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How to Match into an ENT Residency Program 2021

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An ENT resident using an otoscope to examine her patient.


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/PDSurvey2020-Final/Desktoptablet

Selection Criteria for an ENT 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.

2019 Survey for Comparison
2021 Survey










  • 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 ranking 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: 82% 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.



Step 1 and Step 2 CK Scores:

  • Step 1 – Score
    • 250 is the median score above which programs almost always grant interviews
    • 225 is the median score for which programs typically do NOT offer interviews

    Step 2CK – Score

    • 255 is the median score above which programs almost always grant interviews
    • 227.5 is the median score below which programs generally do NOT grant interviews

    COMLEX Level 1 – Score

    • 622.5 is the median score above which programs often grant interviews
    • 600 is the median score below which programs generally do NOT grant interviews

    COMLEX Level 2 – Score

    • No data



Failing Step 1 is likely to be a show stopper: 

  • Failing Step 1 is a BIG deal in ANY specialty, and this is especially relevant in ENT. 67% of ENT programs will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 1, and 65% 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. In the same vein, 77% and 70% respectively of programs will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Level 1 or Level 2-CE.


Types of Applicants Considered for ENT Residency:

  • International Grads (U.S. and non-U.S.) are more likely to have difficulty matching into ENT: There are very few programs (4%) that consider interviewing or ranking IMGs (U.S. and non-U.S.) on a routine basis. 20% never consider a U.S. IMG for an interview or rank. If you are a non-US IMG, the chances are even lower, with 40% 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 20% of programs will routinely interview DO applicants, and only 4% often rank them. 56% of programs will never interview a DO applicant. If you are a DO candidate, it is very important to do your research to identify these programs so that you can best increase your chances of matching.



SOAP Communications for ENT

  • 28% of programs have no communication other than receipt of the ERAS application. 20% prefer no communication from the applicants and will initiate the contact themselves. 
  • 24% prefer to be contacted by the applicant’s medical school after the program has initiated contact. 
  • Thus, it is reasonable to look into the programs that you are applying to and determine if you should pursue additional contact to increase your chances of receiving an interview.


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 ENT, 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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