1. Research your specialty - Go to www.nrmp.org. On the right side near the bottom, under "Data and Reports", there is a link for a PDF called "Charting Outcomes in the Match". It gives every specialty and the average step 1 and 2 board scores for each specialty, avg. volunteer experience, avg. AOA members, avg. publications, etc. This will give you a better idea if you are competitive for your specialty or not and what you need to do to become more competitive for your specialty of choice.
From Charting Outcomes in the Match 2009
2. Probation List - Go to www.acgme.org. On the left side, click "Search Programs and Sponsors" (2nd from bottom). On the left side of the next screen, click "Accreditation Decisions" (2nd from bottom). From the drop down menu at the top, choose "Programs with Probationary Status". This will be a list of programs that are on probation for one reason or another. My source said to try to avoid these programs because they are in trouble and they may or may not be accredited by the time you finish this program.
3. How good is your program? - Go to www.acgme.org. On the left side, click "Search Programs and Sponsors (2nd from bottom). On the left side 2nd from the TOP, click "Sponsoring Institutions". From the drop down menu, choose the state with the program that you have in mind. This will show a list of programs in that state. For the program you like, click on "View Details" on the left side of that program. Notice that it will show what medical school affiliations are associated with that program, the program directors name and contact information, a link to their website and at the bottom, you will see what specialties that program offers and how many open positions there are for each specialty.
If you click on that specialty within that program, you will see more detailed information including how long their program is, date they got accredited and when they will need accreditation next. Also, you will see how many P1's, P2's, etc. there are. You can compare the # of approved positions and the # of filled positions so a program with unfilled spots is less competitive compared to a program that is filled.
4. Average board pass rate for your program? - My source recommends going to your preferred specialty board to see all the programs in that specialty's board pass rate. For example, for internal medicine, go to the American Board of Internal Medicine's website, www.abim.org. Then on the search bar at the top, put in "board pass rate". It should be the first link at the top. Click on it and it should show you EVERY ACGME program in the country, separated by state in alphabetical order. You will see on the third column from the left is the "percent passing". Obviously the higher the percent, the better the program. Also, you want to compare this number to the average pass rate in the country. For example, for internal medicine, the average pass rate is 90%. So, you want a program that has a "percent passing" >90%. For family medicine, the average pass rate = 95%, so you want a "percent passing">95%. Get the picture?
5. How competitive is the program? - To determine how competitive a program is, there are many things that factor into play.
i. the total # of programs in the country - the more, the less competitive because there are enough spots for everyone who wants to join!
ii. the total # of residents in that specialty in the country - again, the more, the less competitive because there are a lot of spots!
iii. % of international students - the higher the percent, the less competitive the program is. The more international students that make up a specialty, the more that specialty is "settling" on lesser students. Get the picture? (IM = 45%, EM <10%)