The Successful Match: Book Review

Sometime in the beginning of my third year, I wanted to prepare to apply to residencies. If you are in medical school, you have already experienced the joy (I am being sarcastic) of jumping through hoops and spending thousands of dollars interviewing to get where you are today. Getting into residencies will be as similar as getting into medical schools. You will get to re-experience that joy (again, sarcasm) of jumping through hoops and spending thousands of dollars interviewing.

When I was applying to medical schools, I wish I had a guide on what to do and what not to do. It would have made my life so much easier. But although I did not find a guide for applying to medical schools (hint, hint, Dr. Desai and Dr. Katta), I did find a guide for applying to residencies, The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match. Does this guide deliver? Will it make your life easier as you apply for residencies? Read more to find out.

Contents of the Book

With all of my book reviews, I would like to start out with the table of contents. In a way, by glancing at the table of contents, you can get an idea of what the book is about and what it will cover.

Chapter 1 – The Application

Chapter 2 – Specialty-Specific Information

Chapter 3 – The Basics

Chapter 4 – Selection Process

Chapter 5 – The Right Fit

Chapter 6 – Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Chapter 7 – Letters of Recommendation

Chapter 8 – Personal Statement

Chapter 9 – Dean’s Letter (MSPE)

Chapter 10 – The Audition Elective

Chapter 11 – The Competitive Edge

Chapter 12 – Before the Interview

Chapter 13 – Interview Questions

Chapter 14 – The Interview Day

Chapter 15 – After the Interview

Chapter 16 – Ranking Residency Programs

Chapter 17 – International Medical Graduates

Just by looking at the topics, the book seems to cover anything and everything related to getting matched into a residency. Ok, maybe it is worth it to explore what this book further.

My Thoughts on The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match

The reason why I wanted to read this book in the third year is because I wanted to know how I should approach doctors for letters of recommendation as I finish my rotations. But the book offers much more than that.

As I wrote in my review of Success on the Wards: 250 Rules for Clerkship Success, the authors did a lot of research to back up their claims. Not only did they base their findings on various articles and journals, they sent surveys to many program directors asking what they were looking for. All of chapter 2 pertains to what the program directors in each specialty values. This chapter is worth its weight in gold. By knowing what each specialty values, you can tailor your medical school goals to best meet each specialty’s expectations.

For example, looking at the family medicine section (since that is what I am interested in), I’ll give you a short excerpt on what is most and least important to program directors:

How important is research experience?

Among 12 academic criteria, Wagoner found that published medical school research was last in importance. In general, research experience is not necessary to secure a residency position.

How important is the interview?

Taylor found that the interview was most useful to program directors in ranking an applicant. The Department of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago recommends having “three times as many questions as you think you’ll need, and you’ll probably end up asking them all.”

That is good news for me, because I did not do any research and I have no plans of doing research. But I am confident in my interviewing abilities.

As for the rest of the book, they are very good too. It will teach you how to write a proper curriculum vitae (which is basically a resume), how to ask for letters of recommendation, how to write a personal statement, how to influence the outcome of your the dean’s letter, and how to do well on the interview. The tips are fantastic, pretty much on par with my tips for medical school admissions, but they offer much more details and examples. The book has sample CV’s, personal statements, questions to ask on the interviews, and much, much more.

As for the bad parts about the book, I did not find anything major. I did find some spelling errors, but since I am not a stickler in terms of spelling and grammar, it did not bother me. The mistakes did not take anything away from the overall message of the book. I truly felt it painted the whole picture of what you should do to successfully get matched into a residency. I would say this book is a required read for the third and fourth year. It will enable you to see how your medical school experience all come together to make you a competitive residency applicant or not. And if you are not competitive, you will know what you will have to do to become so.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for me to review. Do keep in mind that it will not influence my opinion of the book. If the book is good, I will write a good review. If the book is not so great, my review will reflect that.

This review is part of The Only Medical School Books You Will Ever Need series. Click on the link if you want to avoid wasting money on useless textbooks.


  1. great article!

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