Getting into Residency: Elective Selection and Strategy


Electives are an opportunity for you to explore different specialty options and to gain exposure in your discipline(s) of interest. More and more residency programs are valuing candidates who have a broad variety of electives in their dossier.

McGill, as do all other Canadian Medical Schools, requires that you complete electives in a minimum of three different disciplines (as divided at:

If you know early on what discipline you will be going for, electives planning is relatively straightforward. Given five 4-week blocks, you would tend to do three 4-week blocks in your discipline of choice, and two 4-week blocks in alternate but complimentary disciplines. It is not advisable to do more than 10-12 weeks in any given discipline, even if it is the discipline that you want the most.

If you do not know early on what you would like to do for residency, select your first two electives based on broad applicability (radiology, pathology, anesthesia, etc.) and/or personal interest. As time goes on, you will narrow your options and be better equipped to plan your last three electives accordingly.

In terms of location, you should try as much as possible to represent at least your top three institutions/universities within your elective choices. The largest urban programs tend to prefer applicants who have carried out electives at their institutions. If you cannot secure an elective in your preferred discipline at one of your top institution choices, try to secure an elective there in one of your alternate disciplines (this shows your motivation for their program/location), and while you are there, be sure to attend some of the educational activities in the discipline of your choice.

Many students choose to carry out an elective during the summer between Med-3 and Med-4 so as to maximize the number of elective evaluations that will appear on the MSPR (Dean’s Letter) in the fall of Med-4; if you pursue this plan, we do recommend that you take some time off during a later elective period so as not to burn out.


To read reports from McGill medical students on all the electives they have taken, both home and away, since 2010, please click here LINK TO COME SOON...

note: this spreadsheet is password-protected. You must be a current McGill medical student to have access to it. You can use CTRL+F to search in the spreadsheet, or you can FILTER various columns to help you find the information you need.


Other International Electives:
To read feedback from other McGill medical students who have taken clinical electives internationally, please see this page:


It is important that you inform the Electives Office of your plans early and update any changes accurately. See more detailed information on elective requirements and procedures at:

Next: Canadian Residencies