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How to Match into a Neurology Residency Program

11 min


Neurology resident looking at a model of a brain.


Acceptance Factors for Matching into a Neurology Residency Program


Residency application season is coming and today we’re looking at what you need in order to successfully match into a Neurology Residency Program! The NRMP conducted a survey to determine what factors Program Directors consider when deciding which candidates to interview and rank for their residency program. 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 a Neurology Residency Interview

  • Having an appropriate Step 1 or Level 1 score in neurology is an important factor, but the good news is that your goals for these do not have to be in the egregiously high range that specialties like Dermatology and Neurosurgery expect! As we’ll detail below, getting a Step score of >220 is just fine in most cases, and even below that is not a problem as long as you apply more broadly. After this, having good grades in the Neurology clerkship is key.
2019 Survey for Comparison
2020 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 about 8-12 programs depending on how competitive you are, so once you receive this many 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 most interview invitations by October: 44% of the interview invitations will be sent out during October, with 23% happening prior to this and the remainder after. If you haven’t heard from neurology programs by the end of October you do still have a chance to hear from them, but this is the most common timeframe.


  • Expect to interview in November/December: A combined 68% of interviews happen starting in November, which gives you ample time to prepare for your interviews. For further discussion on how to prep for your interview, see our blog post on how to Crush your Residency Interview: https://elitemedicalprep.com/preparing-for-your-residency-interview/



Step 1 and Step 2 CK Scores:

Step 1 – Score

  • 237.5 is the median score above which programs almost always grant interviews
  • 215 is the median score for which programs typically do NOT offer interviews

Step 2CK – Score

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

COMLEX Level 1 – Score

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

COMLEX Level 2 – Score

  • 580 is the median score above which programs almost always grant interviews
  • 430 is the median score below which programs generally do NOT grant interviews
  • 600+ is a very solid score in neurology, with the median at which interviews are granted being 550.


  • Range programs do NOT typically offer interviews: The median score at which programs will usually not offer an interview is 455 – so if you score lower than this you should apply broadly, but don’t let it stop you from applying in the field!


Failing Step 1 is moderately likely to be a show stopper: 

Failing Step 1 or Level 1 is a big deal in any specialty, but luckily this is not as pivotal in neurology as in some specialties. 16% of neurology programs will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 1, and 17% will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 2 CK. So, if you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply, but you should apply to a large number (30+) of programs. 84% and 83% of programs seldomly consider applicants who have failed Step 1 and Step 2, respectively.

Types of Applicants Considered for Neurology Residency:

  • International Grads (U.S. and non-U.S.) will not face significant barriers matching into neurology in most cases: 36% of US programs often interview US IMGs, while 28% often interview non-US IMGs. Only 4% and 8% report never interviewing US and non-US IMGs, respectively. While this factor may lower how competitive your application is in a few cases, it is not prohibitive for this field.


  • Osteopathic graduates have a good chance to match into neurology: No programs reported never interviewing DO seniors. Only 16% of programs will never interview DO grads, and the same percentage never rank them. 76% of US neurology programs report interviewing DO seniors often. For the 24% of programs that seldom interview DO seniors, it is worth doing your research to identify these programs so that you can best increase your chances of matching.



SOAP Communications for Neurology

  • 25% of programs have no communication other than receipt of the ERAS application. 42% prefer no communication from the applicants and will initiate the contact themselves. 
  • 21% 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 Neurology Residency Applications:

  • A solid neurology application would include a 230+ on Step 1, 220+ on Step 2, 550+ in Level 1, a LOR from 1-3 neurologists as well as one LOR from medicine, and good grades in your neurology clerkship
  • Neurology is more IMG and DO friendly than many of the specialties! If you’re an IMG or completing a DO program you can still be a competitive applicant in this field. 
  • If you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply in neurology, but you should apply more broadly than you would otherwise and may want to apply for a back-up specialty.
  • Expect Interviews in November-December. Reach out to programs you have high interest in if you haven’t heard from them by mid-October. Once you have about 10 interview invitations, you can consider being a bit more selective 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 anesthesia, 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.

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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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