top of page

Importance of the USMLE

Home  >  Specialty  >  Otolaryngology  >  Importance of the USMLE

USMLE Step 1 and 2 CK:  10 Important Points for the Otolaryngology Residency Applicant

1. In 2018, the mean USMLE Step 1 score among U.S. seniors who matched to otolaryngology was 248. Among unmatched U.S. seniors, the mean score was 238. 

2. In a survey of 34 otolaryngology residency programs, 97% cited the USMLE as a factor in selecting applicants to interview. “As some residency programs are becoming more competitive because of either the reduction in the number of positions or the increase in the number of applicants, the USMLE scores are being used in various ways in making decisions on whom to select for interviews,” writes the University of Washington School of Medicine. “The following programs consistently use the scores in the screening process: Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Neurosurgery, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Radiology, Surgery, and Urology.”



3. Among the reasons for the importance of the USMLE in the selection process is the desire to select residents who will pass the American Board of Otolaryngology board certification examination.

4.  In one study, the USMLE Step 1 score was a significant predictor of success during otolaryngology residency.

5. Although otolaryngology programs differ in how USMLE Step 1 scores are used in the residency selection process, the score is an important factor used to make interview decisions. 65% of programs have established a target score while 35% look for evidence of a passing score. "We do not have a minimum USMLE score requirement," writes the Department of Otolaryngology at NYU.  "However, our program is highly competitive and the average score of our applicants is usually 235 and greater."  

6. Applicants with lower USMLE Step 1 scores may have difficulty matching with otolaryngology residency programs. 8% percent of U.S. seniors with scores < 240 failed to match in 2018.



7. The USMLE Step 2 CK score is also a factor used by many otolaryngology residency programs in deciding whom to invite for interviews. 29% of programs use the Step 2 CK score in their decision-making process.



8. Should you take the USMLE Step 2 CK exam before applying to otolaryngology? The decision should be based on your Step 1 performance and the requirements of the programs you’re applying to. Traditionally, applicants have been told that if the Step 1 score is competitive for matching, then you can take the Step 2 CK later. However, an increasing number of programs are requiring the Step 2 CK score for interview consideration. Please also note that there are some programs that will not place applicants on the rank-order list unless the USMLE Step 2 CK exam is passed. 


9. Some programs want to see Step 2 scores before rank-order lists are due for submission in February. A review of program websites will allow for proper planning.


10. When otolaryngology residency program directors were asked, “Would your program consider applicants who fail their [Step 1] exam on the 1st attempt,” 56% of programs indicated that they never do and 44% reported that they seldom do. At MD2B and The Successful Match, we have helped applicants overcome such obstacles, and you are welcome to contact us for more information.

Some applicants are concerned about their chances of matching in the specialty or securing a position in highly competitive residency programs.


If you have such concerns, consider our Strategy for Success Session with Dr. Samir Desai.


Dr. Desai will perform a comprehensive review of your credentials, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with a specific plan to implement tailored to your unique situation and school.


This plan will significantly improve your chances of a successful outcome.

bottom of page