What Programs Rank as Important in Residency Applicants: NRMP Survey Results

Here is an NRMP publication that we wanted to share with you. It is a jewel filled with wonderful data that can help students make informed decisions in planning for electives, research, international service, board exams, etc. when creating the best applicant profile for residency match. The NRMP surveyed residency program directors across the nation to find out what was most important to them during interviewing.

NRMP Survey ResultsThe report presents the results of selected items from the 2010 NRMP Program Director Survey. Data are reported for 19 specialties and include: (1) factors used for granting interviews and ranking applicants; (2) use of USMLE exam scores; and (3) the percentage of interview slots filled prior to the November 1 release date of the MSPE.

The primary purpose of the survey is to determine factors that program directors use in both (1) selecting applicants to interview and (2) ranking applicants for the Match. The overall response rate for the 19 largest specialties detailed in this report was 48.7 percent, and ranged from a high of 61.1 percent for Pediatrics to a low of 36.8 for General Surgery.

This report presents preliminary results by specialty on selected items from the survey. Go to this link for the 180 page survey results by specialty:


As you will see when you start browsing through the report, there is a section that reports the data across all 19 specialties which is important but has limitations in terms of use. It is best to consider the data specific to the specialty you are interested in pursuing.

Of particular interest to most students is how important are my…

  • Step 1 scores (or COMLEX -1)
  • Step 2 scores (or COMLEX-2)
  • Grades in clerkship of desired specialty
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Class rank
  • Membership in AOA Honor Society
  • MSPE/Dean’s letter
  • Personal statement
  • Residency interview

When reviewing, keep in mind that the survey results are reported in two ways:

  1. By percentage of programs citing a factor in selecting applicants to interview
  2. By mean importance of factors in ranking applicants on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being most important.

Of great interest is the Figure 3 on Page 7 (and a similar page for each specialty) that maps out the percentage of programs that use USMLE Step1 and Step 2 CK to consider which applicants to interview with additional details such as if programs offer interviews to students who have had difficulty with board exams.

On page 8 (Figure 4), and continued throughout the survey by specialty, are the average USMLE  Step 1 and Step 2 scores that programs consider when giving interviews.

This document is priceless. Also, do not forget the Outcomes in the Match which is another NRMP publication that has invaluable information by specialty on board scores and rankings for the residency match. The link for that match is http://www.nrmp.org/data/chartingoutcomes2011.pdf


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