What You Need to Match into ENT for Residency

10 min



How to Match into an Otolaryngology (ENT) Residency Program


Residency application season is upon us and today we’re looking at what it takes to successfully match into an Otolaryngology (ENT) residency program! The NRMP conducted a survey to determine what factors Program Directors considered for residency matching when deciding which candidates to interview. The results were compiled into a “at a glance” tool, which is extremely helpful in gauging where your application packet stands compared to the applicant pool, and whether adding additional components, like a letter of recommendation (LOR) in the specialty, could give you a leg up as programs review your application.

The interactive tableau tool can be found here, and we recommend taking a look at the specialty you’ll be applying to before submitting your ERAS packet: https://public.tableau.com/profile/national.resident.matching.program#!/vizhome/PDSurvey_0/Desktoptablet


For ENT residency interview matching, major components of the survey you should pay attention to include: (from top to bottom of the page):

  • Selection Criteria for an Interview LOR in the specialty is a MAJOR factor, while having an appropriate Step 1 score and a strong personal statement are also highly recommended.


  • Step 1 and Step 2 Scores:

  • Step 1 – Score


      • 258+ looks like a very solid score in Otolaryngology, with the median being 250.
      • Range programs do NOT typically offer interviews: 220-230 seems to be the minimum threshold we would recommend for having a good chance at enough interviews. If you’re below 220-230 range, we suggest having a back-up specialty you could consider.
      • Range programs DO typically offer interviews: 250+ 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 258+ range, you can likely be selective about where you apply.


  • Step 2CK – Score


      • 220-240 seems to be the minimum threshold at which programs will grant interviews
      • Scores below 230 generally will place you in a unfavorable position to receive an interview 


  • Step 2CK – Timing of Taking the Exam
  • Only 12% of programs required at least passing CK, although we do expect this number to grow. You can wait to take Step 2CK until after you have submitted ERAS.


  • Failing Step 1 is more likely to be a show stopper: 
    • Failing Step 1 is a BIG deal in ANY specialty, and this is especially relevant in Otolaryngology. 56% of ENT programs will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 1, and 58% will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 2. So, if you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply, but you should apply to a BIG number (100+) of programs. 44% and 42% of programs seldom consider applicants who have failed Step 1 and Step 2, respectively.

Types of Applicants Considered for Residency:

  • International Grads (U.S. and non-U.S.) are more likely to have difficulty matching into Otolaryngology: There are very few programs (3%) that consider interviewing or ranking IMGs (U.S. and non-U.S.) on a routine basis. 50-56% consider U.S. IMGs seldom, and 24% never consider an IMG for an interview or rank. If you are a non-US IMG, the chances are even lower, with 44% of programs never considering such an applicant. We recommend doing your homework to determine which programs may be more likely to consider IMGs, and definitely recommend a back-up specialty to apply into.
  • Osteopathic graduates may have a chance to match into ENT: Only 6% of programs will routinely interview or rank DO applicants. 38-44% of programs will never interview or rank a DO applicant. With the remaining 50-56% that seldom consider DO applicants, it is very important to do your research to identify these programs so that you can best increase your chances of matching.

  • Interviewees Get Ranked!: If you get an interview invitation, you are very likely to end up on the rank list if you interview. We recommend making a rankings list of at least 8-10 programs, so once you receive 10 interview invitations, you can feel okay with starting to prioritize and cancel as more come in given you are likely to get ranked.
  • Expect to receive interview invitations in October-November: 84% of the interview invitations will be sent out during October-November. Expect to hear very little from ENT programs for the first month after you submit your ERAS.
  • Expect to interview in December/January: Only 12% of interviews will occur before December, which gives you ample time to prepare. For further discussion on how to prep for your interview, see our blog post on How to Crush your Residency Interview.


After you’ve browsed your specialty, take a look at a few other specialties and note what’s NOT important for ENT residency matching:

  • Clerkship grades aren’t particularly important in ENT
  • The MSPE/Dean’s letter isn’t particularly important for ENT
  • Involvement in research isn’t as important in ENT as in other specialties



Summary for ENT Residency Applications:


  • A solid ENT application would include a 250+ on Step 1, 255+ on Step 2, a LOR from 1-3 otolaryngologists, and a strong personal statement. 
  • ENT does not seem particularly IMG friendly, but it certainly is possible to match as an IMG if you do your research to identify programs with active IMG residents and establish proper connections.
  • If you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply in Otolaryngology, but you should apply very broadly and apply for a back-up specialty.
  • Expect Interviews in December-January. Reach out to programs you have high interest in if you haven’t heard from them by mid-November. Once you have about 10 interview invitations, you can consider being a bit more selective about which ones you actually take (but not before).


If you need help in applying for a residency program, our residency advisors are highly experienced in application and interview preparation.

Good Luck! ☺ 


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About the Author

Caleb McEntire, MD

In 2010, Caleb McEntire graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University with his Sc.B. in Cognitive Neuroscience. After working in several other fields including food…

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