Resident Selection in the Wake of United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Transition to Pass/Fail Scoring

Collaborative Orthopaedic Educational Research Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: The numeric score for the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 is one of the only universal, objective, scaled criteria for comparing the many students who apply to orthopaedic surgery residency. However, on February 12, 2020, it was announced that Step 1 would be transitioning to pass/fail scoring. The purpose of this study was to (1) determine the most important factors used for interview and resident selection after this change and (2) to assess how these factors have changed compared with a previous report on resident selection. METHODS: A survey was distributed to the program directors (PDs) of all 179 orthopaedic surgery programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Questions focused on current resident selection practices and the impact of the Step 1 score transition on expected future practices. RESULTS: A total of 78 PDs (44%) responded to the survey. Over half of PDs (59%) responded that United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 2 clinical knowledge (CK) score is the factor that will increase most in importance after Step 1 transitions to pass/fail, and 90% will encourage applicants to include their Step 2 CK score on their applications. The factors rated most important in resident selection from zero to 10 were subinternship performance (9.05), various aspects of interview performance (7.49 to 9.01), rank in medical school (7.95), letters of recommendation (7.90), and Step 2 CK score (7.27). Compared with a 2002 report, performance on manual skills testing, subinternship performance, published research, letters of recommendations, and telephone call on applicants' behalf showed notable increases in importance. DISCUSSION: As Step 2 CK is expected to become more important in the residency application process, current applicant stress on Step 1 scores may simply move to Step 2 CK scores. Performance on subinternships will remain a critical aspect of residency application, as it was viewed as the most important resident selection factor and has grown in importance compared with a previous report.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)865-873
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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