Press Release: NRMP Releases Report on Applicant Qualifications that Foster Fellowship Match Success

High or low exam scores do not guarantee success or failure in obtaining subspecialty training positions.

Washington, D.C., November 16, 2018 – The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP®) announces the release of Charting Outcomes in The Match: Specialties Matching Service®, Appointment Year 2018. The NRMP Specialties Matching Service (SMS®) encompasses multiple Matches for advanced residency and fellowship positions, and the report examines how applicant characteristics contribute to success in those Matches. The report has not been published since May 2013.

“We are pleased to be able to offer a new version of this report for applicants interested in fellowship training,” said Mona M. Signer, NRMP President and CEO. “The SMS has grown markedly since the report was first published, and we want to be sure all applicants in our Matching Programs have the resources they need to make informed choices about training.”

For the 2018 appointment year, NRMP conducted 25 Fellowship Matches for 63 subspecialties, a significant increase over the 20 Matches for 40 subspecialties that were the focus of the first report. The new report tracks 10,778 applicants in four categories: U.S. allopathic medical school graduates, osteopathic medical school graduates, and U.S. citizen and non-U.S. citizen graduates of international medical schools. A total of 8,753 applicants obtained fellowship positions.

The report examines ten characteristics that contribute to applicants’ success in obtaining a fellowship position in their preferred subspecialty, or the subspecialty ranked first on the applicant’s rank order list. Characteristics include the number of subspecialties ranked; USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3 scores; and the number of research, work, and volunteer experiences. All 63 subspecialties that participated in the SMS for the 2018 appointment year are represented on tables and charts for all specialties; additional specialty-specific tables and charts are included for the 24 subspecialties for which at least 50 positions were offered and at least 50 applicants supplied information for research.

A few highlights from the report:

  • Gastroenterology, Cardiovascular Disease, Hematology/Oncology, and Rheumatology are the most competitive subspecialties based on the numbers of applicants who preferred those specialties compared to the numbers of positions available in each. Geriatric Medicine, Nephrology, Child/Adolescent Psychiatry, and Neuroradiology are the least competitive.
  • Applicants who matched to a position ranked an average of 7.0 programs in their preferred subspecialty before ranking a program in another subspecialty.
  • Unsuccessful applicants ranked an average of 3.6 programs in their preferred subspecialty before ranking a program in another subspecialty.
  • Among U.S. allopathic graduates who matched in their preferred subspecialties, self-reported membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) medical honor society was highest for Hand Surgery (30%) and Infectious Diseases (24%).  Twenty-two percent of U.S. graduates who matched in Cardiovascular Disease, Hematology/Oncology, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, and Pediatric Cardiology self-reported AOA membership.

General Characteristics of Successful Applicants

Charting Outcomes in The Match: Specialties Matching Service®, Appointment Year 2018 shows that across all subspecialties, successful applicants are more likely to:

  • rank more programs within their preferred subspecialty
  • be graduates of U.S. allopathic medical schools
  • have higher USMLE Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 scores
  • be members of AOA

“Although this report demonstrates a strong relationship between USMLE Step scores and Match success, a deeper analysis shows that program directors consider other qualifications,“ said Ms. Signer. “Excellent scores do not guarantee success, and lower scores do not prevent applicants from matching.”

Data-Supported Advice to Applicants

Ms. Signer suggests applicants consider the following advice, which is supported by data in the report:

  • Rank all the programs you really want without regard to your estimate of your chances with those programs.
  • Include a mix of both highly competitive and less competitive programs within your preferred subspecialty.
  • Include all the programs on your list where the program has expressed an interest in you and where you would accept a position.
  • If you are applying to a competitive subspecialty and you would want to have a fellowship position in the event you are unsuccessful in matching to a program in your preferred subspecialty, also rank your most preferred programs in an alternate subspecialty.
  • Include all your qualifications in your application.

Read Charting Outcomes in the Match: Specialties Matching Service, Appointment Year 2018

The Match Process

For applicants, the Main Residency Match process begins in the fall during the final year of medical school, when they apply to the residency programs of their choice. Throughout the fall and early winter, applicants interview with programs. From mid-January to late February, applicants and program directors rank each other in order of preference and submit the preference lists to NRMP, which processes them using a computerized mathematical algorithm to match applicants with programs. Research on the NRMP algorithm was a basis for awarding The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2012.

About NRMP

The National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) is a private, non-profit organization established in 1952 at the request of medical students to provide an orderly and fair mechanism for matching the preferences of applicants for U.S. residency positions with the preferences of residency program directors. In addition to the annual Main Residency Match® for more than 43,000 registrants, the NRMP conducts Fellowship Matches for more than 60 subspecialties through its Specialties Matching Service® (SMS®).

To schedule an interview with NRMP President and CEO Mona M. Signer, contact media@nullnrmp.org. To receive an embargoed copy of the Advance Data Tables on Thursday, March 15, reporters should contact media@nullnrmp.org with their name, outlet, email address, and phone number. Reporters should contact local medical schools and hospitals directly for details on their Match Day ceremonies and residency program activities.