Acceptance Factors for Matching into Anesthesia for Residency

9 min



From A Program Director Viewpoint: What You Need to Match into an Anesthesia Residency

The NRMP directors survey “at a glance” tool is designed to “assist Main Residency Match applicants in determining their goodness of fit for specialties,” according to their website. The tool is actually very useful in gauging where your application packet stands compared to the applicant pool, and can also help determine whether adding additional components (like a letter of recommendation (LOR)) could give you a leg up as programs review your application. Since this tool is so useful, we have taken the liberty of creating our specialty specific NRMP Chances of Matching series where every couple days we will be evaluating what it takes to match into a given specialty.

To kick off our series, we will be starting today with an analysis of what you need to successfully match into Anesthesia! We highly recommend going through this overview and seeing how you stack up before submitting your ERAS packet, as the following will be very helpful in evaluating the importance of certain application materials, as well as your realistic chances of matching.


Here are the major components of the survey you should pay attention to for Anesthesia Residency (from top to bottom of the page):

  • Selection Criteria – Your Step 1 score is a MAJOR factor for Anesthesia. Having an LOR in the specialty is also highly recommended.

To break things down a bit further regarding score importance for Anesthesia lets get into the following:

  • Step 1 Score – 230+ looks like a solid score for applying into Anesthesia
    • Range programs do NOT typically offer interviews to students below 215-220. 215-220 on USMLE Step 1 seems to be the minimum threshold we would recommend for having a good chance at enough interviews. If you’re below 215-220 range, we suggest having a back-up specialty you could consider.
    • Range programs DO typically offer interviews to students coming in at or above 230. 230+ seems to be the range at which you can feel comfortable in being offered interviews by a decent number of programs. If you’re in the 250+ range, you can likely be selective about where you apply.
  • Step 2 – Yes, you SHOULD take it! 
    • 60%+ of programs required at least passing CK, and we expect this number to continue to grow. So, please make sure you will have your USMLE Step 2 score in by Early October at the latest.
    • In preparing for Step 2, you’re going to want to shoot for 220+. Treat USMLE Step 2 as a “minimum threshold” since USMLE Step 2 is generally looked at secondarily to Step 1. 220+ seems to be the target you need to be to feel comfortable for Anesthesia residency.

Now, if you just read that last bit and thought, “but what if I failed USMLE Step 1 on my first try…” there is still hope for you in matching into Anesthesia!

  • Failing Step 1 is NOT a show stopper!
    •  While it’s true that failing USMLE Step 1 is a BIG deal in ANY specialty, 2/3 of Anesthesia residency programs MAY still consider you if you’ve failed Step 1/Step 2. So, if you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply, but we HIGHLY recommend you apply to a big number (100+) of programs.

  • Also, International Grads are a GO!
    • >1/3 of programs routinely consider IMGs, and only 10% never do. We still recommend doing your homework to determine which programs are more likely to consider IMGs, and advise you to apply to a lot of programs.

A couple other things that you should know applying into Anesthesia are:

  • Interviewees Get Ranked!
    •  If you get an interview invitation, you’re 90% likely to end up on the rank list if you choose to interview. We recommend making a rankings list of at least 10-15 programs. This way, once you’ve got 15 interview invitations, you can feel okay with starting to prioritize and cancel as more come in given you’re likely to get ranked.
  • Expect interview invitations from late Sept to mid Nov: If you’re falling short of 10-15 interviews by Thanksgiving, start reaching out to programs you are REALLY interested in to express interest in interviewing to beef up your rank list.
  • Expect to interview in Nov/Dec! 


Summary of Anesthesia Residency Applications:

  • A solid anesthesia application would include a 230+ on Step 1, 220+ on Step 2, an LOR from an Anesthesiologist, and a decently strong MSPE. 
  • Anesthesia seems relatively IMG friendly, but we still recommend doing your homework, especially identifying programs with active IMG residents. 
  • If you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply in Anesthesia, but you should apply very broadly.
  • Expect Interviews Late Sept-Mid Nov. Reach out to programs you have high interest in if you haven’t heard from them by Thanksgiving. Once you have about 15 interview invitations, you can start being picky about which ones you actually take (but not before).

Good Luck!


Wondering about your chances of matching into other specialties for residency? Check out our analysis of the NRMP directors survey “at a glance” tool for areas including neurology, dermatology, family medicine, transitional year, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and more under the Residency Applications category of our blog! If you need further or specialized assistance understanding which residency specialties you are best suited to apply to, you can contact us or visit our residency advising page to learn more about how Elite Medical Prep residency advising services.

For reference, the full interactive table tool can be found here:!/vizhome/PDSurvey_0/Desktoptablet

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About the Author

Martin B., MD

Before graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from the University of Miami in 2007, Martin Bauknight was awarded the Excellence in Teaching award…

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