Program Director Survey

NRMP Program Director Survey Results: 2021

Well-prepared residency candidates are those who apply with a strong, cohesive ERAS Application. To do this, it’s crucial to know what elements of the application Program Directors are most concerned with. The NRMP’s 2021-22 Program Director Survey provides a wealth of information that can point you in the right direction.

The NRMP® conducts a bi-annual Program Director Survey, compiling data in the Results of the NRMP Program Director Survey. In previous years, Program Directors were asked to cite factors they used to select candidates for interviews and to rate each factor.  The rating scale was from 1 (least important) to 5 (most important). This year, these factors were broken down into objective and subjective categories:

  • Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics
  • Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants

Below are the top 5 most important factors in each category according to the percentage of Program Directors citing them as well as each factor’s importance rating. We’ve included this data for the 18 most IMG-friendly specialties. Be sure to review the specialties you are interested in carefully.

Program Director Survey Results: All Specialties Combined

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 Score 86.2 3.7
2 MSPE 85.9 4.0
3 USMLE Step 2 CK Score 78.8 3.8
4 Grades in required clerkships 74.6 3.9
5 Any failed attempt at USMLE 74.1 4.4

Top 5 Most Important Factors in Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors as rated by Program Directors

# Factor Importance Rating (out of 5) % of PDs citing
1 Any failed attempt at USMLE 4.4 74.1
2 Medical school accreditation status 4.2 44.2
3 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 4.1 65.2
4 MSPE 4.0 85.9
5 Consistency in grades 3.9 58.5

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Letters of recommendation in specialty 85.1 4.2
2 Personal statement (overall) 83.8 3.9
3 Diversity characteristics 80.9 4.1
4 Perceived commitment to specialty 79.5 4.3
5 Having overcome significant obstacles 75.5 4.1

Top 5 Most Important Factors in Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants as rated by Program Directors

# Factor Importance Rating (out of 5) % of PDs citing
1 NRMP flag for match violation 4.7 27.8
2 Professionalism and ethics 4.5 73.9
3 Letters of recommendation in specialty 4.2 85.1
Perceived interest in program 4.2 72.3
Leadership qualities 4.2 70.1
Audition elective/rotation in PD’s dept 4.2 44.8
Ability to work legally w/o visa 4.2 35.5
4 Diversity characteristics 4.1 80.9
Having overcome significant obstacles 4.1 75.5
Personal prior knowledge of applicant 4.1 63.6
5 Personal statement (overall) 3.9 83.8
Volunteer/extracurricular experience 3.9 64.8
Other life experience 3.9 62.8
Visa status 3.9 33.4

 

Anesthesiology

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 Score 95.2 3.8
2 MSPE 90.5 4.3
3 USMLE Step 2 CK Score 88.1 3.7
4 Class ranking/quartile 85.7 4.0
5 Any failed attempt at USMLE 83.3 4.0
Grades in required clerkships 83.3 3.7

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Having overcome significant obstacles 85.7 4.1
Perceived interest in program 85.7 4.2
2 Personal Statement 83.3 3.9
3 Diversity characteristics 81.0 4.0
4 Perceived commitment to specialty 78.6 4.3
Leadership qualities 78.6 4.2
Letters of recommendation in specialty 78.6 4.0
5 Professionalism and ethics 76.2 4.5
Other life experience 76.2 3.7

 

Child Neurology

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 92.3 4.5
Grades in required clerkships 92.3 4.2
2 Grades in required clerkship in preferred specialty 84.6 4.2
Consistency of grades 84.6 4.0
USMLE Step 2 CK score 84.6 3.6
USMLE Step 1 score 84.6 3.5
3 Any failed attempt at USMLE 76.9 4.1
Awards/honors, clerkship in preferred specialty 76.9 3.9
4 Awards/honors in clinical clerkships 69.2 3.9
5 Medical school accreditation status 61.5 4.3
Class ranking/quartile 61.5 4.0

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Perceived commitment to specialty 100 4.3
2 Having overcome significant obstacles 92.3 4.3
Personal Statement (overall) 92.3 3.8
3 Letters of recommendation in specialty 84.6 4.3
4 Other life experience 76.2 3.6
5 Professionalism and ethics 69.2 4.8
Leadership qualities 69.2 4.3
Perceived interest in program 69.2 4.0
Diversity characteristics 69.2 3.8

 

Dermatology

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 94.1 4.1
USMLE Step 1 score 94.1 3.3
2 Grades in required clerkships 88.2 4.4
3 Consistency of grades 76.5 4.1
Awards/honors in clinical clerkships 76.5 4.0
Class ranking/quartile 76.5 3.8
4 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 64.7 4.4
GHHS membership 64.7 3.9
AOA membership 64.7 3.7
5 Any failed attempt at USMLE 58.8 4.5

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Letters of recommendation in specialty 100 4.6
Personal statement (overall) 100 4.5
2 Volunteer/extracurricular experience 94.1 4.0
3 Having overcome significant obstacles 88.2 4.6
Diversity characteristics 88.2 4.5
4 Professionalism and ethics 82.4 4.7
Leadership qualities 82.4 4.4
Other life experience 82.4 4.1
Personal prior knowledge of applicant 82.4 3.9
5 Perceived commitment to specialty 76.5 4.5

 

Emergency Medicine

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 score 83.8 3.5
2 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 79.7 4.5
3 MSPE 77.0 3.8
USMLE Step 2 CK score 77.0 3.8
4 Any failed attempt at USMLE 74.3 4.6
5 Grades in required clerkships 70.3 3.9

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Letters of recommendation in specialty 90.5 4.8
2 Diversity characteristics 82.4 4.0
3 Perceived commitment to specialty 81.1 4.3
4 Having overcome significant obstacles 74.3 4.0
5 Perceived interest in program 73.0 4.2

 

Family Medicine

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 86.8 3.8
2 Any failed attempt at USMLE 79.2 3.9
3 USMLE Step 2 CK score 75.5 3.6
USMLE Step 1 score 75.5 3.3
4 Grades in required clerkships 64.2 3.6
5 Continuous medical education without gaps 59.1 3.8

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Perceived commitment to specialty 95.6 4.8
2 Personal statement (overall) 89.9 4.0
3 Letters of recommendation in specialty 84.3 4.3
4 Having overcome significant obstacles 76.1 4.0
5 Perceived interest in program 75.5 4.2
Diversity characteristics 75.5 4.1

 

Internal Medicine

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 2 CK score 93.7 4.0
2 USMLE Step 1 score 90.5 3.7
3 MSPE 85.7 4.2
4 Any failed attempt at USMLE 82.5 4.5
5 Class ranking/quartile 76.2 4.1

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Diversity characteristics 81.0 4.2
2 Professionalism and ethics 73.0 4.5
Personal statement (overall) 73.0 3.6
3 Perceived interest in program 70.6 4.1
4 Letters of recommendation in specialty 68.3 3.7
5 Having overcome significant obstacles 67.5 3.9

 

Med/Peds

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 100 4.0
2 USMLE Step 1 score 95.0 3.7
3 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 90.0 4.2
4 Any failed attempt at USMLE 85.0 4.3
Grades in required clerkships 85.0 4.1
Class ranking/quartile 85.0 3.9
USMLE Step 2 CK score 85.0 3.4
5 Awards/honors, clerkship in preferred specialty 80 3.7

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Volunteer/extracurricular experience 95.0 4.2
2 Personal statement (overall) 95.0 4.5
Leadership 90.0 4.8
Diversity characteristics 90.0 4.4
Having overcome significant obstacles 90.0 4.2
Letters of recommendation in specialty 90.0 3.8
3 Perceived commitment to specialty 85.0 4.1
4 Professionalism and ethics 80.0 4.7
5 Other life experience 75.0 4.4

 

Neurosurgery

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 score 89.5 4.2
2 Grades in required clerkships 73.7 4.1
MSPE 73.7 3.6
3 USMLE Step 2 CK score 68.4 3.9
4 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 63.2 4.6
Class ranking/quartile 63.2 4.0
5 Awards/honors in clinical clerkships 57.9 3.7

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Letters of recommendation in specialty 94.7 4.8
2 Involvement and interest in research 73.7 4.6
3 Perceived commitment to specialty 68.4 4.8
Personal statement (overall) 68.4 4.1
Diversity characteristics 68.4 3.9
4 Professionalism and ethics 63.2 4.5
5 Perceived interest in program 57.9 4.1

 

Neurology

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 score 96.6 3.7
2 MSPE 93.1 4.5
3 USMLE Step 2 score 89.7 3.8
4 Any failed attempt at USMLE 82.8 4.4
5 Class ranking/quartile 75.9 4.1
Grades in clerkships in preferred specialty 75.9 3.9

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Perceived commitment to specialty 93.1 4.3
Letters of recommendation in specialty 93.1 4.2
2 Personal statement (overall) 86.2 4.8
3 Professionalism and ethics 79.3 4.6
Having overcome significant obstacles 79.3 3.9
4 Letters of recommendation in specialty 75.9 3.8
3 Personal prior knowledge of applicant 72.4 4.1
4 Volunteer/extracurricular experience 72.4 3.8

 

OBGYN

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 84.3 4.1
USMLE Step 1 score 84.3 3.6
2 Grades in required clerkships 79.8 3.8
3 USMLE Step 2 CK score 78.7 4.4
4 Grades in clerkships in preferred specialty 76.4 4.1
5 Any failed attempt at USMLE 71.9 4.5
Class ranking/quartile 71.9 3.8

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Diversity characteristics 88.8 4.2
Letters of recommendation in specialty 88.8 4.0
2 Personal statement (overall) 84.3 4.0
3 Leadership qualities 79.8 4.3
4 Having overcome significant obstacles 78.7 4.3
Perceived interest in program 78.7 4.0
5 Volunteer/extracurricular experience 77.5 4.0

 

Orthopaedic Surgery

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 score 94.4 3.9
2 Grades in required clerkships 86.1 4.1
3 USMLE Step 2 CK score 77.8 3.6
4 MSPE 69.4 3.7
AOA membership 69.4 3.7
5 Awards/honors in clinical clerkships 66.7 3.5

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Personal statement (overall) 91.7 3.5
2 Letters of recommendation in specialty 88.9 4.4
3 Diversity Characteristics 83.3 3.7
4 Professionalism and ethics 80.6 4.3
5 Leadership qualities 77.8 4.3

 

Pathology

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 score 97.0 3.8
2 USMLE Step 2 CK score 93.9 3.7
3 MSPE 87.9 4.0
4 Any failed attempt at USMLE 87.9 4.6
5 Class ranking/quartile 75.8 3.5

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Perceived commitment to specialty 93.9 4.7
Letters of recommendation in specialty 93.9 4.5
Personal statement (overall) 93.9 3.9
2 Diversity characteristics 78.8 3.8
3 Professionalism and ethics 69.7 4.5
Having overcome significant obstacles 69.7 3.8
4 Perceived interest in program 54.5 4.3
5 Personal prior knowledge of applicant 51.5 4.5
Leadership qualities 51.5 4.1

 

Pediatrics

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 91.3 4.4
2 USMLE Step 1 score 84.8 3.6
3 Any failed attempt at USMLE 78.3 4.5
4 Grades in required clerkships 73.9 4.0
5 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 65.2 3.9
USMLE Step 2 CK score 65.2 3.8
Class ranking/quartile 65.2 3.4

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Diversity characteristics 80.4 4.2
Personal statement (overall) 80.4 3.6
2 Having overcome significant obstacles 78.3 4.0
Letters of recommendation in specialty 78.3 3.9
3 Perceived commitment to specialty 73.9 4.1
4 Volunteer/extracurricular experience 69.6 3.8
5 Professionalism and ethics 65.2 4.3

 

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 96.6 4.4
2 Any failed attempt at USMLE 93.1 4.5
3 USMLE Step 1 score 89.7 4.0
4 Grades in required clerkships 79.3 3.9
5 Consistency of grades 75.9 4.1
Class ranking/quartile 75.9 4.0
GHHS membership 75.9 3.3

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Letters of recommendation in specialty 100 4.3
2 Perceived commitment to specialty 96.6 4.2
3 Diversity characteristics 89.7 3.7
4 Professionalism and ethics 86.2 4.5
5 Having overcome significant obstacles 79.3 4.1

 

Psychiatry

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 MSPE 90.2 4.0
2 Any failed attempt at USMLE 75.4 4.3
3 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 73.8 4.3
4 USMLE Step 2 CK score 73.8 3.5
5 Grades in required clerkships 72.1 4.0
Class ranking/quartile 65.6 3.7
USMLE Step 1 score 65.6 3.4

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Perceived commitment to specialty 90.2 4.5
Personal statement (overall) 90.2 4.3
2 Having overcome significant obstacles 80.3 4.3
3 Letters of recommendation in specialty 78.7 4.2
4 Perceived interest in program 77.0 4.3
5 Professionalism and ethics 70.5 4.7

 

Radiology (Diagnostic)

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 score 97.1 4.6
2 MSPE 88.2 4.4
3 USMLE Step 2 CK score 85.3 4.1
4 Class ranking/quartile 82.4 4.2
5 Grades in required clerkships 73.5 4.0

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Perceived interest in program 94.1 4.1
2 Personal statement (overall) 91.2 3.6
3 Perceived commitment to specialty 88.2 4.1
Having overcome significant obstacles 88.2 4.0
Letters of recommendation in specialty 88.2 3.9
4 Diversity characteristics 85.3 3.7
5 Personal prior knowledge of applicant 79.4 4.2

 

Surgery

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 1 score 96.1 4.0
2 MSPE 85.5 3.9
3 USMLE Step 2 CK score 84.2 4.0
4 Grades in required clerkships 76.3 4.0
5 Grades in clerkship in preferred specialty 75.0 4.3

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors 3.9Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Perceived interest in program 93.4 4.2
2 Personal statement (overall) 84.2 3.8
3 Perceived commitment to specialty 82.9 4.4
4 Letters of recommendation in specialty 81.6 4.3
Having overcome significant obstacles 81.6 3.9
5 Diversity characteristics 75.0 4.1

 

Transitional Year

Top 5 Educational and Academic Performance Characteristics Factors Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 USMLE Step 2 CK score 96.8 4.3
2 USMLE Step 1 score 93.5 4.3
3 Any failed attempt at USMLE 90.3 4.5
4 MSPE 80.6 3.8
5 Class ranking/quartile 67.7 3.7

Top 5 Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Factors 3.9Cited by Program Directors

# Factor % of PDs citing Importance Rating (out of 5)
1 Personal statement (overall) 87.1 4.1
2 Perceived interest in program 71.0 4.1
3 Letters of recommendation in specialty 67.7 3.9
4 Professionalism and ethics 61.3 4.4
Diversity characteristics 61.3 4.0
Having overcome significant obstacles 61.3 3.8
5 Leadership qualities 51.6 4.3

 

We hope you’ve found value in the data we’ve compiled from the 2021 NRMP Program Directors Survey report. Please reach out with any questions at support@matcharesident.com.

Leave a Reply

Next Article5 Steps to the Best Post-Match SOAP Preparation (2022)