one. Look at their publications on PubMed and specify their publications in the emails. Have a catchy subject line for the email, not just “looking for research” or “research opportunities”.
  • Here is a website that helped me when I started emailing for research opportunities: Right and Wrong Ways to Find a Research Position
  • Here is a program at University of Toronto: Institute of Medical Science
  • Sick Kids Hospital
  • Information page on research opportunities
  • Providence Health, BC
  • BC Cancer research
  • Medical Mission Abroad in India (I did this one!)
  • Medical education & teaching
    • Find a hospital and help teach using medical simulation! Usually these hospitals are teaching hospitals and you can network this way as well. Medical simulation is getting very popular in teaching medical students and residents!
    • Contact schools that teach courses for Canadian and US board exams (Kaplan, Medical Training Express, colleges/universities)
    • Update your CV with free courses from: MDBriefcase

If you have completed residency training in another country

British Columbia – Practice Ready Assessment

Alberta – AIMG

Manitoba – MLPIMG

Quebec – CEDIS

Mandatory provincial examinations

UBC – Clinical Assessment Program

CASPER – this was noted as mandatory for several family medicine and IM residencies

IELTS and TOEFL – English language exams. Scores are valid for two years, but many family medicine programs in Canada are now phasing out the TOEFL as of July 2018 and will only be looking at IELTS scores. So if you have to take the English language exam, go for the IELTS now.

Differs province to province but if you had your undergrad/med school taught in English then you would need a letter from your school stating that….

  1. The primary language of medical education was English, and
  2. The primary language of patient care was English.

Other informational pages/groups:

Helpful Forums: RXPG

Association of International Medical Graduates of BC – good to connect with for exam prep, interview prep sessions (can be done in person or over Skype), they also send you information on jobs/career fairs/volunteer opportunities.

Health Force Ontario – they have great virtual Q & A sessions for CaRMS!

IMG Support Programs across Canada

Please message me or leave a comment below for questions or additional information. If you have anything to share please consider leaving comments below to help others out there!

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