Perceived Impact of USMLE Step 1 Score Reporting to Pass/Fail on Otolaryngology Applicant Selection

Ishwarya S. Mamidi, Alex Gu, Collin F. Mulcahy, Chapman Wei, Philip E. Zapanta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: Recently, the decision was made to transition the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 score from a three-digit numerical score to a pass/fail system. Historically, Step 1 scores have been important for otolaryngology resident applicant selection. The purpose of this study was to understand and evaluate otolaryngology residency program directors’ (OPDs) opinions on the impact following the change in Step 1 score reporting. Methods: A 22-question survey administered through Qualtrics was sent to 113 academic otolaryngology residency program directors in April 2020. Information about demographics, impressions on the new Step 1 score format, anticipated changes in applicant selection, impact on mental health, and importance of various other factors in selecting applicants were queried. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze survey results. Results: A total of 41 out of 113 (36.3%) OPDs completed this survey. A majority of surveyed OPDs (80.5%) do not support the decision to change Step 1 to a pass/fail system. In the absence of a three digit numeric USMLE Step 1 score, OPDs indicated prioritization of away rotations, letters of recommendation (LORs), personal prior knowledge of the applicant, grades in required clerkship, and class ranking or quartile. 53.7% of OPDs anticipate requiring USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge for interview consideration following this change. Conclusion: OPDs believe a pass/fail Step 1 score will decrease the importance of this exam and that this change will lead to the implementation and evaluation of additional metrics such as a required Step 2 CK score.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-511
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • USMLE step 1
  • medical education
  • otolaryngology
  • program directors
  • residency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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