Personality testing may identify applicants who will become successful in general surgery residency

Byron D. Hughes, Jennifer A. Perone, Claire B. Cummins, Christian Sommerhalder, Douglas S. Tyler, Kanika A. Bowen-Jallow, Ravi S. Radhakrishnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Identification of successful general surgical residents remains a challenging endeavor for program directors with a national attrition of approximately 20% per year. The Big 5 personality traits and the Grit Scale have been extensively studied in many industries, and certain traits are associated with professional or academic success. However, their utility in surgery resident selection is unknown. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all categorical surgery residents (n = 34) at the University of Texas Medical Branch from 2015 to 2017. Current residents were classified into low performing (n = 12) or non-low performing (n = 22) based on residency performance and standardized test scores. Groups were assessed for differences in both conventional metrics used for selection and Big 5 and grit scores using bivariate analysis and Pearson's correlation coefficient. Personality testing was administered to recent resident applicants (n = 81). Applicants were ranked using conventional application information. We then examined the applicants’ personalities and their rank position with personality characteristics of non–low-performing residents to determine if there was any correlation. Results: The Big 5 personality test identified significantly higher extroversion, conscientiousness, and emotional stability scores in those residents classified as non–low performers. There was no significant difference in conventional metrics or in grit scores between non–low performers and low performers. Our final rank does not correlate well with personality traits of non–low performers. Conclusions: The Big 5 test may prove to be a useful adjunct to the traditional residency application in identifying applicants who may become successful in general surgery residency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-248
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Attrition
  • Big five
  • General surgery residency
  • Grit
  • Interview
  • Personality testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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