The CaRMS Couples Match: Myths, Facts and Realities

The CaRMS Couples Match: Myths, Facts and Realities


“So, are you gonna couples match?” Couples matching is a difficult decision and there’s a million things that can factor in, from the technical, like what specialties you’re applying to, to the personal, like how important staying in the same physical location is to you as a couple. I can’t help you make that decision, but as someone who has gone through the process, I can give you the facts to help you make an informed decision.

[acc-trig title=”Myth #1: Couples matching increases my chances of going unmatched”]

Couples matching does NOT increase each person’s chance of going unmatched, if every single available option is ranked. Let me give you an example:

Sally is applying to obs-gyne, and Jim is applying to internal medicine. Sally interviews at McMaster, UBC, and Manitoba. Jim interviews at Calgary, McMaster, and Manitoba.

If they rank every possible option, their rank order list (ROL) could look something like this:

Sally                 Jim

McMaster       McMaster

Manitoba        Manitoba

UBC                 Calgary

UBC                 Manitoba

UBC                 McMaster

McMaster       Manitoba

McMaster       Calgary

Manitoba        Calgary

Manitoba        McMaster

McMaster       Unmatched

UBC                 Unmatched

Manitoba        Unmatched

Unmatched     Manitoba

Unmatched     McMaster

Unmatched     Calgary


If the ROL goes as far down as, for example, Sally going unmatched and Jim matching to Manitoba, all other options ranked above did not work out. Sally and Jim ranked every possible combination of the programs they interviewed at above this option. Therefore, Sally did not match to any of the schools she interviewed at. She would have been unmatched regardless of her couples match with Jim. As for Jim, because every option was listed, he matched despite Sally going unmatched. Her lack of match did not result in him going unmatched.

That being said, it is extremely easy to miss a combination – I highly recommend using the CFMS Couples Match Tool to generate a list for you ( If you don’t include every option, you will increase your chance of going unmatched.

Of course, you do not have to rank every possible option if there are options that you do not consider acceptable to you as a couple. You need to weigh whether the ranked option is more acceptable to you than one or both of you going unmatched. For example, would you rather have one partner in Vancouver and the other in Halifax, or one of you go unmatched? The answer is different for everyone. CaRMS is a binding contract: on July 1st, you must show up and report to whichever city/program you match to. Transferring is possible, but you are not allowed to begin exploring that process until 6 months into your residency or so. Give it lots of thought.


Bottom line: The couples match gives you the opportunity to increase your chances of matching together. It does not need to limit your chances of matching. The amount of risk you undertake depends on you and your partner’s circumstances and what you consider acceptable.


[acc-trig title=”Myth #2: Programs will know that I couples matched”]

Programs will not know that you couples matched unless you tell them. You should not be directly asked this question in an interview; CaRMS prohibits this type of question from being asked, along with many others that they consider inappropriate. Whether you want to talk about it during your CaRMS experience is entirely up to you – but know that you certainly don’t owe it to anyone to discuss it, and it will remain completely confidential if you choose for it to be that way.


[acc-trig title=”Myth #3: I can’t back out of a couple match once I’ve signed up for it”]

You don’t need to register to enter a couples match until the ROL process starts (late January). When the ROL opens, you’ll see an option to pick a CaRMS applicant to couples match with. You enter your partner’s CaRMS ID and they’ll get an email saying “_____ has requested you submit a ROL as a couple”. Your partner needs to click accept and then you both must submit “your side” of the ROL. Your partner’s side of the ROL will show up in your CaRMS as they update it. (Make sure you double check! It’s easy to miss one option when you’re inputting the list, and then the whole thing doesn’t line up.) You may withdraw from the couples match at any time up until the ROL submission deadline, and CaRMS will unpair your ROLs.

(That being said, if you change your mind after the ROL submission deadline, you’re out of luck!)



I hope this addresses some of the questions surrounding couples matching. Ultimately, if you are flexible regarding program location, my personal opinion is that it’s worth a shot – if you list every option, you don’t hinder each other from matching, and you don’t even have to list every option together over the ones apart. Each item on the ROL is completely within your control – the whole process is more flexible than people think. Good luck!

If you have any questions about Couples Matching, please contact Dorothy Yu at


Kristen Braun

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