All Questions Welcome!

Hi Readers,

I opened up this section of the site to answer any questions medical students/pre-meds may have about school, studying, best methods, exams, the residency process, etc. Feel free to ask me anything and I’ll do my best to answer. *Non-medical questions only please.


If you provide an Email you will receive a message, once your Question is Answered.

How important is getting step 3 done for IMGs? Can we email programs with updates on our application during the process? Thanks! 20. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

So as a Caribbean graduate I wasn’t the best person to answer this question since we usually take Step 3 during residency.  I asked a cousin of mine (an IMG from Pakistan) who successfully matched into an Internal Medicine Categorical spot last year to help! Here’s what she said:

“Step 3 is generally important for H-1 Visa. Otherwise one gets a J-1 visa. In general if you’re done that’s a good thing but doesn’t make or break the reason for one getting into a program. Having said that there maybe a few programs who only offer H-1 or J-1. I don’t think that really matters. It might be program specific as well. There might be a few out there who prefer people with a Step 3 already given, but it’s NOT a criteria and shouldn’t matter”. 

Hope that helped!


If your writing was published and it was not research related, did you list it under “publications” on ERAS? What if it’s not medically related either? Thank you! 14. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

In all my interviews my ERAS application was used as a launching pad for jumping into conversations. You can imagine then by placing various items into your application you can somewhat control and direct how A) People perceive you  B) Where the conversation on interview will go.

I had a non-research related publication that would be best categorized as “narrative medicine”. I put it under the publication portion of my application and it was brought up in every interview in a positive light. I also was particularly proud of it and didn’t mind talking about it. I liked writing and wanted that to be apart of my career so I felt OK putting it in. It worked for me. If you feel like you have something similar then I’d say put it in there!

Now for a non-medical topic you have to ask yourself…is it something you are proud of? Is it something you want to discuss on interview day? Does it make you a better candidate? If you have a publication in a cooking magazine about the best way to season turkey do I recommend putting it into your application–probably not (extreme example, I know). But I hope it drives home the point that technically anything could be put under “publications” if you think it would make you look like a better candidate in others eyes and if you think you want to talk about it during interview day (mind you others will be talking about their research/community service/academic achievement so it has to hold up against that).

Tip 1: If you feel like your writing doesn’t belong under publications, try putting it in your resume under “Hobbies”.

That’s a great section for personal touches. I placed creating this blog underneath that part of the CV and it was brought up several times.

Hope this helps!


I’m a second year medical student .what are the best sources and textbooks to study from during medical school that will benefit me during preparation for step 1 ? 9. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

Congrats on making it through MS1. The best way to prepare for Step 1 is to do well in your basic science classes. The same concepts and principles that your professors highlight will be found again on the USMLE.

I just wanted to emphasize the importance of staying on top of your classwork as your #1 priority, if you do that the Step 1 will be a lot more manageable.

Having said that here are a few suggestions of things you can do when you have the time: A) Go through First Aid for Step 1 while you are studying the appropriate organ or pharmacology in class. The point of this is to familiarize yourself with the book so when you actually sit down to go through it you’ll be better acquainted. B) Do 5 Uworld questions a day. Learn the answers very well. It doesn’t seem like a lot but on top of your classwork it will be and 5 questions a day x a few months will get you through a chunk of UWorld. You’ll learn a lot. C) Even though I myself have not used it, I’ve heard only praise for Firecracker and recommend looking into it. It’s a index card/spaced-learning program from what I know and even though they offer it for all 3 Step exams I know from reading that it is best for Step 1.

Hope that helped & good luck!


I’m applying in Sept for Match 2016. What do you wish you knew before going through the application process or wish you did differently? Thanks for your advice! 7. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

Congrats on making it this far! So I’m thinking real hard and there really isn’t anything that I wish I did better. I prepared thoroughly for each interview (learned about the program and my own application) and I tried to bring my “A game” every time. Looking back I felt like I was successful in that regard.

Having said that I’ll just mention some high yield facts that I learned during the season and other points that hit home for me.

Know the program you are applying to.

This is extremely important. You have to have reasons as to why you are applying for a specific program. Location is usually the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people but I actually had a program director the day of the interview tell the lot of us that because it was the beginning of the season he wanted to give us some advice–that saying “it’s close to home” shouldn’t be the only reason you want to attend a program. I took that to heart and made sure I knew the programs strengths before each interview (health network affiliations, different tracks within the program, where residents went after graduating, patient population, unique characteristics, etc.) Plus it’s a great way to engage with the interviewer sitting across the table; they are obviously proud of where they work and each program usually has a couple unique strengths you can talk about.

Know your own story. 

Once again if you want to have a fluid and interesting interview you must have your personal narrative down. Be ready to talk about your application and what you did throughout medical school. Try to have fun with it! This is your chance to show a little pride about your accomplishments and activities.

Be confident

Relax and bring the best of yourself. That’s honestly all you can do. You should take comfort in the fact that all the hard work is behind you (now you just have to talk about it). I enjoyed my interviews because I got to connect with fellow applicants (usually everyone is really nice/excited) and see new places. Bring that energy with you.

Don’t be the person who asks a million questions during the resident tour 

I was reading a book by the prior residency coordinator of Mt. Sinai Internal Medicine. She made a point to mention not to be this person. I found it kind of funny and made sure to remember. I can imagine the residents, who’ve seen the hospital every waking moment for the past several years, cringe every time a medical student says “wow the ICU, that’s so cool!”. I guess learn to temper your enthusiasm somewhat…don’t oversell yourself.

Leave your house on time

If you’re driving to the interview or walking there from your hotel be sure to give yourself plenty of time. There are a few things you have to nail that day…and getting their on time should be the easiest.

Here’s post I wrote on it (click here). Hope that helps! Good luck!


As an IMG with average scores applying for IM, how many schools do you suggest applying to? Do you recommend applying to both preliminary and categorical programs in same hospital to increase chances? Thanks! 6. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

A great way to get a sense of how competitive you are is to check out the NRMP Charting Outcome (click here). This will show you what the mean score is for each specialty; the range of scores getting accepted into that specialty; and how many interviews on average a successful applicant needed before getting accepted.

I see on this chart that for an IMG applying for internal medicine the average Step 1 score is 229 and the Step 2 score is 237. These are averages so both scores higher and lower are competitive for this specialty. The data is displayed in various ways so look around to get a better get a sense of how competitive you are as an applicant.

Tip 1: Know how competitive you are

Most people who do not match are those that unfortunately did not apply for appropriate specialties. Knowing which field our scores will allow us to gain entrance into is a bitter reality of the process. It’s better to swallow this pill right now instead of on Match Day when you end up with an unwanted resulted.

That being said if you feel like applying for a reach specialty, do so with a backup. It’ll give you peace of mind down the line and even though applying for two specialties is tougher than one…it is better than applying for a reach alone.

Tip 2: Apply broadly 

So to answer your question directly…apply to a broad range of programs across the U.S. Look at the current resident profiles to get a sense if they are IMG friendly. If you have average board scores (Step 1: 230 Step 2: 240) or around that I would recommend applying to over 50 programs. I applied to 100 but was lucky enough (or not lucky enough) to have the student loans via the US government to help me out with that.

Applying to less than 50 programs doesn’t mean you won’t gain acceptance. It just means you will have to pick those programs intelligently, knowing where you have a realistic shot based on A) If they have a history of taking IMGs B) Community programs are generally easier to get into than University programs and C) Bigger cities are more competitive than rural areas/less desirable is vital.

If you truly have average scores and are applying to programs intelligently you won’t need a prelim spot because your grades should get you in. If you are missing Letters of Reference or have some huge red flag (a bad evaluation, getting kicked out school, etc.) then yes, a prelim should be applied to.

Once again 50 programs is just my recommendation that may give you the chance to get acceptance into a program you never thought you could get into. I have a cousin who graduated abroad who applied to around 10 programs and got a categorical IM spot at a great place. There are tons of stories like this so once again the most important thing to do is pick intelligently. 


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