• Michael Dworkin, MD

The key to matching into an MD residency as a DO

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

What are reasonable goal scores USMLE scores for DOs hoping to match into MD residencies? What specialties are most accepting of DOs? Read on to find out!


The latest data on what it takes to match as a DO is summarized in the 200+ page NRMP Charting Outcomes in the 2018 Match for Senior Students of U.S. Osteopathic Medical Schools Document. Given the length of this document, the fact that it is not digested, and does not provide recommended goal scores for various specialties, I've gone through the whole document and digested it for you as follows.



What specialties accept the largest numbers of DOs?


Internal medicine (830), family medicine (610 matches), emergency medicine (457), pediatrics (394 matches), anesthesiology (267 matches), psychiatry (237 matches), OBGYN (152 matches), diagnostic radiology (115 matches), physical medicine and rehabilitation (115 matches), neurology (88 matches), general surgery (67 matches), pathology (53 matched), med-ped (46 matched), dermatology (12 matches), child neurology (10 matches), interventional radiology (3 matches), ortho-surgery (4 matches), and neuro-surgery (3 matches).



What specialties have the highest match rates for DOs?


The specialties with the highest match rates (% match rate) are pathology (93%), internal medicine (92.8%), child neurology (90.9%), family medicine (90.6%), anesthesiology (90.2%), pediatrics (88.7%), med-peds (85.2%), diagnostic radiology (81%), emergency medicine (81.9%), psychiatry (72.5%), physical medicine and rehabilitation (66.9%), OBGYN (61.3%), general surgery (50%), dermatology (38.7%), neuro-surgery (30%), ortho-surgery (23.5), and interventional radiology (15%).




What are the most important factors for matching as a DO?


COMLEX Level 1 and Level 2 CE, as well as USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores.


The length of the rank order list (rank as many places as you interview at that you'd be willing to match at).


Letters of recommendation and clinical grades are also key.



What are the average USMLE/COMLEX scores for DOs who matched vs those who did not match overall?


DOs who matched vs those who did not match had an average USMLE Step 1 scores of 227 and 220 and USMLE Step 2 CK scores of 240 and 232.


DOs who matched vs those who did not match had an average COMLEX Level 1 scores of 547 and 509 and COMLEX Level 2 CE scores of 584 and 527.



What do I mean by a reasonable goal score?


A reasonable goal scores should be used to help figure out how high you should try to aim when studying for the USMLE in order to be confident that you'll have a solid score on the real deal. A good goal score should account for the possibility that your actual exam score may differ from your average practice test score.



What are reasonable goal Step 1 scores for various specialties for DOs?


By "reasonable goal score", I mean the mean score of matched applicants + 5 points.


245 - reasonable goal score for dermatology, neuro-surgery, and ortho-surgery, diagnostic radiology, and interventional radiology.

240 - reasonable goal score for general surgery and med-peds.

235 - reasonable goal score for anesthesiology, emergency medicine, neurology, OBGYN, and neurology.

230 - reasonable goal score for physical medicine and rehabilitation, internal medicine, child neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and pathology.

225 - reasonable goal score for family medicine.



What are reasonable goal Step 2 CK scores for various specialties for DOs?


By "reasonable goal score", I mean the mean score of matched applicants + 5 points.


255 - reasonable goal score for dermatology.

250 - reasonable goal score for general surgery, ortho-surgery, and neuro-surgery, diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, and med-peds.

245 - reasonable goal score for child neurology, emergency medicine, and OBGYN.

240 - reasonable goal score for anesthesiology, internal medicine, neurology, pathology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

235 - reasonable goal score for family medicine.



What are reasonable goal COMLEX Level 1 scores for various specialties?


By "reasonable goal score", I mean the mean score of matched applicants rounded up to the next highest increment of 25 points.


650 - reasonable goal score for interventional radiology.

625 - reasonable goal score for general surgery, neuro-surgery, and ortho-surgery.

575 - reasonable goal score for internal medicine, med-peds, OBGYN, pathology, child neurology, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine.

550 - reasonable goal score for neurology.

525 - reasonable goal score for pediatrics, psychiatry, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

500 - reasonable goal score for family medicine.


What are reasonable goal COMLEX Level 2 CE scores for various specialties?


By "reasonable goal score", I mean the mean score of matched applicants rounded up to the next highest increment of 25 points.


700 - reasonable goal score for interventional radiology, dermatology, ortho-surgery, and neuro-surgery.

675 - reasonable goal score for general surgery.

650 - reasonable goal score for diagnostic radiology.

625 - reasonable goal score for anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and OBGYN.

600 - reasonable goal score for internal medicine, med-peds, and neurology.

575 - reasonable goal score for child neurology, and pathology

550 - reasonable goal score for pediatrics, psychiatry, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.

525 - reasonable goal score for family medicine.




How to calculate your probability of matching into a specialty with a given COMLEX Level 1 score?


See the charting outcomes document here and look at the second graph listed for each specialty to see a plot of probability of matching versus Step 1 score for DOs. For example, for family medicine ("FM"), see Graph FM-2 in the document. This graph shows that US and non-US IMGs with USMLE scores above 475 and 550 respectively have 90 and 95% percent chance of matching into family medicine. The flat slope of Graph-FM-2 tells us that FM "does not care too much " about COMLEX Level 1.



How many programs should I rank?


Rank each program that you would be willing to attend, in the order you would prefer to attend them. The only reason not to rank a particular program is if you would rather not match than be forced to match into that program.



Take home advice


The most important take homes are to have reasonable goals, maximize your USMLE/COMLEX scores, apply to many programs, and, rank all the programs you would be willing to attend. For which specific factors on your application are most important at getting a residency interview and determining your rank on the rank order list, check out this blog post.



More advice


MedSchoolGurus has extensive experience working with DOs in the context of the residency match as well as in preparation for USMLE/COMLEX exams. One of our DO-Gurus scored 267 on USMLE Step 1 and 800 on COMLEX Level 1. If you need further guidance, check out our webpage at medschoolgurus.com. If you are interested in individualized 1:1 guidance, email us at info@medschoolgurus.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation.