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West J Emerg Med. 2017 Jan;18(1):126-128. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2016.10.31496. Epub 2016 Nov 23.

What Do They Want from Us? A Survey of EM Program Directors on EM Application Criteria.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Department of Emergency Medicine, San Antonio, Texas.



Although a relatively young specialty, emergency medicine (EM) is popular among medical students and is one of the most competitive large specialties. Consequently, students increasingly seek more opportunity to differentiate themselves from their colleagues by pursuing more clerkships at the cost of taking out additional loans: this despite the fact that those who match in EM typically do so in their top three choices. We sought to ascertain what factors EM program directors seek in their typical candidate.


We recruited EM program directors via the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors email listserv to participate in an anonymous survey regarding the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), the number of standardized letters of evaluation (SLOE), and the number of EM rotations during the fourth year.


135 respondents completed the anonymous survey: 59% of respondents stated their program did not have a minimum USMLE Step 1 score, but 39% reported a minimum score of 210 or higher; 95% of programs do not require Step 2 to grant an interview, but 46% require it to place the student on the rank list; 80% require only one EM rotation to grant an interview and none require more than two; 95% of programs will accept two SLOEs for both application and rank list placement.


For the typical EM applicant, there is likely little benefit to performing more than two rotations and obtaining more than two SLOEs. Students can defer USMLE Step 2 but must complete it by the time rank lists are due. Our study was limited by the anonymity of the survey, and comments by the respondents revealed the questions did not account for some nuances programs apply to their application review process.

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Conflict of interest statement

By the WestJEM article submission agreement, all authors are required to disclose all affiliations, funding sources and financial or management relationships that could be perceived as potential sources of bias. The authors disclosed none.

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