Due to electronic residency applications, US Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 scores are frequently used by orthopedic surgery program directors to screen applicants. Prospective applicants therefore often use Step 1 scores as a proxy for specialty competitiveness. The goal of this investigation was two-fold: (1) to determine whether trends in Step 1 scores are indicative of trends in competitiveness of orthopedic surgery and (2) to report the characteristics that optimize a US medical student’s match success. A retrospective review of published National Resident Matching Program data from 2009 to 2018 was performed for orthopedic surgery residency applicants. Additional data from the Charting Outcomes reports were used for specific analyses of applicant characteristics. From 2009 to 2018, the number of orthopedic surgery residency positions grew at an annual rate of 1.51% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.37% to 1.64%; P<.001), accommodating the 1.26% (95% CI, 0.63% to 1.90%; P=.006) annual increase in the number of applicants who ranked orthopedic surgery as their preferred specialty choice (only choice or first choice). There were no significant changes in the applicant-to-position ratio (95% CI, -0.85% to 0.37%; P=.483) or the match rate for US seniors who ranked orthopedic surgery as their preferred choice (95% CI, -0.23% to 0.87%; P=.313). Increases in mean Step 1 scores of matched orthopedic surgery applicants parallel national Step 1 growth trends (0.49% vs 0.44%, respectively). Although orthopedic surgery is currently a competitive specialty to match into, this has been the case since 2009. Increasing Step 1 scores of matched applicants is not unique to orthopedic surgery and should not be misinterpreted as a proxy for increasing competitiveness of the specialty.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine