What Program Directors are Really Looking at in Your ERAS Residency Application

It’s no secret that a well prepared residency application can get your foot in the door with medical residency programs. The secret lies in what Program Directors and Interview Committees really want to see when they look through a residency candidate’s application.

The residency application preparation process is extensive and takes a lot of time you may not have. There’s documents to compile or write, and tests to take. It is hard to prioritize what you should focus your energies on most.

You may have many questions such as:

“What is the most important part of the application?”

“Do Program Directors really look at my application?”

“What do they pay more attention to?”

To help answer some of these questions, NRMP® conducted a survey with over 1,400 responses from Program Directors. The data was compiled in a document called Results of the 2016 NRMP Program Director Survey. (This is an updated version of the survey)

Among the information gathered, Program Directors were asked to to cite factors they used to select candidates for interviews. They were also asked to rate each factor on a scale from 1 (least important) to 5 (most important).

Below are the 5 most important and least important factors for all specialties by percentage cited and rating. Also included are the top 5 factors by percentage and rating for the 18 specialties offered by Match A Resident. You may notice that many of the individual specialities reflect the top overall factors, but some specialties have differences. Be sure to review the specialties you are interested in carefully.

Top 10 Factors:

  1. USMLE Step 1
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation
  3. Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s Letter)
  4. USMLE Step 2 CK
  5. Grades in required clerkships
  6. Personal Statement
  7. Class ranking/quartile
  8. Any failed attempt in USMLE
  9. Grades in clerkship in desired specialty
  10. Evidence of professionalism and ethics

Bottom 10 Factors:

  1. USMLE Step 3 score
  2. Fluency in language spoken by your patient population
  3. Away rotation in your specialty at another institution
  4. Interest in academic career
  5. Awards or special honors in basic sciences
  6. Applicant was flagged with Match violation by the NRMP
  7. Visa status*
  8. Demonstrated involvement and interest in research
  9. Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) membership
  10. Volunteer/extracurricular experiences

Anesthesiology

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (99%)
  2. MSPE (86%)
  3. Class ranking/quartile (86%)
  4. Step 2 CK score (84%)
  5. Specialty specific Letter of Recommendation (84%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.8)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.8)
  3. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.5)
  4. USMLE Step 1 score (4.3), Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.3), Personal prior knowledge of the applicant (4.3), Consistency of grades (4.3)
  5. Pass USMLE Step2 CS (4.2)

Child Neurology

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (100%)
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (97%)
  3. MSPE (97%)
  4. Step 2 CK score (92%)
  5. Personal Statement (88%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.4)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.4)
  3. Grades in specialty related clerkship (4.3)
  4. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.3)

Dermatology

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (94%)
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (91%)
  3. MSPE (91%)
  4. Grades in required clerkships (82%)
  5. Personal Statement (82%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)  

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.9)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.8)
  3. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.6)
  4. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.5)
  5. Perceived commitment to specialty (4.4)

Emergency Medicine

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor

  1. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (97%)
  2. USMLE Step 1 Score (96%)
  3. USMLE Step 2 CK score (89%)
  4. Grades in specialty related clerkship (81%)
  5. MSPE (79%), Away rotation in your specialty at another institution (79%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)   

  1. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.9)
  2. Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.8)
  3. Flagged by NRMP (4.7)
  4. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.6)
  5. Audition elective/rotation within your department (4.6)

Family Medicine

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor

  1. USMLE Step 1 Score (90%)
  2. Perceived commitment to specialty (89%)
  3. USMLE Step 2 CK score (89%)
  4. Specialty specific Letter of Recommendation (88%)
  5. Personal Statement (88%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.8)
  2. Evidence of professional and ethics (4.6)
  3. Perceived commitment to the specialty (4.5)
  4. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.4)
  5. Visa status (4.4)

Internal Medicine

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor

  1. USMLE Step 1 Score (93%)
  2. USMLE Step 2 CK score (91%)
  3. MSPE (90%)
  4. Any failed attempt in USMLE (81%)
  5. Specialty specific Letter of Recommendation (80%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.7)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.6)
  3. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.5)
  4. MSPE (4.3), Passed USMLE Step 2 CS (4.3), USMLE Step 2 CK score (4.3)
  5. USMLE Step 1 Score (4.2), Grades in required clerkships (4.2), Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.2)

Med/Peds

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor  

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (93%),
  2. MSPE (93%),
  3. USMLE Step 2 CK Score (89%),
  4. Any failed attempt in USMLE (85%)
  5. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (81%), Grades in required clerkships (81%), Class ranking/quartile (81%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)  

  1. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.7)
  2. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.7)
  3. Flagged by NRMP (4.6)
  4. USMLE Step 1 score (4.3), MSPE (4.3), Grades in required clerkships (4.3)
  5. USMLE Step 2 CK Score (4.2), Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.2), Perceived commitment to specialty (4.2), Pass USMLE Step 2 CS (4.2)

Neurosurgery

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor  

  1. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (97%),
  2. USMLE Step 1 score (93%),
  3. Personal Statement (83%)
  4. Demonstrated involvement and interest in research (83%)
  5. Audition elective/rotation within your department (80%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)  

  1. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.9)
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.8)
  3. Flagged by NRMP (4.8)
  4. USMLE Step 1 score (4.6)
  5. Evidence of professional and ethics (4.5), Perceived commitment to specialty (4.5), Fluency in language spoken by your patient population (4.5)

Neurology

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor  

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (94%)
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (90%)
  3. MSPE (88%)
  4. USMLE Step 2 CK score (84%)
  5. Any failed attempt in USMLE (84%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)   

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.7)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.5)
  3. Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.4)
  4. Perceived commitment to specialty (4.4)
  5. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.3)

OBGYN

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor  

  1. Grades in required clerkships (92%)
  2. USMLE Step 1 Score (91%)
  3. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (87%)
  4. USMLE Step 2 CK Score (83%)
  5. MSPE (81%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (5.0)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.6)
  3. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.5)
  4. Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.3)
  5. Leadership qualities (4.3)

Orthopedic Surgery

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor   

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (98%)
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (94%)
  3. Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) membership (88%)
  4. Grades in required clerkships (86%)
  5. Personal Statement (84%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.9)
  2. Flagged by NRMP (4.6)
  3. USMLE Step 1 score  (4.5)
  4. Evidence of professional and ethics (4.5)
  5. Perceived commitment to specialty (4.5)

Pathology

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor    

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (98%)
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (98%)
  3. Perceived commitment to specialty (98%)
  4. USMLE Step 2 CK score (88%)
  5. MSPE (88%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.8)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.6)
  3. Evidence of professional and ethics (4.6)
  4. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.5)
  5. USMLE Step 1 Score (4.3), MSPE (4.3), Perceived commitment to specialty (4.3), Personal prior knowledge of the applicant (4.3)

Pediatrics

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor    

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (94%)
  2. USMLE Step 2 CK score  (89%)
  3. Grades in required clerkships (86%)
  4. MSPE (84%)
  5. Class ranking/quartile (83%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)  

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.7)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.5)
  3. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.4)
  4. MSPE (4.2), Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.2), Personal prior knowledge of the applicant (4.2), Pass USMLE Step 2 CS (4.2)
  5. USMLE Step 1 score (4.1), USMLE Step 2 CK score (4.1), Grades in required clerkships (4.1), Audition elective/rotation within your department (4.1)

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor    

  1. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (93%)
  2. USMLE Step 2 CK score (90%)
  3. MSPE (90%)
  4. Perceived commitment to specialty (90%)
  5. USMLE Step 1 score (87%), Personal Statement (87%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.6)
  2. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.6)
  3. Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.5)
  4. Visa status (4.5)
  5. MSPE (4.4)

Psychiatry

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor   

  1. Personal Statement (95%)
  2. MSPE (92%)
  3. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (90%)
  4. Perceived commitment to the specialty (89%)
  5. USMLE Step 1 score (81%), USMLE Step 2 CK score (81%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)  

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.9)
  2. Evidence of professional and ethics (4.7)
  3. Perceived commitment to the specialty (4.5)
  4. MSPE (4.3), Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.3), Perceived interest in program (4.3), Fluency in language spoken by your patient population (4.3)
  5. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.2), Personal Statement (4.2), Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.2)

Radiology

Diagnostic Radiology

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor   

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (98%)
  2. MSPE (91%)
  3. Grades in required clerkships (89%)
  4. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (80%)
  5. Personal Statement (80%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)   

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.8)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.8)
  3. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.7)
  4. MSPE (4.6)
  5. Class ranking/quartile (4.5)

Radiation Oncology

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor     

  1. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (100%)
  2. USMLE Step 1 score (100%)
  3. Grades in required clerkships (93%)
  4. MSPE (93%)
  5. Perceived commitment to specialty (89%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.8)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.7)
  3. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.7)
  4. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.5)
  5. Grades in clerkship in desired specialty (4.5)

Surgery

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor     

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (95%)
  2. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (91%)
  3. USMLE Step 2 CK score (87%)
  4. Grades in required clerkships (83%)
  5. Class ranking/quartile (81%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Flagged by NRMP (4.8)
  2. Any failed attempt in USMLE (4.8)
  3. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.4)
  4. USMLE Step 1 score (4.3)
  5. Specialty Specific Letter of Recommendation (4.3)

Transitional Year

Percentage of Programs Citing Each Factor    

  1. USMLE Step 1 score (100%)
  2. MSPE (88%)
  3. USMLE Step 2 CK score (83%)
  4. Personal Statement (80%)
  5. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (80%)

Average Importance Rating for Each Factor (scale of 1 to 5)

  1. Fluency in language spoken by your patient population (4.8)
  2. Evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.7)
  3. Leadership qualities (4.7)
  4. Lack of gaps in medical education (4.7)
  5. Volunteer/extracurricular experiences (4.7)

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