DOI: 10.2106/jbjs.oa.23.00052 ISSN:

Decoding the Signals: An Analysis of Preference Signaling in the 2023 Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Match

David G. Deckey, Eugenia Lin, Coltin R.B. Gerhart, Joseph C. Brinkman, Karan A. Patel, Joshua S. Bingham
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Surgery


While previously used in other specialties, the preference signaling program (PSP) was implemented in the 2022 to 2023 orthopaedic surgery residency application process for the first time. The PSP allowed for 30 signaling tokens to be sent by applicants to programs of their choice to indicate particular interest in a program. It remains unknown how the PSP affects applicants and programs in the orthopaedic surgery residency match. Thus, this study's purpose was to assess the utility of preference signaling within the orthopaedic surgery residency application process in its inaugural year of use.


An anonymous electronic survey was emailed to all orthopaedic surgery residency applicants who applied to the authors' institution during the 2022 to 2023 application cycle. The survey was sent after match lists were submitted and closed before the release of match results. The survey collected information regarding applicant demographics, preference signaling habits, and attitude toward preference signaling.


The survey was completed by 101 applicants. Applicants applied to a mean of 90 programs (range: 10-197) and received an average of 12 interview invitations (range: 0-39). Applicants almost uniformly used all 30 signals, with nearly two-thirds signaling their home programs (65%, 49/76), and nearly all applicants sending signals to programs at which they performed away rotations (95.7%, 88/92). Applicants received a mean of 9 invitations from programs they signaled, compared with 2 invitations from programs they did not signal. Applicants were significantly more likely to receive an interview invite at a program they signaled than one they did not (p < 0.01). Overall, 57% of applicants (57/101) found the PSP to be helpful, whereas 28% (28/101) found it to be unhelpful, and 16% (16/101) had a neutral opinion.


This study reports that the PSP in the 2022 to 2023 orthopaedic surgery match was an effective method of expressing interest in a program because applicants were significantly more likely to receive interview invites to signaled programs. More than half of respondents felt PSP to be helpful; however, the effect on application numbers is still unclear.

Level of Evidence:


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