NYMC Faculty Publications

Underrepresented Applicants Post-USMLE Pass/Fail: A National Survey of Competitive Residency Directors

Author Type(s)

Student, Faculty

Journal Title

Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development

First Page


Document Type


Publication Date



Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


OBJECTIVE: To report the selection criteria important to residency program directors (PDs) and whether they believe pass/fail scoring will impact underrepresented in medicine (URM), International Medical Graduate (IMG), or osteopathic (DO) residency applicants after the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) changed Step 1 score reporting to pass/fail in January 2022. METHODS: A Qualtrics survey was sent between August 2022 and January 2023 to 1141 US PDs from specialties with traditionally low residency selection rates: dermatology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, interventional radiology, diagnostic radiology, radiation oncology, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery, plastic surgery, and urology. Contact information was obtained from AMA, FRIEDA, or program websites. RESULTS: We received 433 responses (38%). When asked to anticipate the difficulty student groups will face matching into their specialty, PDs reported: for URM, 24.0% increased, 46.0% unchanged, and 30.0% decreased; for DO, 49.19% increased, 44.58% unchanged, and 6.23% decreased and for IMG, 56.35% increased, 39.72% unchanged, and 3.93% decreased. When asked to rank the most important selection factors, the top two responses were Step 2 CK score and away rotation participation at their site. CONCLUSION: PDs overwhelmingly believed residency selection difficulty would either increase or remain unchanged for DO (93.77%) and IMG (96.07%). In contrast, 76.0% reported difficulty for URM students would either decrease or remain unchanged. PDs ranked Step 2 CK score and away rotation participation as the most important selection factors. Despite PDs' belief that the Step 1 pass/fail scoring system may mitigate one barrier for URM students, emphasis on Step 2 CK and away rotations place additional barriers.