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Residency Interview Preparation for IMGs

5 most common interveiw mistakes IMGs make

Having interviewed more than 50 candidates in past 3 months some actual interviews for the program and a lot more mock interviews as a part of a premium service;  I now know what the program directors and residency attendings go through during the interview season.

I am happy to have met so many great students and doctors in past few months. It was an absolute pleasure knowing about your passions, dreams,  and fears. I have nothing but immense respect for all the hard work you have and are still putting in to realize your dreams. This is a difficult journey and despite so many challenges, you are going strong. I feel honored to be a small part of your journey.

These are the most common mistakes made during interviews that may be preventing you from getting those pre-matches or matching at your top programs. 

If you have just one interview coming up, it is super important for you to avoid these mistakes. 

 1. Focusing on what to say rather than how to say it.

residency interview preparation services

After interviewing hundreds of IMGs, if think of one specific IMG I don’t remember what answer she gave when I asked her “Why this program?” But I do remember how she expressed herself, what was she proud of, how passionate was she when she told me about her career goals.

Instead of focusing your interview prep entirely on finding the perfect answer for each question, spend some time preparing on how you say it.

VOICE TONE: Do you sound monotonous? Or do you sound too nervous? Do you have an uptalk? Try to end your answers with a voice tone that is down trending (Youtube link). Record your answers on your phone recorder. Or turn on a voice recorder when practicing mock interviews with your friends on skype.

HAND GESTURES: Are you using your hands when you speak? If not, you should do that. Hand gestures convey your message better and make you sound confident. TIP: keep your palms open instead of making a fist or clasping them together(Youtube link).

POSTURE: How is your posture when you are practicing for interviews? Your brain will remember this and do the same in an actual interview. While you are practicing, sit up straight,  feet uncrossed and chest facing the interviewer.

EYE CONTACT: Have an eye contact with giving your answer with normal blinking. Look in one direction (preferably up) when thinking of an answer.

2. Not knowing your self-worth.

residency interview preparation services

I was talking to an IMG from India recently. He had mentioned on his CV that he went to a polio prevention camp during his medical college. Most Indian IMGs have this experience. So I asked him a little bit more about it. He says:  “oh it’s nothing, every medical student in India does this”.

If this was a real interview, the PD would have lost interest in him at this time. Since this was a mock interview, I inquired a little bit more about that experience. He told me that he would go to this villages and give polio vaccines to the kids. But once in a while, he and his team would just stay in that village for a whole day and deliver primary care because there was no other way these people would get their chronic wounds checked, blood pressure measured, possibly get diagnosed with TB or malaria until they are too sick.

Now this was huge. Imagine an American PD hearing this. He or she would be beyond impressed. This not only shows that you would go an extra mile to for your community but it displays that you have a passion for medicine in general. And just saying this, puts you ahead of so many other IMGs who are going to say they just went to villages and distributed polio vaccines.

I know how you feel. I have felt the same way in past and still do sometimes. We as IMGs have a much lower pride in our achievements than our American counterparts. We think the awards we won in our medical school, the jobs we did back in our home country or the rotations we did in the US are not quite as impressive. You are not impressed by your own achievement so when you talk about them during the interview, you are not able to impress the PD. 

3. Not knowing how to research the program’s website.

Guide for IMG ace the SOAP

During some of my mock interviews, we will open up the program’s website that the applicant is going to interview next or is very interested in. We would do this mostly to prepare for the most common and important question asked during an interview “ Why are you interested in this program?” Most IMGs would look at the website for fellowship options, current residents, attendings research work. This is all good. But look deeper.

What is the program proud of?  (look in their motto or letter from PD section) .

What unique clinical experience do they provide? (look in their curriculum section)

What are their achievements? (look to find out where their previous residents are now)

Is the program involved in the community? (outreach activities, field trips with residents, church involvement).

Is the program mentioned in local papers of something good? (google the program’s name and see if a link to local newspapers show up). 

4. Generic answers and failing to be ultra specific.

Guide for IMG ace the SOAP

See more details here (the rifle approach)


5. Forgetting to smile

Best Post Match SOAP Preparation

For God’sake, when someone asks you about your family, your hobbies, your weakness- don’t forget to smile. Give them a glimpse of who you are as a person.


The Rifle Approach to make your answers stand out during residency interviews and help you match (with real examples)

Tips and tricks US clinical experience

A real life example:

Program director: Tell me why you want to do internal medicine.

IMG applicant: I enjoy thinking about each medical condition in a very comprehensive way- giving attention to all possible diagnoses and treatment options. I like to be at the center of my patient’s care and coordinate care with other teams taking care of the patient. I also want to keep my options open to do a fellowship after residency. So I am passionate about internal medicine.

I heard this during a joint interview that program director and I conducted during one match season. I liked the answer- in fact, I was quite impressed with it. My PD asked a few more questions to the applicant and the answers were all pretty good. I felt my PD is going to like this candidate and put him in the ‘rank high’ category.

After the applicant left the room, my PD turned to me asked me- so what do you think? I told him those were some good answers. I think he is a strong candidate.

At this, my PD replied: I hear similar answers all day, especially from international graduates. It is as if they all sit together and prepare the same answers for interview questions. I know how the answer is going to end right when it starts. I interviewed him because I liked what I saw in his file, I don’t like him as much now.

Having said that, he placed the candidate in a ‘possibly rank’ category.

The candidate did not match at our program.

Mistakes most IMGs make when interviewing:

When preparing for interview questions and how to answer them, most IMGs think about what the person interviewing them would like to hear. They think: what would be a good answer for their question?

Even if that may not be the right answer specific to their case, as long as it sounds good, that is the answer they are going to give.

In the example about, that is exactly what the applicant did. He gave an answer that sounded good (at least to me).

But if you hear the answers from ten other IMGs, you will realize very quickly that this is not a right answer. This answer is not genuine or personal to this one IMG at all.

This is a generic answer that many (if not all) other applicants are gong to give.

All this hard work of moving to the US, passing USMLEs, doing research and USCE in undermined because you tried to ‘fit in’ and be a part of the crowd.

By failing to tell your unique story and not being specific enough with your answers- you risk being placed in the ‘possibly rank’ or ‘do not rank’ category despite having stellar scores and credentials.

Think from the interviewer’s perspective:

If you are hearing just one or two candidates, your answers are fine.

But if you are interviewing ten candidates a day, 5 days a week for almost 3 months and if most of them are giving the same answers, you start forgetting them pretty soon. You ignore most of the answers because you know what is coming next.

Most IMGs (including in the example above) spend hours preparing answers that sound good. But since everyone is doing that, your answers are similar in some way to hundred other IMGs.

All the work you have done to prepare those answers will be forgotten the minute you walk out of that room.

Keep reading on to find out how to stand out and prevent the interviewer zoning out while you are talking to him and making sure he remembers you in a good way after your interview.



Tips and tricks US clinical experience

Be ultra-specific. 

Not any fancy credentials, exaggerated promises or flowery language.

Any answer you give, make it a point to go ultra-specific with it.

It is like taking a rifle and shooting the one specific thing it is aiming at.

The more specific you can be, the more likely your answer is going to sound unique and genuine.

You don’t have to lie about it or make up things that are not true. But you have to think of the real reasons why you are doing what you are doing. Your personal reasons are unique to you and are going to be the most genuine answers that the PD has heard all day.

Spend your time preparing for interviews by thinking of the ultra-specific details about your answers. Not memorizing the lines that you or someone on the internet thinks the PD is going to like.

Let’s look again at the example above:

PD: Tell me why you want to do internal medicine?

IMG applicant: I have always enjoyed thinking of medical conditions in a very comprehensive way- giving attention to all possible diagnoses and treatment options. In fact, I maintained this practice in all my rotations. I remember this one time when I was doing an observership in Brooklyn hospital when one of our patients presented with sickle cell crisis and had persistent tachycardia. This rapid heart rate would most likely be attributed to the pain she was experiencing but with the help of my attending, I was able to explore this further and diagnose the patient with pulmonary embolism (a hypercoagulable complication of sickle cell disease). In addition, I have found myself enjoying my cardiology and ICU rotations during medical school so I may want to pursue fellowships in either of those fields after residency. So, I am interested in internal medicine.

BOOM! Target achieved.

No other IMG will give this same answer. Because no other IMGs had the same experiences. The PD is definitely going to remember this answer because he has not heard anything quite as specific all season.

You may not have the same case example as this IMG. You may not have done a rotation in inpatient ward at Brooklyn hospital. But you have your own experiences from your life. Every answer you are preparing, try to think of specific stories, reasons, real life incidents from your own past.

Can you think of something you experienced growing up or in medical college ? Or some medical problems faced by your family members or friends? Did you learn something from your rotations or during your travels moving to the US? An interesting day during your observership?


Take the Rifle approach with your answers.

Dig deep into your past. You have all done a lot of things to get to this point. I am sure there are a lot of stories, unique experiences, strong reasons that need to be told to the PD.

No one can give you a perfect answer for interview questions. They have to come from your own introspection. Give specific examples, reasons, experiences for most (if not all) questions you answer.

The more targeted and specific you can get, the better.

That is how you are going to be genuine. This is how your answers will become perfect.

That is how you are going to be remembered when it is time to rank you after interviews.

“Thank you notes” – they are important but can also hurt your chances!

Tips IMG cracked the USMLE code

Be in touch (in a good way) or be forgotten!

Program directors meet hundreds of applicants each year. Some of them make notes about each candidate after their interview. Some give a vague label like “possibly rank”, “do not rank”, “rank high” to the candidate. But by the end of interview season at the time of ranking, every PD will look through the applications and talk to other attendings and residents to see what they remember about the applicant. If they remember good things they will rank you high. If they remember bad things, they will not rank you.

Human brains are wired to remember bad things over good ones (reference).

You had a great interview or you had a weak interview. A simple thank you note a week or so after your interview referring back to the good parts of your interview will reinforce in their minds the positive things about you. When they are ready to start ranking, the thank you note will bring back the positive memories for you.

A ‘thank you’ note after the interviews can help or hurt your chances of matching this year. Make sure you follow these tips to not hurt your chances with a ‘thank you’ note.
Here are some simple tips to make your ‘thank you’ notes effective and help you get residency.

Get a sample 'thank you' note now
A perfect note that includes all the important information and has worked for me and other IMGs.

1. Write handwritten notes:

They stand out in a bunch of generic thank you emails that programs receive from candidates. Also, an email in a busy person’s inbox is very easily deleted, ignored or worst- spammed. A handwritten note stands out and is not as easy to be ignored.

They stand out in a bunch of generic thank you emails that programs receive from candidates. Also, an email in a busy person’s inbox is very easily deleted, ignored or worst- spammed. A handwritten note stands out and is not as easy to be ignored.

They stand out in a bunch of generic thank you emails that programs receive from candidates. Also, an email in a busy person’s inbox is very easily deleted, ignored or worst- spammed. A handwritten note stands out and is not as easy to be ignored.

2. Reinforce positive emotions: 

Write something that makes them remember a positive conversation you had during the interview. In one of my interviews, I talked with the program director about my recent trip to India. He told me that he was planning to travel to India with his family. In my ‘thank you note’, I told him the best time to visit that part of India and one specific thing his family would love there.

I see a lot of thank you notes where the candidate is trying to answer a question he/she was not able to answer during the interview. He may have given the perfect answer in the thank you note, but I now remember very strongly how he was not able to answer it during the interview.

3. Connect what’s good about the program with what’s good about you: 

Say few specific things about the program that you loved and how it connects to your interest. If the program is heavily focused on primary care and that is where your interests are- let them know this in your note. Or, they love doing research in the program and you are well published- make it known.

4. Think outside the box. If you did not have a great conversation with the program director, you can send a letter to the chief resident or an attending. When we rank candidates, we meet in a conference room with all the residents, attending, coordinator and PD and get an opinion from everyone about who should be ranked. So a program coordinator or the resident who spoke with you can impact the PDs decision.

If you did not have a great conversation with the program director, you can send a letter to the chief resident or an attending. When we rank candidates, we meet in a conference room with all the residents, attending, coordinator and PD and get an opinion from everyone about who should be ranked. So a program coordinator or the resident who spoke with you can impact the PDs decision.

5. American Holidays are coming:

One candidate applying for the match at the program I work in sent me a thank you/new year’s wishes note with his family pic (wife and kids). I thought that was well-timed and thoughtful. I remembered him during match process!

6. Listen to the program:

If the program says on their website not to send emails or notes after the interview, then do not send them. Most programs do not have a specific policy. For those programs, it cannot hurt to send a thank you letter.

7. Be okay with one-sided love:

Don’t expect a reply back from the program. Don’t send them an email or call them to confirm if they received your note.


There you go.

Follow these simple steps to write a great thank you note to send to the PD, attending, resident or anyone else you met at the program during your interview. Also, avoid the most common mistakes that can hurt your chances of matching.

Get a sample 'thank you' note now
A perfect note that includes all the important information and has worked for me and other IMGs.
IMG dermatology prestigious university program

Six powerful tricks to perform better in interviews.

My very first interview was in a community program in Texas. I prepared for this interview in the usual way that most IMGs do. I showed up at the interview thinking I was prepared. And I made a ton of mistakes. In fact, one of the attending told me during the interview that he did not think I was interested in the program at all and I had wasted his and my time interviewing at the program. And he was right.

I had managed to secure 11 interviews despite my low scores and other red flags. I still had ten other chances to improve my interview performance. I prepared better for subsequent interviews including my social skills and answers to common and tricky interview questions.  I did much better in the next interview and with each passing interview,  I learned new techniques to get better at interviewing.

But what if I didn’t get 11 interviews?  What if I had just one or two more interviews?

As an IMG with low scores, needing a visa and limited research experience, I could not afford to make any more mistakes.

And neither can you.  

You don’t have to make the same mistakes as I did. You can learn about my unconventional interview preparation here. By the end of  this article, you will know some very powerful tricks that learned during my interviewing journey and you can start using in your very first interview.

These tricks will put you in a very good light in front of other IMGs (and AMGs too)  who interview at the same program.

Here are some tricks to ace the interviews.

1. Thank the program coordinator.

We are so focused on impressing the PD, attendings, chief residents that we forget this one very important person in the program.

She is the first person you came in contact with in the program. Before the attendings, PD, residents or anyone else, you heard from her. She set up the interview for you, she booked your room in the hotel you stayed last night and she has made sure your visit to the program is well taken care of.

She is also going to talk to the program director after the interview day is over to let him know you came by to thank her.

When I was interviewing for residency, I would always go to the coordinator’s office and personally thank her for everything she did and my trip was smooth and enjoyable because of her. After I matched, the program coordinator told me she was touched by my genuine appreciation of her work at the time of the interview.  

2. Alway be asking questions.

Mentorship for IMGs seeking US residency

Asking questions shows you are interested in the program. Questions also lets the interviewers know about your goals and passions. If you ask a question about fellowships after residency, the person interviewing you will know that you are interested in further studies after residency.

A few points to remember about asking questions:

Know what questions to ask who. Questions you ask the residents (after work life in the town, call schedule)  may not be appropriate for the program director and vice versa. Reserve specific questions to ask each interviewer. It is okay to repeat same questions with other interviewers to get a different side of the story.

Ask meaningful questions related to the conversation happening . You don’t want to be the silent face in the crowd but you also don’t want to be the obnoxious person asking random questions at random time just for the sake of asking.

If you know the attendings who are going to interview you, look up their information online. Are they involved in some kind of research that you are interested in? Have they traveled to certain countries on a mission trip ? Are they passionate about a hobby that you share too? Ask them about it.

Prepare questions in advance but also pay attention to what is being said to give space for new questions to rise.

3. The power of a conversation piece

IMG Residency for International Medical Graduates

You don’t have to absolutely do this.  But if there something that points back to an achievement or a hobby or an aspect of your medical school, proudly wear it on your suit jacket. This could be a brooch, tie pin, pen etc. The attendings will ask you about it and will start a conversation. It will also help them remember you.

4. Wear your suit or interview dress before the actual interview.

img residency preparation program

Can’t tell how many times I have seen candidates who look locked in their suits. Looks like they are wearing a space suit and can barely move in it. Or girls in those high heels killing them after the hospital tour. Your suit. dress and shoes should fit and feel like your second skin. Have it ready well in advance for the interview and wear it for thirty minutes once during the mock interview/practice and once on the night at the hotel before the interview.

5. Prepare an elevator pitch. 

This is your personal statement in short.

This is also the answer to the infamous interview questions: “tell me about yourself”

And, this is also your answer when the senior resident asks you what are your hobbies while you guys are chatting during the pre-interview dinner.

It is a short 1-minute intro about where you grew up, what you passion is career wise and what takes up your free time (hobbies, family) when you are not pursuing your career passions. This needs some practice. Record yourself using the sound recorder on your phone. See how long it takes and how you sound. Improve over time. Find a close friend or family member and practice with them.

5. Socialize with five new people a day.

Make this a practice starting now. Don’t wait to test on your conversation skills at the time of the interview. Start early. Say hi to the cashier, person bagging your groceries, the server at the restaurant, the person sitting next to you on the subway or flight . Start up a conversation with them. This will help your social fluency (vocal tonality, body language, remembering names of people) and all other sub-communication that happens even before you start talking

6. Get the content for thank you notes during the interview.

Try to remember one interesting thing about each conversation you had during the interview. For example, you talked about the how primary care is lacking in most parts of the world and possible solutions for it with one attending or you talked about one specific Indian restaurant in New York that sells great chicken tikka masala with a resident – remember that. Mention this when you send them thank-you note after the interview.  

Want to know the best way to get the perfect answer for the question " tell me about yourself" ? 

We will never spam your mailbox or sell your email, ever. 

Why usual residency interview preparation fails IMGs? An unconventional interview preparation for IMGs .

family medicine residency for img

In my senior year of internal medicine residency, one of my friends asked me to get her an interview at the program. I knew she was hard working, smart and a great team member. So I sent an email to my program director who invited her for the interview (do contacts help?). Before her interview, she called me a few times and we prepared for the interview. We talked about all the common interview questions and how she was going to answer them. On her interview day, she was well prepared. After her interview, she mentioned that everything went great. But when it came to ranking her, she was not ranked high. The reason I later came to know was the attendings and other residents she met during the pre-interview dinner thought she was "too shy" or "she may not be able to work in a close-knit team like ours"

With this article, I will show you what is the conventional way of preparing for the interview that most IMGs (including my friend here), why this does not work for IMGs and an unconventional way of preparing for the interview suited for IMGs.


Step 1: memorize your personal statement and CV.
Step 2: google most common residency interview questions, memorize the answers.
Step 3: Have your best friend or family member ask you those questions and you answer it like you would in an interview. Or speak in front of the bathroom mirror.
Step 4: Buy a suit. Book your flights.
Step 5: Show up on time at the pre-interview dinner and the interview.

As you can tell, this does not sound very good. Especially for something as important as residency interviews. We work so hard to get these interviews, we want to go an extra step and make sure we nail them. Pretty much every IMG I know (including myself) spends a reasonable amount of time preparing for the interviews. Generally, their preparation is enough to get them a shot at being ranked high by the program; if their scores are high, they have good letters of recommendation and they do not need a visa. But that is not the majority of IMGs. No matter how hard we try, chances are most IMGs have some red flags on their application. So we need a little more than just a cookie cutter interview preparation.


You see, my friend had decent scores, contacts in the programs, good interview but was not ranked high by the program because she did not appear socially fluent during the interview and the resident dinner.

That is the problem with our conventional interview preparation; it does not help with social fluency, which is what most people perceive when they meet you for the first time. Not how well you answer the questions like "tell me about yourself".


This is a supplement to your convention interview preparation mentioned above. But this is far more effective than the previous. You still read your personal statement and CV a few times before your interview. You still buy a nice suit (and get it tailored), you still show up at the interview on time. But you take it one step further. You work on your social fluency. Social skills like any other skill can be learned.

I know what you are thinking: I have so much to do, how am I going to learn a new skill in such a short time?

That's where the unconventional interview preparation comes into play. Nothing worth having comes easy or fast. But if you take some simple steps starting now, you will appear much more socially fluent and less awkward.You will not face the problems that my friend mentioned above faced.

Before we dive into these simple steps let's look at five reasons why IMGs need social fluency for interviews:

1. English is not our first language, so it is harder for us to express our views in English
2. We are in a different country with different mannerisms and culture.
3. We are not very savvy with sporting/political/musical/TV events of this country. So if someone starts talking about these things, we wouldn't have much to say.
4. We are always busy with USMLE, observerships, research, jobs to be able to go out and be social
5. We hang out mostly with people from our home country after moving to the US.

We know why my friend mentioned above was not ranked high for the match. In spite of good scores, contacts and apparently doing well at the interview, her lack of social skills came off as poor communication, shyness and not being a team member to the staff in the residency program.

The good news is, within a few weeks you can improve your English fluency, body language, vocal tone and communication in general. This will help you appear more confident, fun and attractive to the attendings and other residents during your interview. I know this because I was very socially awkward when I first came to the US and even today if I don't use these steps regularly, I go back to being that shy unconfident guy.

# Step 1: Talk to people. (Groundbreaking, I know!)

When I say talk to people, I don't mean your mom. Or your best friend from medical school. I mean people you barely know or don't know. Because, when you go for interviews, you are going to spend a whole day with people you've never met.

Here is what I do. You can be creative and find ways suitable for you.

1. Talk to people during your day-to-day errands. At the grocery store, on the subway commuting for your rotation, waiter/waitress at the restaurant etc., make a habit of talking to 5 people a day. Just say hi, how is your day? Give them a compliment about their shoes or something. Don’t feel bad if they are not friendly, most people are not social anymore (cell phone culture). Try this for 3 days. On the 4th day, you will feel more open to communication and it will come naturally to you.

2. Friends - not the ones you talk to every week. Someone off your facebook friend list who you’ve never talked with. Talk to them in English.
3. Speakeasy, bars, festivals- talk to everyone there.

4. On your way to the interview, flights, hotel where you are staying, elevators. Make it a point to chat up people. You don’t have to say much, just say hi, how are you today? I like your dress, what do you think of this hotel etc. You get the point.

# Step 2: Understand small talk.

A lot of IMG candidates I see have no concept of small talk. Back in the day, I hated small talk. I wanted to get straight to the point of conversation. But that is not how interviews go.

You meet the residents during the dinner or the attending in their office; they are not going to launch off into typical interview questions. They will start some small talk. Some of my interviews were only small talk. We all know how to small talk. Remember the last time you had a small get together with your closest friends or family members. The small talk lasted for hours. You weren't discussing you resume that time. Have the same mindset when you first meet the residents and attendings. You are just getting to know each other. They are asking some questions about you and you can ask questions about them. You are not trying to prove yourself or show off how much you learned during your observership. Keep it light and playful.

# Step 3: Stop judging yourself when talking to people

If you do above steps right, this will happen automatically. Us IMGs are always focused on how our accent is, is our English okay, are we impressing the other person etc. This makes IMGs sound stifled and not very confident during interviews. You English is fine and you are confident. Accept it.


In addition to the common interview preparation that we all do, these three steps will help you tremendously to enjoy the interview process and be successful.

My first interview did not go that well because I was not in the practice of talking to random people. I knew the most common questions, I had also memorized my personal statement and cv. I was able to answer questions in a factual manner but I was not able to have a conversation with the other interview candidates, residents in the program and the attendings who interviewed me. I knew I had to do something, I still had ten more interviews to change that. I followed the steps above ( and I still do). My interview performance got much better. I was able to talk about myself in a very effective way so that people remembered me. In fact, I was offered an out of match position after one of my interviews because the program director enjoyed a conversation we had about my perspective of medicine in the US as an IMG.

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Assistant Professor of Medicine practicing in US

Get ready for the Match: 5 steps to stop procrastinating and get stuff done.


Assistant Professor of Medicine practicing in US

Back in 2009, this time of the year was one of the most stressful time of my life.

I was preparing for the upcoming NRMP match.

I had to get documents from my medical school, research and list the programs to apply to, work on my personal statement along with school and a part-time job.  I was losing motivation and thinking of applying a year later.  There was just too much to do and not enough time.  But I had come too far to let it go at this stage.

Maybe like me,  you too are feeling overwhelmed with work, family, studying for exams, and working on your application. Maybe you are thinking you might not have all documents ready by September and will have to submit a halfhearted application or be late on your application.

Keep reading on because I was in the same place as you are. I will show you a few simple techniques I used to get my application ready and achieve the kind of success in the match that I didn’t think was possible.

I started using these five steps to boost my productivity. It took some time to get into the habit. But within a few days, I was making tremendous progress. I got my application ready well in time for the match. I was also able to complete my USMLE Step 3 soon after the match. I never thought I would be able to do so much in so little time.  

1. Baby Steps

Focus on series of small wins rather that worrying about the final goal to keep your motivation going.

Make a list of all the things you need to do to complete your application.  Divide the workload into big and baby steps. You don’t have to do too much in a day, just a little. It will add up fast. For example:

Each baby step you take motivates you to take the next step. Before you know it, you will be a lot closer to the big step and eventually your final goal.

2. Productive hours

We are not at your best performance all the time.There are some periods in the day when our brain taps into limitless potential. For most people including me, this is 1-2 hours after waking up. Make a list of things that you find the hardest and do it during one of these productive hours.  I reserved working on my personal statement for 15 minutes after I wake up. Figure out when you are at your best and hit the toughest baby steps during those times.

3. Prioritize

This is the one advice we have heard a million times but are never able to stick to .

The advice comes in many different forms, but it is essentially the same.

“Don’t get distracted” or  “stop watching TV” etc. I have heard many versions of this. I could never follow it.  Until I found the missing piece of the puzzle. It becomes much easier to follow and stick to once you know the whole story.

You don’t stop watching tv or socializing forever. You just stop it for the most productive hours of your day. In my case, I stopped checking my email for the two hours after I wake up and worked on my application. I was getting a lot more work done and not feeling guilty for doing things I like.

4. Power of momentum

This is one of the most powerful tools to accomplish major goals. But you have to follow the steps above to be able to use this tool.

You have identified your baby steps. You know when you are the most productive. Now you start working towards those baby steps. You keep the hardest steps for the productive hours of your day. You are avoiding distractions during the productive hours of your day.

To get the power of momentum at this stage, you continue to work on your baby steps every day. If you are having a bad day or something else that prevents you from working on your application, don’t skip the day. Just spare 15 minutes to work on your application. So when your pick it up next day or the day after, you are mentally ready to get back to work.

5. Visualize your success

This is the hardest of all and the most beneficial.

When I first heard about this, I was skeptical. I never believed in airy-fairy things like this. But I was ready to try anything to succeed in the match. So I gave it a shot. The results were amazing. Now I am a firm believer. I have used this to match at my top program, succeed during residency, get my first job and even win a tennis tournament when the odds were against me. Seasoned athletes like Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods use detailed visualization before their sporting events.

I know it will help you achieve success beyond what you thought possible.

Before you go to sleep when you are lying in your bed, visualize yourself getting your dream residency spot. Don’t just think about getting it. See yourself accomplishing the baby steps and submitting your application. Visualize yourself when you open your email and read the match result. You are feeling happy, excited or anxious. Feel everything. Live the moment.

It will be difficult at first. Our brains are wired to focus on the lack of things. Reframing your thoughts to having what you want is immensely powerful. If you feel the emotions when you are visualizing your success, you are doing it right. The stronger the emotion you feel, the better it works.


I know what you are going through right now. I have been there. Even now, I feel overwhelmed with work and worry about failure. At times, I want to achieve a lot in a day and don’t have enough time.

When I am in that situation, I use these 5 steps to boost my productivity and get some work done.

1.Figure out the baby steps to get to the big win.

2.Work on the hardest/most boring/most time-consuming steps during your most productive hours.

3.Avoid distractions during the productive hours.

4.Keep the momentum going. Even if that means working for 15 minutes a day on your baby steps.

5.Visualize your success and how you would get there. Feel the emotions you would feel when you get there.