Will I have a successful match with just my COMLEX scores?
With the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) Match just weeks away, we are looking forward to another year of positive results for our osteopathic medical students. We’ve seen many questions from students asking whether they need to take both COMLEX-USA and USMLE exams in order to be competitive or even be a consideration for certain residency programs. However, we would like to point out that while the choice to take an additional examination is your own, so is your decision to stand up for fairness for your profession.
The primary purpose of COMLEX-USA and USMLE is for licensure to practice medicine. In all 50 states and abroad, COMLEX-USA scores are accepted for this purpose. However, while licensure exam scores continue to be used in the residency application process as part of a holistic review, we will continue to advocate for COMLEX-USA to be used for osteopathic applicants. Learn more about our advocacy and outreach efforts in our new Advocacy & Education page.
At the end of the day, DO students have been successful in the Match with only COMLEX-USA scores. We reached out to a few osteopathic students and DOs who chose to only take COMLEX.
Trent Perkins, OMS-IV, attends West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and is very confident that he will have a successful match this year.
“I decided to only take COMLEX because I always knew I wanted to be an emergency medicine physician and emergency medicine is a fairly ’DO friendly’ specialty even though it’s competitive. I was interested in going to areas that also have a substantial amount of DOs. I saw no benefit in paying for and sitting for double the board exams when I could fulfill my lifelong dream by only taking COMLEX-USA. If a program would discard my application because I only had COMLEX, an equivalent exam that tests the same knowledge as Step, it frankly wouldn’t have been a program in which I’d be happy training.
My prospects for residency were absolutely not hindered because of my decision to only take COMLEX. Even though I didn’t have Step scores, I interviewed at prestigious academic emergency medicine (EM) programs. I was extremely fortunate to actually have to turn down multiple residency interviews because I was offered more than enough.”
Molly O’Neil, DO, graduated in 2022 from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“I knew that any program I went to, I’d want to be somewhere where they valued my osteopathic degree. Since I studied osteopathic medicine, I didn’t want to take Step. Also, the financial burden of sitting for two exams is a lot. I’m happy that I only did COMLEX and I wouldn’t change it if I had to go back.
When applying to programs, I chose to avoid certain ones because I didn’t have a Step score. But I’m not sure if I’d want to be at those residencies anyway if they didn’t appreciate COMLEX-USA.
The state I am originally from has many programs that appear to only accept Step scores. Because of it, they are very MD-heavy. I wanted to be close to home, but I decided not to apply to any EM programs that didn’t respect the licensing examination for my profession. I ended up matching to my number one program at Conemaugh Memorial for EM residency. I’ll graduate in 2025.”
Whitney Briggs, DO, graduated from Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine and is currently a PGY-2 in emergency medicine at Ohio State University
“I took only COMLEX because I felt strongly that I shouldn’t need to take two separate board exams to prove my medical knowledge base was worthy of being at certain programs. I felt that if a program suggested that they couldn’t interpret my COMLEX-USA score or evaluate me as an applicant without USMLE, that it wasn’t a program I wanted to be at.”
Olivia Travis, OMS-IV, attends Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine and will be participating in this year’s Match.
“My decision to only take COMLEX was multifactorial. I originally was going to take USMLE as I had been told that it is more difficult to match to competitive specialties with only COMLEX-USA scores. However, I ultimately decided that the cost and time it took to take both exams was not worth it. Honestly, I was nervous how this would affect my ability to match in EM.
I am from Texas, and a number of programs in Texas only accept USMLE. But I applied across the Southeast and found that there were at least 32 EM programs that accepted COMLEX–USA. And there are even more in the Northeast. Out of those 32 programs I applied to, I received interview invitations from 19 programs, which proves that those programs don’t just say that they accept COMLEX-USA, but they truly mean it.”
Although there remain some programs (more in some specialties than others) who struggle to understand COMLEX scores, that doesn’t have to be the deciding factor, and choosing both examinations has only proven to encourage this bias against DO students. Instead, we encourage all students to reach out to us via our Advocacy form with programs that appear to not accept COMLEX-USA or have inequivalent requirements for DO students so that we may have the privilege to advocate on your behalf and those following in your footsteps.
With this year’s Match will come even more success stories, and we want to hear yours. Share your match story with us and whether you matched with just your COMLEX-USA scores by reaching out to us at email@example.com or by posting to social media using #IMatchedwithCOMLEX.