HealthAugust 07, 2015

Residency matching: What you need to know (and score)

Matching to the residency program of one’s choice is a high priority for medical students because it paves the road toward one’s preferred career path. Understanding how the matching process works and what scores are necessary to match into specific specialties is important for any medical students preparing for a residency.

The National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) decides where medical students match by using the Main Residency Match, which administers the process by using certified rank order lists or ROLs. ROLs are established based off of a teaching hostpital’s specific preferences, the student’s qualifications and a variety of other factors used to ensure a successful resident-teaching hospital partnership. Course evaluations, reference letters and the Medical School Performance Evaluation are all taken into consideration, but USMLE Step scores, namely the Step 1, are the most important element in match success.

Now, what score do you need to match to the General Surgery residency you’ve been dreaming of since your 5th birthday, you ask? Thankfully, the NRMP discloses this information in their Charting Outcomes in the Match report. While the complete 2015 Match results are not yet available, here’s NRMP’s graph charting the average 2014 Step 1 scores of matched residents by specialty:

Chart of USMLE Step 1 scores of matched applicants by preferred specialty and applicant type

Here are a few quick facts and graphics gathered from NRMP’s 2015 Main Residency Match:

  • 2015’s Main Residency Match was the largest in its history when measured by number of registrants (41,334), positions offered (30,212) and positions filled (28,906)
  • Of those who matched, 78.4% matched into one of their top three choices
  • Of the 2,949 osteopathic students/graduates to fill out ROLs, 2,339 matched, making their match rate 79.3% (the highest its been in thirty years—go osteopaths!)
  • The top five specialties to which U.S. allopathic medical school seniors matched were: Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine and Medicine-Preliminary
  • The top five specialties to which osteopathic students/graduates matched were: Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology

Screenshot of 2015 Main Residency Match infographic

Pie charts illustrating percent of matches by choice and type of applicant, 2015

Some of you may be comfortable with your Step 1 scores (or ability to score) in order to match to your desired specialty—great! For others, this may serve as a reminder to keep digging deep and aiming for the score necessary to match to that residency of your dreams. Now go forth with this information and get matched!

Firecracker users score a standard deviation higher than the national average on their Step 1. You be the student, let us be the tutor. Try us out with a free trial.


A personalized, digital tutoring experience brought to you by Lippincott.

We put together content and resources written by experts—specifically, medical students who scored high on their own exams and have experience-based insights—and provide it to students in MD, PA, and DO programs to unclog exam prep and curb Stage 4 panic.