You can increase your chances of matching in a U.S. residency program by studying the underlying processes of the match. The system is structured around an algorithm that should guide your approach. With an understanding of how to tailor your application and a timeline for submission and prep, your chances of securing a match will see a dramatic increase.

The Algorithm

Like most modern interview processes, the U.S. clinical residency match is directed by an algorithm designed to select the best qualified candidate through a set equation. The algorithm selects for three major criteria:

  • USMLE scores
  • Relevant clinical experience
  • Interview Performance

Your USMLE scores are a fixed variable at the stage of the match process at which you are submitting documents. Therefore, your best strategy to increase your match chances are by presenting relevant clinical experience in the best light and going into your interview prepared.

Aligning Your Application with the Algorithm

The best way to make sure that your application lines up with the right criteria is by starting with  a review of the NRMP Program Director Survey and Charting IMG Outcomes to uncover the areas of your application that matter the most based on your specialty, like personal statements, letters of recommendation, etc.

Match Schedule

The residency match proceeds on a fixed schedule with late submissions being penalized by fees and decreased chances of acceptance. Your efforts throughout match season should line up tightly with the established match schedule.

  • Clinical rotations should be completed before September or should continue into interview season
  • Letters of recommendation should be finalized when applications are sent out to lower risk of program evaluating an incomplete application
  • Personal Statements and other supporting docs should be finalized in August so that applications can focus on program selection in September
  • ERAS applications and all other information should be finalized by September 6th if possible, but no later than September 15th
  • Interviews are scheduled between September to February, with most most occuring in October and November
  • Applicants who get less than 6 interview should prepare for SOAP
  • All supporting documents should be updated and finalized the Sunday prior to SOAP

By Pedram Mizani, MD, MHSA, family physician and chief clinical officer of the AmeriClerkships Medical Society

Published in Residency Program Alert* on September 2017

September 15 marks the start of the main residency Match season. For the most part, each residency program’s highly tailored—and often subjective—residency application screening process yields a high enough number of interviewees to provide an adequate statistical probability for the National Resident Matching Program’s (NRMP) Match algorithm to consistently fill about 95% of residency slots. However, the process and outcome for the unfilled 5% of slots that are reintroduced to residency candidates during the annual Match week’s Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program are the subject of incredible debate and anxiety. Many residency programs struggle with the regret of having to rank candidates with whom they were not 100% comfortable, on top of “missed opportunities” from not having invited—or having the interview slots to invite—more suitable applicants, especially when precious interview spots were misallocated.

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Overton, R., & Dunleavy, D. (2017). The AAMC standardized video interview. [Webinar]. Retrieved from


  • The copyrights to this blog and all rights to it are reserved by AmeriClerkships Medical Society.
  • Test names and other trademarks such as ERAS, ECFMG, SOAP, NRMP and the Match are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with AmeriClerkships Medical Society or this website.
  • Published with permission from HCPro/Residency Program Alert. Also published on HCPro.
  • About Residency Program Alert: Residency program managers in all specialties are challenged to effectively manage their programs as accrediting agencies focus on outcome measures, the core competencies, proper documentation, resident supervision, and program, faculty, and resident evaluation. Add to those responsibilities the challenge to prepare for site visits, develop budgets for your program, and mitigate legal risks. Residency Program Alert is the source you need to confidently meet these challenges. This monthly resource provides residency managers with essential tips, tools, and best practices from the most well-respected, in-the-trenches experts. Dr. Pedram Mizani, the AmeriClerkships’ Chief Clinical Officer, is a writer and contributors to Residency Program Alert.