FMG Portal: Assisting FMGs to become U.S. Medical Residents

Becoming a physician in the United States as a Foreign Medical Graduate (FMG) requires some hands-on medical experience within the states. That is why FMG Portal has dedicated its services to helping FMGs through every step of becoming a practicing physician in the U.S. We do this by offering connections to clinical externships, clinical electives, clinical clerkships, clinical rotations and clinical observerships. We also offer assistance with CVs and Visas, so there is no kink in your pathway to a U.S. Residency.


Getting U.S. experience is the impetus behind most of FMG Portal’s services, and it does this by connecting you with programs that provide differing levels of experience. Many of the services, such as clerkships vs rotations are the same if not similar, but knowing specifically what they are will help the FMG to understand what they are seeking.

Clinical Externships

Externships are only available to medical graduates, and they do not qualify for medical school credit. They give FMGs the hands-on experience that will be required by many residences in which applicants apply. Some externships cover specific specialties, which can be very beneficial during the Match process if you are looking to join a certain medical specialty.

Some of the other skills that may be learned in an externship are how to write SOAP notes, participate in diagnosis teams and learn how to use an electronic health record (EHR). While FMGs may have already learned adequate diagnosing skills during their medical training abroad, hands-on experience within the U.S. allows them to learn any nuances that could hinder the medical process by being performed in a manner inconsistent with U.S. healthcare system norms.

Clinical Electives

For foreign medical students, clinical electives are a good opportunity to get hands-on training, and FMG Portal has connections with multiple teaching hospitals. This allows the student to get to work closely with attending physicians in a U.S. healthcare setting.

Foreign medical students who have clinical elective experience in the U.S., especially in their desired specialty, have a much better chance of getting a residency match. Not only does it show experience in the U.S. healthcare field, but it also allows for the opportunity to get U.S. letters of recommendation.

Clinical Clerkships

Clerkships and electives are terms that may be used interchangeably, as they are very similar. In some curricula, they are compulsory. However, U.S.-based clinical clerkships offer a unique opportunity for foreign medical students to participate in healthcare delivery with experienced physicians. This will not only aid the student in passing their USMLE tests, but it will also give the opportunity for cultural adjustment. Cultural adjustment may not seem like a huge component of U.S. healthcare experience, but it greatly aids in communication, which can enhance an interview.

Clinical Rotations

Rotations are very similar to clerkships, and again, the names can be used interchangeably. The word rotation is significant in U.S. rotations because it implies that a student rotates through different specialties in their final year of medical school while supervised by a physician in order to obtain a well-rounded medical education.

Clinical Observerships

Observerships are established when an FMG gets to observe a specialty by participating in a 2-4 week program. This is meant to allow the FMG to get an idea of how the American culture of healthcare works, and it allows the FMG to establish connections along with witnessing firsthand how the medical care is provided in the particular specialty.

Other Services


Immigration laws are constantly changing with the current administration, and this can make applying for visas difficult and confusing. That is why FMG offers assistance in this endeavor, so you can focus on the more important matter of your education and residency placement.


Having a thorough CV is essential to residency placement, but it can be difficult to pare down a full resume to fit the needs of a certain specialty. Our experts can take out the unnecessary details in order to highlight the parts of you that will make you appeal to your residency program director.

ERAS Application

The ERAS application is obviously one of the most important parts of the Match, and filling it out properly could mean the difference between consideration and simple rejection. FMG Portal’s staff can help you fill it out properly, so you don’t miss your change based off of a minor issue.

If you are a Foreign Medical Graduate or a Foreign Medical student looking for resources to get Matched and become a successful physician in the U.S., FMG Portal has the skills, resources, and the connection you have tohave to get you there. As an FMG, you must prove the quality of your education through ECFMG certification, CVs and applications that show that you are the type of resident a program would want to have educated under them.

Don’t travel the FMG road to medical practice in the U.S. alone. Get help where you need it with FMG Portal.

Deciding Whether to Take the USMLE Step 3 Before Your Residency Program


In the last few posts, we have talked about the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 2 CS. In order to get ECFMG certification, you need to have passed all three of these exams. These three exams are also the prerequisites for the USMLE Step 3 exam, which you need to pass in order to earn a license to practice medicine in the United States. As a foreign medical graduate, you have the option of taking the exam before submitting your application to a U.S. medical residency program or taking it after your residency has started. Depending on your personal situation, there are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Here three critical questions you need to ask yourself when making this decision:

Question 1: Do you have enough time to prepare for and take the USMLE Step 3 before applying to a residency program?

Before you take the USMLE Step 3, you already need to have passed the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 2 CS. As a foreign medical graduate, you also need to have fully completed the ECFMG certification process. Your timeline for meeting these requirements can help you determine whether or not you want to take the USMLE Step 3 before you apply for your residency. You need to remember that preparing a successful residency application takes a great deal of time and effort, and you don’t want to rush through it because you are trying to study for the USMLE Step 3 at the same time — not to mention balancing the residency application process with the other responsibilities in your life.

However, if you have completed the requirements well in advance and feel like you have more than enough time to prepare yourself for success on the USMLE Step 3 before applying for your residency, it can reduce pressure once you start your residency. In most states, you need to pass Step 3 before the third year of your residency program, which can be a challenge as you balance residency program requirements, personal responsibilities, and adjusting to life in the United States. So if it’s easy to fit the USMLE Step 3 into your schedule before you apply for a U.S. medical residency, you may want to consider it.

Question 2: Do you have the medical background you need for success?

Like the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK, the first part of the USMLE Step 3 consists entirely of multiple choice questions. The second part is somewhat similar to Step 2 CS — it tests your clinical skills, but instead of interacting with real-live patients, your performance is evaluated on a series of computer-based case simulations.

But don’t be fooled by these structural similarities. The USMLE program recommends that applicants have completed at least one full year of post-medical school training before taking the Step 3 exam. Therefore, many American and foreign medical school graduates use the first year of residency training as preparation for the USMLE Step 3.

However, some foreign medical graduates who apply for U.S. medical residency programs have already gained additional educational or work experience after medical school. For instance, you may have completed a post-graduate education program in your home country and/or completed a graduate externship in the United States. If that is the case for you — and you did well on the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CS, and Step 2 CK — you may have the foundation you need for success.

Question 3: Are there logistical issues that you need to consider?

In some cases, whether or not you take the USMLE Step 3 before applying to a U.S. medical residency program can come down to logistics. These three logistical issues commonly come into play:

    • Immigration status. In order to apply for an H1-B Visa sponsorship, you need to have passed the USMLE Step 3. If you plan to apply for this type of visa, you should plan to take the USMLE Step 3 before applying.
    • Cost. The USMLE Step 3 can be cost-prohibitive for some students. If you can’t afford the $875 fee, you should wait until after you can save some money from your first year of residency work.


  • Location. The USMLE Step 3 is only offered at Prometric test centers in the United States and its territories. If traveling to the United States from your location is too expensive or difficult, you should probably just wait until you start your program. Alternatively, if you are already in the United States — whether for a graduate externship, to visit family, or to see the sights — it may be convenient to take the test.

If you need more help making decisions about the residency application process, FMG is here to help. Contact us today for more information!

Question Types on the USMLE Step 2 – CK: What You Need to Know

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When you are preparing to take the Clinical Knowledge component of Step 2 of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam — also known as the USMLE Step 2 – CK — your success depends on your familiarity with two things: the content on which you will be tested and the format of the exam. In a previous post, we provided a general overview of the exam that included a description of both. Today, we’re going to do a deep dive into the formatting of the questions you will find on the USMLE Step 2 – CK. That way, on test day, you won’t be surprised by any of the questions you come across.

When it comes to formatting, there are two different ways you can divide up the questions on the USMLE Step 2 – CK. You can divide the questions between Single-Item Questions and Sequential Item Sets, or you can divide them between Patient Vignette questions and Abstract Format questions. Read on to learn more about the different types of questions you will find on the USMLE Step 2 – CK.

Single-Item Questions vs. Sequential Item Sets

If you take the USMLE Step 2 – CK after you take the USMLE Step 1 (which is the way most foreign medical graduates do it, although it is not required), you will recognize the Single-Item Question format. And even if you haven’t taken the USMLE Step 1 yet, the Single Item Question format will be familiar because it is exactly what you would expect from a multiple choice question: a short text background followed by a single question. Pretty simple.

The one thing that does distinguish the Single-Item Questions from traditional multiple choice questions you might have seen at other points in your education is the formatting of the answer options. There can be as few as 3 answer options or as many as 26. They are lettered (A, B, C, D, etc), and the options are arranged in either alphabetical order or logical order. It is important to note that some of the options might be partially correct, but you can only select one, so you have to choose the best possible answer.

When it comes to question formats, the primary difference between the USMLE Step 1 and the USMLE Step 2 – CK is that the latter exam also contains sequential item sets. That means that a single text — that is, either a Patient Vignette or an Abstract (both of which we will get to later) — must be used to answer either two or three consecutive questions, instead of just one. Like the Single Item Questions, these questions are multiple choice questions with 3 to 26 possible options, and you have to choose the single best answer.

Although each question in the Sequential Item Set directly relates to the text, they are designed to test your knowledge of different aspects of the text. Also, it is important to note that they are designed to be answered in sequential order, so a question may build on the one preceding it. Because of this design element, you will not be able to change your answer to an earlier question after you click the button to move on to the next question.

Patient Vignette Questions vs. Abstract Format Questions

The majority of the questions on the USMLE Step 2 – CK are Patient Vignette questions. The Patient Vignettes provide an overview of a clinical situation that you might encounter in your practice as a physician. Then, you are asked one or more multiple-choice questions about it (depending on whether it is associated with a Single-Item Question or a Sequential Item Set). For instance, you might be given a brief medical history of a patient followed by a description of an abnormal test result and then asked to identify the most likely cause of the result.

While the Patient Vignette questions test your ability to apply your knowledge and skills to clinical situations, the Abstract Format questions examine your ability to understand and interpret information from clinical investigation. Each of these items consists of a summary of an experiment or investigation in the form of an abstract — the kind you would find for a peer-reviewed research study published in a medical journal. It is essential for doctors to be able to read, understand, and analyze abstracts in order to effectively engage in evidence-based practice.

On the USMLE Step 2 – CK, you will be required to interpret an abstract in relation to various relevant topics. For instance, you may find questions about:

  • Biostatistics and epidemiology
  • Pharmacology and therapeutics
  • How to use diagnostic studies in clinical practice
  • How to use the information from the abstract to make decisions about care for an individual patient


Every step of the US medical residency application process — including the three Steps of the USMLE — can be challenging for foreign medical graduates, but FMG Portal is here to help. Contact us today for more information about our services!

Preparing for the Two Types of Patient Encounters on the USMLE Step 2 CS


Last week on the blog, we talked about the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 2 – Clinical Skills (CS). In order to earn ECFMG certification, which is required for all foreign medical graduates who are applying for a residency in the United States, you need to pass all three steps of the USMLE. The USMLE Step 2 – CS tests your ability to perform professionally and effectively in clinical settings.

After the On-Site Orientation to the exam, you will be faced with twelve patient encounters. Each encounter will last for fifteen minutes. Most of the encounters will be Standardized Patient & Physical Examinations, but some of them will be Telephone Patient Encounters. Read on to learn what you can expect — and what is expected of you — in each of these two types of encounters.

The Standardized Patient & Physical Examination

In the Standardized Patient encounters, you will meet with a live patient. Within the fifteen-minute encounter, the you will be expected to do three things: come up with a preliminary diagnosis (or several diagnoses) for the patient, develop a basic work-up plan, and establish a positive and effective relationship with the patient.

In order to make the correct diagnosis and propose an appropriate treatment plan, you will need to utilize multiple strategies, including:

  • Asking the patient questions about their current condition
  • Asking the patient questions about their medical history
  • Conducting a physical examination

However, because you only have fifteen minutes available for each patient encounter, you will not have time to get a complete picture of the patient’s medical history or even conduct a comprehensive physical examination. Instead, you have to be strategic and pursue the most promising leads as you obtain more information from the patient.

However, coming up with the correct diagnosis and an adequate preliminary treatment plan is not the only thing you are being evaluated on when you take the USMLE Step 2 – CS. You also need to demonstrate your professional and interpersonal skills. That means relating well with the patient and establishing a good rapport, regardless of the time pressure. Some of the keys to earning a good score include:

  • Speaking to the patient in a courteous manner
  • Exhibiting empathy toward the patient
  • Responding appropriately to the patient’s questions, comments, and body language
  • Maintaining an awareness of the patient’s modesty during the physical examination

The Telephone Patient Encounter

In the United States, telemedicine — that is, the provision of remote clinical services, often by phone — is becoming increasingly common. Through some telemedicine platforms, it is possible for a patient to call a doctor from their home to discuss a medical issue without having to come to a clinic. In other cases, a physician might talk on the phone to a patient who is at a medical facility where staff and services are limited, such as a clinic in a rural area. As the prominence of telemedicine grows, a doctor’s ability to communicate effectively with patients on the phone is an ever more relevant skill — which is why it is important to perform well on the Telephone Patient Encounters on the USMLE Step 2 – CS.

For the Telephone Patient encounters, the general expectations are the same as they are for the Standardized Patient encounters. Specifically, you are expected to develop a basic diagnosis and treatment plan, and you need to communicate with the patient in an appropriate, effective, and caring manner. The main difference between the two types of encounters is that it will not be possible for you to perform a physical examination during the Telephone Patient encounters. Instead, you will have to rely solely on oral communication with the patient. This can may seem like a major obstacle but rest assured that the USMLE Step 2 – CS is designed so that the Telephone Patient encounters are challenging — but not impossible. Still, as long as you can quickly assess the relevant information and identify the most promising leads, you can come to a conclusion that will earn you a passing score.

The Patient Note

After each one of the twelve patient encounters — including both the Standardized Patient Encounters and the Telephone Patient encounters — you will have ten minutes to write a patient note. The content of the note is expected to be the same as what a practicing physician would write in a patient’s medical record after an in-person or telephone meeting. Just like the patient encounters, you will be under pressure to complete the note within the allotted time, but if you finish a patient encounter early, you will have extra time to write the note.

Ultimately, success on the USMLE Step 2 CS is one of many steps on the way to getting matched to a U.S. medical residency. For more help with the process, contact FMG Portal today!

An Overview of the USMLE Step 2 CS for Foreign Medical Students and Graduates

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If you are a foreign medical student or graduate and you want to get matched to a residency program in the United States, the first thing you need to do to prepare is to get certified through the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Before your certification can be verified, you must pass all three steps of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). In two previous posts, we provided an overview of the USMLE Step 1 and advice on how to construct a study strategy to prepare yourself for success on test day. Today, we are going to start talking about the USMLE Step 2.

The USMLE Step 2 is actually divided into two parts: Step 2 CS (Clinical Skills) and Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge). Today’s post is going to focus on Step 2 CS. Read on to learn more about this essential exam!

The Basics of the USMLE Step 2 CS

Both parts of the USMLE Step 2 evaluate your ability to apply your knowledge of medicine in practical clinical settings. One these exams, you will be expected to show that you can implement strategies to prevent disease and promote health and wellness through effective patient care.

As the name implies, the Step 2 CS focuses specifically on examining your clinical skills. The test focuses on three aspects of clinical practice:

  • Obtaining health-related information from patients
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Effectively communicating patient information to other health care providers

By demonstrating your competency in these areas, you can get the passing score you need to earn ECFMG certification.

The Format of the USMLE Step 2 CS

Unlike the USMLE Step 1, the USMLE Step 2 CS is not a written exam. Instead, it is a real-world exam where you are evaluated on the skills you demonstrate in mock scenarios of patient encounters. Essentially, test day simulates a day in the life of a physician in clinical practice. The exam itself is divided into three major sections. The On-Site Orientation, the Patient Encounter, and the Patient Note.


  • The On-Site Orientation

Some of the details of the USMLE Step 2 CS inevitably vary depending on the facility where the exam is given — such as how you are expected to move between rooms during different protions of the test. But you don’t need to worry, because everything will be explained during the on-site orientation. You are not scored on anything during this part of the exam, so all you have to do is listen to the instructions and familiarize yourself with the expectations for the facility. That way, when your patient encounters begin, you won’t feel lost or uncertain about where to go or what to do.


  • The Patient Encounters

In total, you will complete twelve patient encounters during the USMLE Step 2 CS. You will have a total of 15 minutes for each one, but you may be able to complete them in less time. It is important to note that not all twelve of the encounters are scored — some are pilot test cases that will be used by the test-makers for research purposes — but on test day, you will not be able to distinguish between them. There are two types of patient encounters on the USMLE Step 2 CS: the Standardized Patient and Physical Examination, and the Telephone Patient Encounters. In both, you will be expected to act professionally and apply clinical skills to the patient-centered problem you face.


  • The Patient Notes

Immediately following each one of the twelve Patient Encounters, you will need to complete a Patient Note. The Patient Note is the only written part of the USMLE Step 2 CS. This part of the exam involves using a computer to record details about the Patient Encounter in the patient’s medical record. Essentially, it is the same thing that you would do as a physician after meeting with a patient in a clinical setting or talking to the patients on the phone. For each Patient Encounter, you will be given ten minutes to complete the associated Patient Note. However, if you finish your Patient Encounter early, you can spend the additional time working on the Patient Note.

USMLE Step 2 CS Scheduling

Because of the complex format of the USMLE Step 2 CS, it is only offered on certain days and in certain places. You can find calendar and scheduling information on the ECFMG website after you obtain your identification number. From there, you can choose the date and location that work best for you! It is important to note that the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CS, and USMLE Step 2 CK can be taken in any order, so when you choose your test date, the order of these three exams does not make a difference.

Need more help with the process of getting matched to a U.S. medical residency program? Contact FMG Portal today to learn more about all of the resources we offer!

Developing a Study Strategy for the USMLE Step 1


Last week on the blog, we provided an overview of the USMLE Step 1, discussing the format of the test and its general content. Passing this exam is the first major hurdle for foreign medical graduates who are applying for ECFMG certification, so if you are a foreign medical student or graduate considering applying for a U.S. medical residency in the future, getting a good score on the USMLE Step 1 can help you on your way to achieving you goal. To get that passing score, you need to come up with a study strategy that properly prepares you for test day. Read on to learn more about what you need to do to get ready for this crucial exam!

Knowing What You Will Be Tested On

In general, the USMLE Step 1 covers the basics of medical science and organ systems. Therefore, regardless of the country where you attended medical school, you have probably been exposed to most of the concepts on the test at some point in your education. Given that the content of the test will probably be familiar to you, the main goal of studying for the USMLE Step 1 is not to learn new things, but to refresh your memory on the subjects that the test emphasizes.

Not all subjects are given equal weight on the USMLE Step 1. The group of American and Canadian teachers, researchers, and clinicians who design the test believe that some academic concepts are more relevant for today’s physicians than others, and the USMLE Step 1 is structured according to their believes. There are two ways that the test specifications of the USMLE Step 1 may be divided, according to the test makers: based on Systems and Processes and based on Physician Tasks and Competencies. Knowing how the content of the USMLE Step 1 is divided within each of these schemes can help you design an effective study strategy.

If you are looking at the USMLE Step 1 through the lens of Systems and Processes, the test can be broken down based on the specific nature of the content on which you will be tested.

The following are the systems that you will find on the USMLE Step 1, along with the proportion of the test that each one takes up:

  • General principles of foundational science: 15% – 20%
  • Organ systems: 60% – 70%
  • Multisystem Processes and disorders, biostatistics and epidemiology / population health, social sciences: 15% – 20%

These are the processes that you will be tested on when you take the USMLE Step 1, along with the proportion of the test that each one takes up:

  • Normal processes: 10% – 15%
  • Abnormal processes: 55% – 60%
  • Principles of therapeutics: 15% – 20%
  • Other processes: 10% – 15%

Another way to approach the USMLE Step 1 is through the lens of Physician Tasks and Competencies. From this perspective, the test designers break down the USMLE Step 1 into the following competencies:

  • Medical knowledge / scientific concepts: 55% – 65%
  • Patient care: diagnosis (including laboratory / diagnostic studies, diagnosis, and prognosis / outcome): 20% – 30%
  • Patient care: management (including health maintenance, disease prevention, and pharmacotherapy): 7% – 12%
  • Communication and professionalism: 2% – 5%
  • Practice-based learning and improvement: 4% – 8%

Now that you know about the two ways in which the content of the USMLE Step 1 is organized, you can design a study strategy that focuses specifically on the topics that are most heavily emphasized on the test and the topics that you may not remember well from medical school. However, you also need to prepare yourself for the way in which questions will be asked on the test.

Preparing for the Questions on the USMLE Step 1

All of the questions on the USMLE Step 1 are multiple choice, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it will be easy. In most cases, the test questions will not ask you directly about specific medical facts. Rather, you will be challenged to apply your knowledge to solve problems, interpret data, and address real-life scenarios. Therefore, in addition to brushing up on your knowledge of medical science, organ systems, and basic physician tasks, you should make sure that you are familiar with USMLE Step 1-style questions before test day. As you develop your study strategy, you should block out a good proportion of time to completing practice questions. That way, when test day finally comes, you can successfully navigate the toughest questions with a sense of ease and familiarity.

It is important to note that the USMLE Step 1 is a timed test, so some of the practice tests you complete should be timed. Usually, timed practice tests should come late in your study schedule. That way, when you first start working on practice questions, you won’t feel undue pressure to rush through them. Later, as the test approaches, you can learn how fast you need to work through each section to complete the test within the time limit.

Overall, if you are familiar with the structure of the USMLE Step 1 and the types of questions you will see on the test, you can develop a study strategy that will get you ready for success on test day — and well on your way to earning ECFMG certification and getting matched to a U.S. medical residency!


Need more help with the residency match process? Contact FMG Portal today to learn about all of the resources we offer!

An Overview of the USMLE Step 1 Examination for Foreign Medical Graduates


As a foreign medical graduate, your application process for a U.S. medical residency differs slightly from that of a student who completed their education in the United States. Most importantly, before you can apply for a residency, you must get certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). In another blog post, we covered the basic requirements for ECFMG certification, but today, we are going to focus on one of the most important aspects of the process — passing the USMLE Step 1. After you submit your initial application for ECFMG certification, passing the USMLE Step 1 becomes the next task on your list of things to do. Read on to learn more about what you can expect from this essential examination.

About the USMLE Step 1

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) consists of three steps. The first test is the USMLE Step 1. You might also hear it simply referred to as “Step 1.” The USMLE Step 1 is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, Inc and the National Board of Medical Examiners. Although you do not need to pass the USMLE Step 1 before taking the USMLE Step 2, you must achieve a passing score on both exams before you become eligible to take the USMLE Step 3. Also, you must pass USMLE Step 1 Step 2, AND Step 3 before your ECFMG certification becomes official.

The Format of the USMLE Step 1

The USMLE Step 1 is a one-day examination, lasting a total of eight hours. It is divided into seven blocks, each of which is 60 minutes long, and there are short breaks between each one of the blocks. There is no set number of questions on each block of the test — instead, the USMLE guarantees that there will be no more than 40 questions per block and no more than 280 questions on the exam as a whole.

All of the questions on the USMLE Step 1 are single-item multiple choice questions. That means that each question consists of a short vignette followed by four or more lettered response options (labeled A, B, C, D, E, etc). From these options, you must choose the best answer. Only one answer is correct.

The Content of the USMLE Step 1

The USMLE covers the basics of medical science. In general, you will be tested on the information that you would learn in the first two years of medical school in the United States. During these years, the training for U.S. medical students consists primarily of didactic coursework and laboratory exercises (as opposed to clinical training). However, you should be aware that in some countries, the medical training does not align with that of the United States — in terms of timing and/or content — so you need to tailor your study efforts specifically for the USMLE, not necessarily reviewing everything you learned in medical school.

That’s because the questions on the USMLE are created by examination committees made up of medical experts from institutions in only two countries: the United States and Canada. These experts — including medical school faculty members, teachers, research investigators, and clinicians — come together to decide what it is important for future U.S. medical residents to know about basic medical science.

In general, the USMLE Step 1 covers the broad principles of basic science and the functioning of human organs and organ systems. More specifically, it includes questions within 8 traditionally defined disciplines and 5 interdisciplinary areas.

The traditionally defined disciplines are:

  • Anatomy
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Biostatistics and Epidemiology
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology

The interdisciplinary areas are:

  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Immunology
  • Molecular and Cellular biology
  • Nutritional sciences

Not only do you need to be able to recall information on these subjects but you also need to be able to read and interpret relevant graphs and tables, identify pathologic and normal specimens (including both microscopic and pathologic specimens), apply your knowledge to specific clinical problem-solving questions.

You should also be aware that there is a heavy emphasis on how these topics apply to organ systems — these types of questions typically make up between 60 and 70 percent of the total content of the test. The following organ systems are covered on the USMLE Step 1:

  • Blood and Lymphoreticular System
  • Behavioral Health
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Endocrine System
  • Gastrointestinal System
  • Nervous System and Special Senses
  • Renal and Urinary System
  • Reproductive System (Male and Female)
  • Respiratory System
  • Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue
  • Musculoskeletal System

Clearly, the USMLE Step 1 covers a lot of academic territory, so if you are hoping to get matched to a U.S. medical residency program in the future, be sure to study! While in medical school, you might also want to consider broadening your knowledge on particular topic areas of interest by completing a student elective program in the United States. A student elective can help you decide what specialty area you want to pursue in your residency, and it can also connect you with physicians in the United States who may be able to provide letters of reference for your future residency application.

FMG Portal offers lots of resources for foreign medical students and graduates who are interested in U.S. medical residency programs. Contact us today for more information!

Understanding the Requirements for ECFMG Certification


As a foreign medical graduate, the most significant difference between your residency application process and that of an American student is the requirement for certification by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). This organization was founded in 1956 with the goal of ensuring that foreign medical students who enter ACGME-accredited programs in the United States are sufficiently prepared for the rigors of a U.S. residency. There are three requirements that foreign medical graduates need to meet in order to become certified by the ECFMG: application, education and examination.


The first step of the ECFMG certification process is filling out an application. Any foreign medical student or graduate can apply, as long as you have earned (or are in the process of earning) a medical degree from a school that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools. To start the process, you will need to go the ECFMG website and request an identification number. From there, you can log in and start filling out the application.

Educational Requirements

The most important thing you need to do to show the ECFMG that you are ready for a U.S. medical residency is — of course — to earn your medical degree! You need to have completed at least four years of medical study at one of the medical schools that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools, and you need to provide documentation that you have completed all of the necessary credits for graduation. It is important to note that you can apply for ECFMG certification while you are still finishing your degree, but you will not be awarded a certificate until you have received your medical diploma and submitted your final transcripts.

Examination Requirements

After you have applied for ECFMG certification, you can apply to take the required exams. For ECFMG certification, you need to pass step 1 and step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The Step 1 test covers the fundamentals of medical science — that is, the information that is typically covered during the first two years of medical school in the United States. The Step 2 tests examine your clinical knowledge and clinical skills, which you can build during medical school and by completing student electives and graduate externships in the United States. Once you pass these exams, you will not only have met the requirements for ECFMG certification, but you will also be eligible to take Step 3 of the USMLE.

It is important to note that some states have additional requirements that foreign medical graduates are required to meet in order to enter a residency program in that state, which can be found at the website of the Federal State Medical Boards. These additional stipulations include specific medical school training requirements, a maximum number of attempts on the licensing examinations, and completing the licensing exams within certain time limits. If you have your eye on a particular residency program, or you know you want to work in a particular city, make sure to find out about these requirements.
The long process of preparing for and applying to residency programs in the United States can be complicated and challenging, but FMG Portal offers valuable resources to help you get matched. Contact us today for more information!

Tips for Foreign Medical Residency Applicants: Plan Ahead


In less than a month, the medical residency application process for 2018 is going to get underway. If you are a foreign medical student or medical school graduate planning to apply for a residency program in the United States in 2018, one of the best things you can do right now is to get a jump start on the process by familiarizing yourself with the application timeline and the basic application requirements. That way, you can create an application preparation plan that makes the most of all the time you have this summer, so you won’t be left scrambling to get everything together at the last minute.

The 2018 ERAS Timeline for Medical Residencies

The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) has released the official dates for the 2018 medical residency application process. ERAS 2018 officially begins on June 6, 2017, when you will be able to log on to MyERAS and start working on your application. You have all summer to get your application ready, and you can start sending it out to residency programs on September 6, 2017. A week later, on September 15, 2017, they will start receiving your application. On October 1, 2017, your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) will be released to the schools as well.

Understanding the Components of the Application

As you get ready to start the medical residency application process, it is important to know what materials you will be expected to submit. Here is a brief overview of the application components for foreign medical residency applicants. Stay tuned to the blog for more in-depth discussions of each component this summer!

  • ECFMG Certification. Before you can apply for a residency program in the United States, you will need to have earned your ECFMG certification. For this, you will need to meet basic medical education requirements, submit an application, and pass a medical science and a clinical examination.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV). On the CV, you have the chance to highlight your educational achievements, professional experience, personal interests, and other activities.
  • Letters of Reference. Most residency programs require the submission of three letters of reference. As a foreign medical graduate, it is important to note that some residency programs will require you to have at least one letter from a physician who is based in the United States.
  • Personal Statement. In your personal statement, you have the chance to tell your story — who you are, why you want to be a physician, and why you are an excellent candidate for a residency program in the United States.
  • Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE). This document will be released to your chosen residency programs by the dean of your medical school on October 1. Before then, you will need to meet with the dean to discuss your performance over the course of your education.

Looking ahead to a summer of application preparation can seem overwhelming, but there’s no need to start getting stressed out just yet! You still have lots of time to start blocking out your summer and coming up with a plan to contact letter potential letter-writers, meet with your school’s dean, and draft (and re-draft!) the essential components of your application. Now that you have an idea of what to expect this summer, you can be sure to stay on top of all the requirements throughout the 2018 medical residency application process!
Need more information about residency placement? FMG Portal offers a wide range of valuable resources. Contact us today!

An Introduction to the ECFMG Certification Examination

Before foreign medical graduates can match with a U.S. residency program, they must receive certification from The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Receiving a certification demonstrates that a foreign medical graduate is ready to enter an ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) accredited residency program. To receive a certificate, foreign medical graduates must demonstrate that they completed their schooling and take Steps 1 and 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Passing the exam is one of the most time-consuming parts of ECFMG certification because graduates must prepare, study and visit the U.S. for the clinical skills demonstration. The basic components of the exam are outlined below:

Step 1

This one day examination consists of multiple choice questions. Seven hours of testing are broken into 60 minute blocks. Graduates can expect to see up to 240 questions throughout the course of the day. This test focuses on systems and processes. Examples of commonly covered systems include the immune system, the renal and urinary system, the endocrine system and the respiratory system. 55-65% of the exam tests medical and scientific concepts. The processes section covers normal and abnormal processes, testing a graduate’s knowledge of patient care, diagnosis and management. The USMLE posts examples of the question formats to give graduates an idea of what to expect.

A USMLE Bulletin states:

Test items commonly require you to perform one or more of the following tasks: interpret graphic and tabular material, identify gross and microscopic pathologic and normal specimens, and apply basic science knowledge to clinical problems.

Step 2: Clinical Knowledge (CK)

This one day examination also consists of multiple choice questions, but it has 8 hours of testing broken into 60 minute blocks. Graduates can expect to see up to 318 questions through the course of the day. The testing focuses on similar topics as Step 1, but has a different focus. A USMLE bulletin explains how test items differ from Step 1.

Most Step 2 CK test items describe clinical situations and require that you provide one or more of the following: diagnosis, a prognosis, an indication of underlying mechanisms of disease, the next step in medical care, including preventive measures.

Although similar information is covered, Step 2 focuses on the disease categories and physician tasks, as opposed to the systems and processes covered in Step 1.

Step 2: Clinical Skills (CS)

This part of the examination consists of 12 patient encounters of 15 minutes each. Each patient encounter is conducted with an actor trained to portray real patient symptoms. Telephone patient encounters may also be included as part of the examination. Sub-components that are analyzed in this portion of the test include:

  • Integrated Clinical Encounter (ICE)
    • Includes data gathering and documentation skills assessment
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills (CIS)
    • Includes an assessment of the graduate’s ability to create a supportive relationship with the patient
  • Spoken English Proficiency (SEP)

This is the portion of the test that typically requires foreign medical graduates to visit the United States.

Foreign medical graduates that intend to pursue ECFMG certification will have to pass all three portions of the exam listed. However, with the proper support, like clinical externships,  foreign medical graduates can pass the exams, interview with U.S. medical residencies and match with a residency.