Reading ophthalmology residency interview questions and answers examples can help you prepare for your own residency interview in this competitive specialty. Ophthalmology can be a rewarding and intriguing specialty for many resident applicants, and it is a discipline with a relatively high match rate. As ophthalmology is a diverse specialty with both medical and surgical disciplines, such as optometry, be sure to check out our surgery residency interview questions and answers too for more practice! In this blog, we’ll talk about how competitive ophthalmology residency is, how to prepare for an ophthalmology residency interview and some sample questions that are commonly asked of applicants.

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How competitive is ophthalmology residency? How to prepare for an ophthalmology residency interview 10 common ophthalmology residency interview questions and sample answers More sample ophthalmology residency interview questions FAQs

How competitive is ophthalmology residency?

Ophthalmology is not among the most competitive residencies in the medical specialties, but it is also not the easiest to match into. While ophthalmology as a medical specialty is not the most popular choice, it is a highly rewarding and diverse career for many. Ophthalmology boasts some of the highest job satisfaction rates among doctors, less stress in general, better working hours and good pay. It is also, though, one of the longest in terms of how long residency training is.

The specialty is an intriguing combination of medical and surgical disciplines, treating both disease and wellness cases. Patients are also diverse, spanning all ages and walks of life. Each case is different, and you can expect to see many different diagnoses in your work. The field of ophthalmology is also continuously innovating, as technology advances and new research is undertaken.

Ophthalmology residency has a relatively high match rate as well, though it does require a larger time commitment and more specialized training before you reach your residency years. When you choose medical school electives, it’s a good idea to explore at least one related to the study of ophthalmology, and you’ll need to complete a post-graduate clinical training year (PGY1) with an accredited program before you apply to the match for an ophthalmology residency. You’ll also need to pass your USMLE Step 1 for US students and MCCQE Part I for Canadian applicants, as required.

International medical graduates who are interested in an ophthalmology residency in Canada or the US should know the specialty is not the most IMG friendly residency program, but it is possible to get matched into one. Check out our guide for international medical graduate residency or talk to an IMG residency consultant to find out how to boost your chances of getting in.

How to prepare for an ophthalmology residency interview

If you’re asking how to prep for your residency application and upcoming interviews, its important to know the application and residency match deadlines, as well as what programs are looking for in their applicants.

Applicants should note that ophthalmology uses the San Francisco Matching Program (SFMP) rather than the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) and the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) like most other specialties. As a result, ophthalmology has its own match day in early February, and its own application deadlines. Also read up on your residency match services so you’ll know what to expect and how to put together your application.

When you are invited for an interview, you should also take note that many interviews are being conducted online only, so prepare for video interviews and be sure to check your technology and do a practice run. If you do go unmatched, you can still improve your residency app and try again next match cycle.

Ophthalmology residency programs are of course looking for the best candidates in their interviews. Ideally, candidates will have a strong interest in the field, as well as clear strengths in both interpersonal skills and surgical and clinical experience. Having both will make for an excellent ophthalmology resident, so be sure to highlight your clinical experience, surgical ability while simultaneously emphasizing a background interest in the field, any research experience you have and your people skills. Patient skills are highly sought after, so if you need to know how to improve your patient assessment skills, start practicing now.

If you need help prepping for the interview itself, consider residency interview coaching to work on your interviewing skills or residency interview preparation services, which can provide you with mock interview sessions to get a feel for the process. It's also a good idea to come up with a list of questions to ask residency programs, too.

When scheduling your ophthalmology residency interviews, use the same tactic you would when scheduling medical school interviews. Chances are you will have applied to dozens of different programs, and you’ll need to avoid burnout if you attend multiple interviews. Its important as well to create your residency rank order list so you know what your top choices are.

Doing your research on the programs you want to apply for will pay off, as you’ll be able to tailor your application to fit and answer any tricky questions the interviewers might decide to ask you to test your knowledge of their program. Reading up on the latest developments and research in ophthalmology will be helpful too, as you’ll be able to discuss these topics in detail and show a genuine interest in the field if these topics come up during your interview.

You can calculate your chances of getting matched in ophthalmology with our residency match calculator!

Don't know how long your residency is? Read this helpful infographic

Next, we have some commonly asked ophthalmology residency interview questions and some sample answers to help you prepare your own before interviews start!

10 common ophthalmology residency interview questions and sample answers

1. Why ophthalmology?

I decided on ophthalmology because it is a specialty that provides plenty of challenging cases and demands a great deal of both technical and interpersonal skill. As a personable individual who enjoys working as part of a team and collaborating with my colleagues, ophthalmology is also an ideal career choice. I relish the opportunity ophthalmology would give me to practice my surgical skills as well as indulge in a variety of medical disciplines including patient care and research. As an ophthalmologist I could also interact with virtually any kind of patient, since all individuals require at least routine eye care and well being.

2. What do you think will be the hardest part of starting residency?

Residency of course promises long hours, exhausting days and requires me to study and internalize a large volume of information. It also means a great deal of resilience, patience and being able to think on your feet and adapt to a constantly changing environment. I think the most difficult part of residency will be balancing my clinical hours with my study hours and personal time, however the challenges I faced in medical school and during my post graduate clerkship year have given me an idea of what to expect and provided me with the tools and techniques I will need to make my residency years a success.

3. What makes a good ophthalmology resident?

I think good ophthalmology residents need to be masters of multiple different disciplines. It’s a specialty that requires above average patient assessment and interpersonal skills, but also a high degree of technical skill, patience, and care. Being able to work well as part of a team, be flexible and willing to learn are also key traits. Lastly, I think having the desire to continue to learn and evolve in your discipline is an admirable skill as an ophthalmologist, as the specialty is one which rapidly changes and evolves. As a resident I think there is extra emphasis on this last quality, of being willing to learn, be a student and be coachable and open.

4. How do you know you’ll be a good ophthalmic surgeon?

During my clerkship year I worked under a ophthalmic surgeon supervisor to learn what kind of skillset is required and what I can expect in the operating room. My surgical supervisor was kind enough to write me a recommendation letter for my application and gave me some constructive feedback on my work during my clerkship. Based on her feedback and evaluation of me, I know I have the foundational skills necessary to be a good surgeon, as well as the foundational knowledge to build on as I continue learning during my residency years. I also have great faith in my ability to improve my technical skill, which I am already confident of.

5. What would you do if you did not become an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmology was my first choice of specialty, but my second choice would have to be psychiatry. During my medical school rotations, I was fascinated by the cases we encountered in psychiatry. A common thread between these two specialties is in the way I can help patients. In ophthalmology, the focus is on well being, regular care and the treatment of disease. In psychiatry the focus is much the same. Patients still need a different type of care and ongoing support and you encounter unique and special cases. The types of patients you will encounter in both specialties also varies, since eye disease or mental health concerns can affect anyone.

Want to watch a video instead? Here are more residency interview questions and answers

6. Tell me about an attending you had that inspired you to want to be like them.

In medical school I had the pleasure of having an attending during my rotations who demonstrated the importance of building relationships with your patients. He was our general surgery attending, and he had a charming, warm sort of personality that appealed to all the staff, students and patients. He spoke with all patients as if they were all old friends, sometimes making them laugh, feel at ease or comforting them over bad news. Whatever the situation called for, he seemed to naturally know what to say and how to handle it. In all his interactions, he modeled respect and care, even in difficult situations. I think it is admirable to see a doctor maintain such a high level of regard and respect in his daily interactions even after years of practice.

7. What are your career goals for the future as an ophthalmologist? Where do you see your future in this field?

One of my career goals as an ophthalmologist would be to own a private practice in [City]. This would provide me with the job flexibility and benefits I want as well as allow me to fill a gap in medical care in the region, as there are few doctors specializing in ophthalmology in the area. Owning my own practice would also give me more time to pursue side interests in research projects, mentor future students and provide me with a good work-life balance.

8. What is the largest problem facing ophthalmologists today?

I think the largest problem facing the specialty is a lack of doctors specializing in ophthalmology. There is always a demand for more doctors, but this is a specialty that is not chosen as often due to its perceived difficulty and challenges. Along with the other problems plaguing the medical profession, I think we need more doctors in this specialty and especially more who are willing to work in underserved regions.

9. What from your past experiences has prepared you for a career in ophthalmology?

In high school and university, I used to play ping pong competitively, which is an unusual skill, but it demands excellent reflexes and hand-eye coordination to be successful, particularly to be an expert player. These skills translate well to surgery, especially ophthalmic surgery, which demands near-perfection in technical skill.

10. What are you looking for in an ophthalmology program?

I chose to apply to programs which offered flexibility, good benefits and a strong team mentality. Having a good balance between work and study is important to me, but so is working alongside a dedicated and skilled team. It was also important to me to find a program that emphasized the importance of strong mentorship relationships.

More sample ophthalmology residency interview questions

11. Tell me about yourself

12. Tell me about a difficult time in your life. How did you overcome it?

13. How do you deal with stress?

14. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

15. Do you have any ties to the area?

16. Tell me about a mistake you made

17. Tell me about a time when you saw someone do something unethical. How did you react?

18. What is one meaningful clinical experience?

19. What would your peers say are your strengths and weaknesses?

20. What are your career goals?

21. What is one challenge you faced and overcame?

22. What is one thing about yourself you want to improve?

23. Tell me about an interesting patient case during your ophthalmology rotation.

24. What do you do for fun? Tell me about your hobbies.

25. Tell me about your research experience

26. Tell me something about yourself that is not on your application.

27. What is your biggest accomplishment outside of medicine/academics?

28. How will you contribute to our program? Why are you a good fit?

29. Describe an instance in a clinical setting where you experienced an interpersonal conflict. How did you handle it?

30. Why did you choose this program?


1. How do I prepare for an ophthalmology residency interview?

To prepare for your ophthalmology residency interview, prepare your answers to common questions ahead of time. Use mock interviews to practice your delivery so your answers come naturally. Also be prepared for any unexpected or tricky questions, so do your research on the programs you’re applying for and study up on recent developments in ophthalmology so you can discuss them in the interview.

2. How competitive is ophthalmology residency?

While it is not the most competitive residency to match into, it is not the easiest specialty to match, either. Ophthalmology is somewhat competitive with a match rate of 68%.

3. Is ophthalmology residency a good choice?

Ophthalmology is a diverse and exciting specialty, using both medical and surgical disciplines with constant innovation and technological advancement. It is also a good choice for doctor quality of life and job satisfaction, as ophthalmologists tends to have lower stress, more flexible hours and good pay. 

4. What do ophthalmology residency programs look for?

Residency programs in ophthalmology look for candidates with strong academic scores, proven clinical skills and demonstrated personal skills, too. Along with your test scores and clinical experience, they will look closely at recommendation letters and your residency CV. Acing the interview is the final key to matching to your program of choice. 

5. How do I ace a residency interview?

To ace your residency interview, the best prep you can use is mock interviews. These can be done with professional help like residency consultants or interview coaches or on your own, but its best to prepare your answers ahead of time and practice in an interview setting as close as possible to the real thing. 

6. What questions do ophthalmology residency programs ask?

Ophthalmology residency programs will ask many of the common questions you can expect at any residency interview but be prepared for some unexpected questions about the field of ophthalmology to test your knowledge, or to take a deep dive into why you chose this specialty.

7. How many residency programs should I apply for?

While the number of programs you apply to can vary depending on the applicant, we recommend applying to between 15-30, although there is no “perfect” number. 

8. How do I increase my chances of a residency match?

To increase your chances of a residency match, craft a stellar application. First, research the programs you want to apply for and rank them, and then tailor your application for each program. After that, its all about preparing for the residency interview so you can ace it.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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