Surgery residency interview questions and answers can be an excellent way to prepare for this nerve-racking interview. Surgery residencies are among the most competitive programs for medical graduates, and some of the hardest to match. Many graduate medical students turn to residency interview preparation services to help them because it is essential to perform well in the surgery residency interview to get one of the rare program spots. If you’re a graduate medical student with a desire to get into a surgical discipline for your residency years, read on for some examples of surgery residency interview questions and answers. If you’re still a pre-med with plans of being a surgeon, check out the best medical schools for surgery to get on the right track. In this blog, we’ll look at the competitiveness of surgery residency, how to prepare for a surgery residency interview as well as some commonly asked interview questions and sample answers.

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How competitive is surgery residency? How to prepare for a surgery residency interview 10 Commonly Asked Surgery Residency Interview Questions More Surgery Residency Interview Questions FAQs

How competitive is surgery residency?

Surgical residencies are considered some of the most competitive residencies for graduating medical students. The residencies with the lowest match rates over all include general surgery at the top, followed by neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery close behind. Generally speaking, surgical residencies are some of the toughest, as they tend to be the most difficult to match and require more years of training and demand higher performance in their applicants.

For your best shot at getting into a surgical residency, you’ll need to present exemplary exam scores, strong clinical experience and performance and be prepared to commit several years to your surgical training in a residency program. In the US, the probability of matching into a general surgery residency with a USMLE Step 1 score of 200 is only 38%. Conversely, if your exam score is over 240, your chances increase greatly to over 90%. High USMLE exam scores and a fantastic OSCE score can definitely increase your chances of getting into a competitive surgical residency. A strong MSPE or a good residency letter of recommendation can also strengthen your residency application and help you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re choosing between DO versus MD, it should be noted that the chances of success for Dos applying to surgical residencies are very low, as the vast majority of accepted applicants are MDs across surgical disciplines.

If you’re wondering how long a residency is, surgical residencies are also one of the longest, with general surgery being typically 5 years and neurosurgery being the longest overall at 7 years. Surgeons train long and hard during their residency years, but if you’re committed to a surgical specialty as a future physician, the years and hard slog will be worth the outcome.

For graduates from US and Canadian med schools, getting into a surgical residency is difficult. For an international medical graduate (IMG), it can be even more challenging. There are two choices of general surgery residency programs in the US: the categorical general surgery and preliminary general surgery. The former is a 5-to-7-year program, whereas the latter is only a 1-year program. There are far more open positions in the preliminary general surgery programs, which means IMGs make up a larger percentage of these programs. In longer, categorical general surgery residencies, positions are extremely competitive and scarce.

Currently, IMGs make up only 16% of the general surgery graduate medical education pool in the US. IMGs have a much greater rate of acceptance at a preliminary general surgery spot, but it is not impossible to get a categorical general surgery residency, either. While general surgery is not among the most IMG friendly residency programs, you can increase your competitive edge when applying by gaining some IMG electives and clinical experience. You can also look into how to apply for a pre-residency fellowship for IMGs which can help you get your foot in the door before you apply for the more competitive 5-year surgical residency programs.

Getting into a preliminary program can also help and IMG get their start in a US surgical residency, as it can allow them the chance to learn the ins and outs of the US healthcare system and overcome any obstacles like language or cultural barriers. Once the preliminary year is over, the IMG can then seek a categorical general surgery position through residency match services.

How to prepare for a surgery residency interview

With surgery residency being one of the toughest ones to match to, preparing for the surgery residency interview is a must. By studying some surgery residency interview questions and answers, you can walk into the interview room with prepared responses and an idea of how to tackle even the toughest or off-putting interview questions. The surgery residency interview is a critical part of getting a position, and it is your chance to shine and make an impression on the interviewers. If you’re selected for an interview, it means you are considered an ideal candidate, so be sure to accept and begin preparing as early as possible.

How to prepare for your surgery residency interview depends on your medical graduate status and what country you’re applying in. For US applicants, you’ll be applying to your chosen surgery residency through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) and the National Resident Match System, so some ERAS interview prep will be the way to go. For Canadian medical students, surgical residencies in Canada use the Canadian Residency Match Service, so you’ll be looking at CaRMS interview prep instead. For IMG residency interview prep, it may be worth looking into getting a residency advisor to help you get ready for your interview, and put together your application and choose the best programs to apply to as well.

Here are some key tips to prepare yourself for your surgery residency interview:

10 Commonly Asked Surgery Residency Interview Questions

The questions you’ll be asked during a surgery residency interview are designed to test what kind of surgical resident you’ll be. Your interviewer wants to get a feel for your personality, your clinical experience and any surgical skills you possess. Most of all, your interviewer will want to know how you interact with your patients, if you can work well with your colleagues or surgical team members and if you have the necessary clinical competence to perform surgical procedures. They may also want to see if you are committed to your surgical specialty, so depending on the specialty or subspecialty you’ve chosen, expect a few questions focused on it.

Here we’ve gathered 10 of some of the more common surgery residency interview questions and sample answers, as well as 20 additional questions you might be asked during a residency interview. For even more examples, read some residency interview questions that might surprise you.


More Surgery Residency Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  3. How will you contribute to our program?
  4. Have you applied to any other residency programs?
  5. How important is continuing education to you?
  6. Why are you interested in our program?
  7. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? 10 years?
  8. Have you published any articles on surgical procedures or outcomes?
  9. What is your most preferred surgical procedure to perform?
  10. How do you handle conflicts with colleagues?
  11. Tell us about the most recent studies or articles you’ve read
  12. How do you cope with stress?
  13. Tell me about a time you were disappointed in your performance.
  14. How do you make important decisions?
  15. Has there ever been a time when you disagreed with a colleague regarding an aspect of patient care? What was the outcome?
  16. What is the most crucial surgical training you have learned during your time in medical school?
  17. Tell us about your most interesting surgical case so far.
  18. How are your knots and basic surgical skills?
  19. Did you consider any other fields of medicine or medical specialties?
  20. Do you have any questions about our program?

Looking for more interview practice? Check out our video:


1. How do I prepare for a surgery residency interview?

The best way to prepare for a surgery residency interview is to use mock interviews. These can help you be ready for the commonly asked questions and practice answering them with confidence. It’s also a good way to eliminate any nervousness or uncertainty you may experience ahead of the interview.

2. What should you not say in a residency interview?

Don’t speak negatively about other programs you’ve applied to, past colleagues or mentors. Avoid rambling or going off topic when answering questions. Remember to keep it professional and be polite to everyone you meet. Also remember to be humble! You are applying for a residency so you can learn and advance further in your medical career. 

3. What questions should I ask at the end of my residency interview?

Always ask your own questions at the end of a residency interview! Ask specific questions about the program’s day-to-day operations, the program’s strengths and what practices their graduates end up at post-residency.

4. How do you answer residency interview questions?

With residency interview questions, it’s best to be yourself, be honest and be thorough. Let your natural, conversational voice come out, and answer questions as thoroughly as you can. Be confident in your self and your abilities, but remain humble as well, since you’ll be starting your surgical training as a resident doctor.

5. Is surgery residency a competitive residency to get into?

Yes; general surgery is considered the residency with the most competitive match rate, followed closely by neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery and plastic surgery.

6. Does the residency interview matter for surgery?

Yes; the interview is a critically important part of applying for a surgical residency. An interview means you are considered an ideal candidate for a position, so acing the interview means you’re far more likely to be chosen for the position.

7. Is surgery an IMG-friendly residency?

In general, surgery is not the most IMG-friendly residency. Almost all surgical residencies have lower IMG hires when compared to other residencies. It is possible, though, for an IMG to get into a surgical residency, although having some clinical experience in a preliminary surgical residency or a pre-residency fellowship can help get your foot in the door.

8. What are some questions asked during a surgery residency interview?

Some common questions asked in a surgery residency interview will revolve around why you chose surgery as your medical specialty, gauging how you interact with patients and other medical colleagues, your clinical skills and how you handle adversity or conflict. The questions you’ll be asked are designed to test whether you will be a competent and compassionate surgeon.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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