How to Match into a Neurology Residency Program
This blog post was originally posted on September 21st, 2019, and updated by Dr. Christina Boada in September 2023.
Acceptance Factors for Matching into a Neurology Residency Program
Residency application season is coming! Today we’re looking at what you need 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 an interactive table tool. This 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 table tool can be found here. We recommend taking a look at the specialty you’ll be applying to before submitting your ERAS packet. Given the recent changes in the 2024 residency application process, we have also included more recent data collected from the NRMP Main Match Results 2023. As well as the AAMC ERAS Statistics for 2022 and 2023.
Selection Criteria for a Neurology Residency Interview
- USMLE Exams: Passing Step 1 is important, as is having an appropriate Step 2 CK score. Based on the publicly available data from NRMP, the mean Step 2 CK score for match Neurology applicants was 246, and the average Step 2 CK score for unmatched applicants was 229. If you took Step 1 prior to it becoming pass/fail, the most recent data reports the mean Step 1 score of matched applicants at 233, and unmatched applicants at 217. If you are an IMG, keep in mind that program directors may pay closer attention to your scores. Per the most recent survey of neurology program directors, only 30% of programs required a target score on Step 2 CK in order to grant an interview for US MD applicants, while 49% of programs required a target Step 2 CK score to grant an interview for IMG applicants. Rest assured that Neurology, unlike programs like Dermatology or Plastic Surgery, tends to be less competitive. A low score is unlikely to preclude you from matching. Only 8 of the 473 applicants included in the NRMP survey were unmatched in 2022.
- Letters of recommendation: While your USMLE exam scores will be helpful when it comes to passing a preliminary screen, your letters of recommendation are the other key factor in helping you get an interview. Neurology is a small subspecialty, and thus having an endorsement from someone in the field who knows you well carries a lot of weight.
- Medical Student Performance Evaluation: Notably, according to the NRMP program director survey, in addition to USMLE scores, the medical student performance evaluation was one of the most utilized components in determining who to provide an interview. Keep in mind this document is a summary of all of your performance in medical school. It takes into account your performance in clinical rotations, research, volunteer, and other work experience.
Interview Process in Neurology
- Interviewees Get Ranked! If you get an interview invitation, you are very likely to end up on the rank list if you interview. In the program director survey, on average 92.9% of the individuals who interviewed were subsequently ranked. We recommend ranking about 8-12 programs depending on how competitive you are. 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. Note the mean number of ranked programs for matched applicants was 14.5, and for unmatched applicants 5.5.
- Expect to receive most interview invitations by November. Interview offers will be sent out between October and January of the application cycle. Note that often these are offered on a first come first serve basis, so be sure to pay close attention to your email so as to not miss the opportunity to interview. Often the most convenient interview days will fill rapidly!
- Expect to interview in November/December. Most interviews take place 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, or our recorded session on virtual interviews!
Types of Applicants Considered for Neurology Residency:
- International Grads (U.S. and non-U.S.) should not face barriers matching into neurology in most cases. 50% of US programs often interview US IMGs, while 45% often interview non-US IMGs. Based on the 2022 survey, 9% and 6% 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. Only 7% of programs will never interview DO grads. 67% of US neurology programs report interviewing DO seniors often. For the 26% 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
Unfortunately, given the NRMP wanted to accommodate more questions about the virtual interview format in 2021, questions about the SOAP have been eliminated from the NRMP survey. However, based on the last available information from 2022, 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.
Summary for Neurology Residency Applications:
- A solid neurology application would include:
- passing Step 1
- 230+ on Step 2, 550+ in Level 1
- LORa from 1-3 neurologists
- one LOR from medicine
- good grades in your neurology clerkship
- a strong MSPE letter
- 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.
- Expect Interviews in November-December. 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).
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 Elite Medical Prep residency advising services.