Core 3 FAQs

Core 3 comprises 11 months of course requirements that will help you to select a specialty and acquire the credentials you need to continue to develop your skills to apply for residency. 

What are the Core 3 requirements? 

  • A sub-I in Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, or Pediatrics (1 month) 
  • Standard electives as listed in the online course catalog (4 months) 
  • Additional electives (2 months), which may be standard electives, away U.S. months, Botswana (counts as 1.5 months), or additional Scholarly Pursuit time (2 months beyond the required 3 months)  
  • Scholarly Pursuit (minimum of 3 months, post Core 2), which can also be fulfilled by earning a second degree while in medical school 
  • Frontiers (3 weeks)  
  • Bioethics (1 week)  
  • Step 1, Step 2
  • Clinical Skills Inventory (CSI) exam  
  • ACLS 

Please note: 4 weeks of patient responsibility time are needed in or after September of the final year. Options includes standard electives (not pathology or radiology), away U.S. rotations, or the Botswana sub-I.

What is the timeline for Core 3? 

If you are graduating in 2023, the best way to plan Core 3 is to make worksheets with 16 months, starting with January 2022 and ending with April 2023 (the last month in which you can take an elective). You will need to plot the requirements listed above and allow time to: 

  • Study for Step 1 (5-6 weeks recommended) 
  • Complete residency applications 
  • Study for Step 2 (2 weeks full time, 4 weeks part time)
  • Travel for residency interviews (time depends on specialty)
  • Take a month or two off to relax and find a place to live after your match 
  • Spend time in or after September in a patient care management setting in the U.S. or Botswana (4 weeks or equivalent)

What is a sub-I? 

A sub-internship (sub-I) course demonstrates your ability to manage patients. Taking one of the following can fulfill this requirement:

  • EMR308 - Emergency Medicine 
  • MED400 - Sub-internship in Internal Medicine 
  • FAM400 - Sub-internship in Family Medicine 
  • PED300 - Sub-internship in Pediatrics 

What do I need to consider when scheduling a sub-I? 

Students who did not receive honors for their Internal Medicine clerkship and are scheduled for an Internal Medicine sub-I (in any month but March) need to complete one of the following as a sub-I prerequisite: 

  • Medicine consult month (in Cardiology, GI, Hem/Onc, ID, Pulmonology, Renal, Rheumatology) 
  • Upper-level inpatient Neurology  
  • Family Medicine sub-I
  • Pediatrics sub-I 
  • SICU 

Students who receive honors for the Internal Medicine clerkship are encouraged to complete one of the above months prior to the sub-I, although they are not required to do so. 


  • Emergency Medicine recommends that an EM sub-I be completed before an away EM month
  • August is not too late for a Family Medicine, Internal Medicine or Pediatrics sub-I  
  • A Medicine sub-I must be completed before a CCU or MICU month

What are the electives? 

You need four months of standard electives as listed in the online course catalog. These are generally month long courses offered in all specialty areas at HUP/VAMC/Presby/Pennsy/CHOP/Pavilion. There are also opportunities to develop individualized clinical experiences with Penn faculty either in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Electives include consult courses, unit months and opportunities to explore Dermatology, Radiology, Radiation Oncology, and one-on-one preceptorships in Surgery (the equivalent of an externship), etc. 

How are electives scheduled? 

Registration takes place via lottery with rankings due as follows:  

  • In November 2022 for January to April 2023
  • In March 2023 for May to September 2023
  • In June 2023 for October to December 2023

Where do I find the rotation dates? 

See the 2023 schedule here.  

What are Frontiers courses? 

Frontiers in Medical Science are one- and two-week courses offered in late September/October and February/early March. Frontiers courses focus on the latest trends in biomedical science and their relationship to medical practice. The schedule may change for next year, but details about this year can be found in the course catalog. Registration takes place in September 2022. More info here.

Are USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 required? If so, when should I take them? 

Taking both exams is required regardless of matriculation year. Passing both exams is a requirement for students who matriculated in 2015 or later. The exams are required for licensure and are used by some residency programs for screening purposes. 

You can register for Step 1 or 2 by visiting NBME.  

Step 1 and Step 2 are administered electronically and can be taken year round. Register via the website and then call a Prometric Learning Center to schedule the day and time of your choice. 

You can confirm through whether any limitations remain since testing appointments and schedules are updated dynamically. The medical educator toolkit also explains valuable information about cancellations, rescheduling and more.

There will be a class meeting in October to discuss Step 1 studying tips. This meeting will include a panel of upper classmen. 

Additional Resources:

What is the Clinical Skills Inventory (CSI) and when is it offered?  

CSI is a graduation requirement and must be passed. This summative exam assesses students’ cognitive skills and interpersonal communication skills. The test is graded on a pass/fail basis with scores provided for both components. 

Students are eligible to take CSI upon completion of all clerkships. Dates are offered during the first quarter of the year or in September/October.

Students who fail one or both components of the exam need to retake the test. Students who take the exam the year before graduation and fail will be retested in the fall. Students should leave time in their schedules for remedial work if they do not pass the exam on the second attempt. An individualized plan to address the student’s deficiencies will be developed. Graduation will be contingent upon performance during these remedial assignments. 

Like Step 2, CSI lasts a full day, during which students will see 12 SPs, one-on-one, in a clinical setting. Students are required to interview and examine SPs and write patient notes after each encounter. The exam dates will be posted.  

Students will be provided with detailed information via email prior to their scheduled exam date.

When do I take the ACLS? 

ACLS is a prerequisite for the Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine sub-internships with scheduling details to follow later in the fall. 

If I want to do a rotation away, when do I do it and how do I apply? 

Most students choose to do a rotation away, do it in the summer and fall of their last year. The other medical school determines the application process. Details can be found at AAMC. Passing Step 1 might be required as part of the application submission process.

What is the residency application timeline? 

The match programs for Ophthalmology and Urology are early. They occur in January with applications due in late August/early September and interviews in November and December.

The match for all the other specialties occurs in March. Applications must be submitted in September with interviews in November, December and January. 

Which specialties require a separate application process for the internship year? 

  • Anesthesia: Transitional year or Medicine Prelim (only needed for some programs)  
  • Dermatology: Medicine Prelim  
  • Neurology: Medicine Prelim (only needed for some programs) 
  • Ophthalmology: Transitional year or Medicine Prelim  
  • Radiology: Transitional Year or Medicine Prelim  
  • Radiation Oncology: Transitional Year or Medicine Prelim (only needed for some programs) 

How do I decide what to take and in what order? 

If you are not certain what specialty you want to pursue, you will need to take upper level electives in the different fields you are considering. Your advisory dean can help you plan your schedule and provide you with advice for how to narrow your choices. As you plan your schedule, you will want to make sure you have the required electives for the type of residency you are applying for. It is important to touch base with a career specific advisor in the specialty you are planning to apply in so that you ensure you have the required electives. Many departments have a meeting in the Fall to review required courses.

I am overwhelmed. Who can help me with planning?

Your advisory dean can help you with planning. Many students will reach out to their Doctoring Preceptor. Additionally, most departments have student career advisors who can help with scheduling. Student Affairs and the Registrar can also be a tremendous help.