Before February 2020, when the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) program announced that it will change Step 1 results reporting from a numeric score to a Pass/Fail one, most International Medical Graduates (IMGs) would speak in earnest about the importance of their Step 1 score to their match application and success. They were right in doing so, as it has consistently topped the list of what Program Directors surveyed by the National Resident Matching Program consider when selecting which candidates to invite for interviews.
Step 2 CK will still be reported as a numeric score, which still gives IMGs an area in which to shine. However, IMGs must note that until January 2022, the very importance of Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores dictates that any IMG who plans to be a serious contender must have solid Step scores. In other words, having competitive Step scores is an expectation, so it is not enough to distinguish you from other applicants. It doesn’t work in your favor to have a single-minded focus on excelling in the Step exams and relaxing thereafter.
There are other aspects of your application that Program Directors and the selection committee consider when they have to determine who they will invite to interviews and who they will rank highly. These include your letters of recommendation, your Medical School Program Evaluation (MSPE), your personal statement, and your perceived commitment to your specialty. Regardless of where each of these falls on the list of what programs are looking for, as an IMG, none of them can be lacklustre.
Do your very best on your Step exams, but don’t fall into the trap of neglecting other key aspects of your application process, including:
- carefully selecting and equipping those who will advocate for you on paper
- presenting yourself in a professional, memorable manner on paper
- advocating for yourself with ease during interviews
In the words of one of our favorite IMG clients, programs view the quality of your application as a representation of how much effort you put into tasks. I like to say that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression! Therefore, the most important part of your residency application as an IMG is every part. At every single stage of the process, you must seek to distinguish yourself; you must be memorable for being uniquely valuable.