For the past 4 years, the AAMC has provided data around a “point of diminishing returns” to help applicants anchor their initial thinking about the number of residency programs they should apply to, based on a rolling 5-year average that is updated each year. For 2021, the AAMC does not plan to update this data.
Several factors went into this decision, including a recent change to the reporting of USMLE Step 1 scores as pass/fail rather than a numerical score, which results in a key input for the point of diminishing returns analysis and entrance rate tables no longer being available for analysis. While we consider alternative data analysis options for the future, along with feedback from stakeholders, the AAMC will continue to make the currently posted 2020 data available for residency applicants throughout this year. We recognize that this 2020 data, which is based on a five-year average from 2013-2018, remains a valuable resource for applicants. Since the AAMC began this analysis four years ago, the data trends within each category, specialty, and applicant type have not changed substantially from year to year.
We plan to spend the next year evaluating options, exploring alternatives, and discussing the best path forward to present information to applicants that provides value to their decision making and application strategy. The AAMC recognizes concerns in the academic medicine community about an overreliance on Step 1 Exam scores in the residency application process, and that input from the academic medicine community on scores has been one of several factors that allow us to produce enough differentiating information to help applicants make better decisions.
This set of data analyses on entrance rates and point of diminishing returns is one of the many resources the AAMC makes available to applicants during their research and application phase. Data and guidance from Residency Explorer, Careers in Medicine, and ERAS should also be used when developing an application strategy. These findings are intended to provide a resource for applicants as a starting point for thinking about the number of programs to apply to. The AAMC encourages applicants to work with a medical school advisor to consider a wide variety of information—such as unique experiences, qualifications, and residency application strategy—when preparing for application season.