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Insights From the San Francisco Match Rank List Data: How Many Interviews Does It Take to Match?

Malafa, Menyoli Michael MD*; Nagarkar, Purushottam A. MD*; Janis, Jeffrey E. MD

doi: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000000185

Background For many years, the independent plastic surgery match has been regarded as a competitive process. Applicants expend significant time and resources applying to, and interviewing with, many programs to increase their chance for success. Public data from the San Francisco (SF) Match provide no predictors of success in the Match. Previous survey-based studies have provided some data, but suffer from recall and sampling bias. The purpose of this study was to provide match participants with objective primary-source data that can aid them in making informed decisions with regard to planning their interviews.

Methods Four years of fully deidentified individual-level and program-level data from the SF Match (2010–2013) were analyzed. Data included number of programs applied to, interview offers, and length of rank lists. For applicants who matched, data included the applicant’s rank of program and the program’s rank of applicant.

Results During the 4 match years, 434 (86.3%) of 503 applicants received at least 1 interview offer. Of these candidates, 355 (82%) matched. Match rate increased with number of interviews, reaching 96% for those with 5 or more interview offers; 95% of applicants matched within their top 7 choices. On average, applicants matched at number 2.9 on their rank lists.

Conclusions Number of interview invitations is a strong predictor of success in the independent plastic surgery match, with the “magic number” being 5. Applicants rarely match to programs below number 7 on their rank lists. These data can aid applicants wishing to maximize their potential while minimizing unnecessary expenditures.

From the *Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, TX; and †Department of Plastic Surgery, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH.

Received November 26, 2013, and accepted for publication, after revision, January 28, 2014.

Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: none declared.

Reprints: Jeffrey E. Janis, MD, Department of Plastic Surgery, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, 915 Olentangy River Rd, Suite 2100, Room 2114, Columbus, OH 43212. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins