CaRMS Myth Buster

CaRMS Online opened to applicants earlier this month, which means you need to make sure you know all about the Canadian residency application process! Our goal today is to bust some common CaRMS match myths so that you can confidently tackle every step of the match process. 

Before getting into the myths, let’s briefly go over this application cycle’s timeline and define a few terms. 

Background Information

There are two rounds to the match process, referred to as iterations. 

The first iteration goes like this: 

  • December 7th: Program selection opens. At this point, you’ll be able to select the programs you want to apply to and submit your documents. 
  • January 10th: programs can access and begin reviewing your documents to decide whether or not to offer you an interview. Your interview status for each program will be indicated on your CaRMS Online account. Programs have until January 27th to update applicants’ interview offer status. 
  • February 6th to 26th: The national interview period. All interviews will be held virtually this year. 
  • February 13th: Both applicants and programs can start submitting their rank order lists (ROLs) – lists of who they’d like to work with, ranked in descending order of preference. 
  • March 9th: ROL submission deadline.
  • March 22nd: AKA Match day. All match results for the first iteration are released. 

CaRMS second iteration follows the same order of events, though on a compressed timeline: 

  • January 4th: Registration for the second iteration opens. 
  • January 26th: CaRMS Online opens for applicants. All registered applicants receive an email that outlines how to log into their account and start their applications. 
  • March 22nd: Unmatched applicants from the first iteration can start participating in the second iteration. 
  • April 3rd: File review starts. 
  • April 19th: ROLs are due. 
  • April 27th: Match day. 

After the second iteration’s match day, there’s a post-match process – one last chance to get matched – that runs from April 28th to May 18th. During this process, programs receive access to applications as soon as they’re submitted by applicants. 


Now that you’re all up to date on the timeline, we can start busting some myths!

Myth #1: You have to include every program you interview with on your ROL.

Interviews are as much your opportunity to learn more about the programs as it is their opportunity to learn more about you. If you walk away from an interview thinking “I don’t want to complete my residency with this program,” that’s perfectly okay! You don’t have to include them in your ROL. In fact, it’s better if you don’t include them. Even if you rank the program low, there’s still a chance that you might match with them. 

The algorithm that CaRMS uses takes both the applicants’ and programs’ ROLs into consideration and only matches them if they are on each other’s lists. So the only way to be certain that you don’t match with a program is to exclude them from your ROL entirely. 

Ultimately, your match results are a binding contractual agreement and you have to complete your residency with whatever program you match with. Failure to respect the outcome of the match process can result in penalties, as outlined in the applicant contract. So make sure to only list programs that you would be interested in training with!

Myth #2: All interviews take place during the national interview period

The national interview period (February 6th to 26th) is designated for current year medical school graduates who are applying to residency programs outside of the university they attend. Other applicants, such as international medical graduates (IMGs) or previous year graduates can be invited for interviews at any point up until the ROL deadline. 

Regardless of where or when you graduated, programs will update your interview offer status and send you an email outlining the time and place of your interview. If your CaRMS Online account says you’ve been selected for an interview but you haven’t received an email by late January, then you should reach out to the program directly! 

Looking for more information on how the match process differs for IMGs? Check out our blog post on the topic! 

Myth #3: You can’t participate in the second iteration without participating in the first iteration.

Actually, you can! As we previously mentioned, CaRMS opens for the second iteration on the 26th of January. At this point, anyone who hadn’t participated in the first match can log in and start uploading their documents. However, applicants who participated in the first iteration can’t start their second iteration applications until after the first iteration’s match day.

Although you can still participate in the second iteration without participating in the first one, note that most residency positions will be filled by the end of the first iteration, making it more difficult to match in the second one. The CaRMS match statistics from the last application cycle demonstrate this fact: 

  • In the first iteration, 91% of Canadian medical graduates (CMGs) matched. Only 68% matched in the second iteration.
  • In the first iteration, 33% of IMGs matched. Only 9% matched in the second iteration.

One additional note before moving on to our next myth: in order to participate in the post-match process, you need to have participated in either the first or second iteration. 

Myth #4: You cannot apply to both the NRMP and CaRMS.

This is completely false! The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) is the American equivalent to CaRMS. Both programs use the same algorithm, and Canadian medical graduates can apply to both through CaRMS.

Historically, CaRMS match day happened before the NRMP match day. If you matched with a Canadian program, CaRMS would automatically remove you from NRMP consideration. This application cycle, however, the NRMP match day is going to happen first. In this case, if you match with an American program, CaRMS will automatically remove you from consideration for their match process! 

Remember how we said that the CaRMS match results are binding? The same is true of your NRMP results. If you decide to participate in both match processes and match with an American program, you can’t reject that result in an attempt to match with a Canadian program instead. You can read the NRMP match agreement here to familiarize yourself with potential consequences of rejecting your match results. 

Myth #5: You can read your reference letters by emailing the CaRMS help desk and asking them to share them with you.

This used to be true. However, CaRMS updated their privacy policy in 2021 and applicants can no longer access reference materials. 

CaRMS made this decision because stakeholders were concerned about the integrity of these references. Referees have shared that applicants have reached out to them, asking them to edit and resubmit their references. If they’re editing their statements to exaggerate applicants’ strengths or avoiding criticism of the applicants altogether, then these documents lose their value. 

Ultimately, programs use references to evaluate their applicants and they rely on referees’ honest accounts of their experience working with applicants. If this can’t be achieved, then the integrity of their reference becomes compromised.


That’s all the information we have for you today! 

Want to learn more about the residency application process? Need support in assembling your application or preparing for your interviews? Reach out to one of our experts! We’ll help you assemble an impressive application and help you develop the confidence and communication skills necessary to ace your interviews. Book a free consultation today to begin your residency application journey.

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