Average 2020 USMLE® Step 1 Match Scores by Medical Specialty

Sophie Moran - Jul 01, 2021

Update:  On January 26, 2022, the USMLE®  Step 1 exam became pass/fail. This means you are no longer dependent on the previous three-digit score. Read the official USMLE announcement here.

The USMLE® Step 1 exam has long been considered the exam with the greatest impact on your medical school career. This remains true for all students taking the exam before January 26, 2022. For students taking it in its new pass/fail format, Step 1 will continue to be an important milestone in determining your choice of medical specialty, the residency programs you match into, and more.

For those who will still receive a 3-digit score (and those of you who are just curious), we’ve created a handy table with all the average Step 1 match scores by medical specialty for 2020. The data comes from the National Residency Matching Program’s (NRMP) Charting Outcomes in the Match, 2020  report. We’ve organized their detailed reports into these digestible charts so you can easily find the information you need. Check out the tables below:

USMLE Step 1 Average Score_1_2020

USMLE Step 1 Average Score_2_2020

Here are some key takeaways from the NRMP Charting Outcomes report. 

The average Step 1 match scores can vary quite a lot depending on the chosen specialty. While matching into any residency is a huge achievement and requires a lot of work and dedication, some residencies are undoubtedly more competitive than others. This is often reflected in the higher average Step 1 match scores for these more competitive residencies. 

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most competitive residencies and their corresponding average Step 1 match scores for US allopathic seniors. 

The most competitive residencies and their average Step 1 match score

Some of the medical specialties that can be considered to have the highest level of competition based on the percentage of filled positions by US MD seniors include:

  1. Integrated plastic surgery - 249
  2. Medicine-pediatrics - 236
  3. Neurological surgery - 248
  4. Orthopedic surgery - 248
  5. Otolaryngology - 248
  6. Thoracic surgery - NA
  7. Vascular surgery - 239

While scoring high on Step 1 has historically helped students match into their desired residency, there are many other factors that will contribute to your success. These include, but are by no means limited to, conducting clinical research, getting good letters of recommendation, having an impressive CV that highlights your medical and relevant extracurricular activities, performing well on Step 2, and having a successful residency interview. With the focus on Step 1 scores soon to be over for good, all signs point to these areas taking even higher precedence in residency placements. You can find out more about how to prepare for Step 1 as a pass/fail exam here

And remember, you’re so much more than your score! Whether you’re conducting clinical research, shining on the wards, or coming up with the next big thing to revolutionize medical education (nudge nudge), there are many paths that will lead you towards a great career in medicine.

Chart data: Data is from the National Residency Matching Program’s (NRMP) Charting Outcomes in the Match, 2020 report. The NRMP has no affiliation with AMBOSS. 

**Only those who gave consent to use their information in the NRMP research are included in the matched and unmatched data. 

**Independent applicants include the USMLE Step 1 average scores of students accepted to residency, including Osteopathic, US, and non-IMGs.

Studying for Step 1? Learn the most important concepts with our High-Yield Step 1 Study Plan