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Analysis of the Evaluative Components on the Standard Letter of Recommendation (SLOR) in Emergency Medicine


Introduction: The standard letter of recommendation in emergency medicine (SLOR) was developed to standardize the evaluation of applicants, improve inter-rater reliability, and discourage grade inflation. The primary objective of this study was to describe the distribution of categorical variables on the SLOR in order to characterize scoring tendencies of writers.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all SLORs written on behalf of applicants to the three Emergency Medicine residency programs in the University of Arizona Health Network (i.e. the University Campus program, the South Campus program and the Emergency Medicine/Pediatrics combined program) in 2012. All “Qualifications for Emergency Medicine” and “Global Assessment” variables were analyzed.

Results: 1457 SLORs were reviewed, representing 26.7% of the total number of Electronic Residency Application Service applicants for the academic year. Letter writers were most likely to use the highest/most desirable category on “Qualifications for EM” variables (50.7%) and to use the second highest category on “Global Assessments” (43.8%). For 4-point scale variables, 91% of all responses were in one of the top two ratings. For 3-point scale variables, 94.6% were in one of the top two ratings. Overall, the lowest/least desirable ratings were used less than 2% of the time.

Conclusions: SLOR letter writers do not use the full spectrum of categories for each variable proportionately. Despite the attempt to discourage grade inflation, nearly all variable responses on the SLOR are in the top two categories. Writers use the lowest categories less than 2% of the time. Program Directors should consider tendencies of SLOR writers when reviewing SLORs of potential applicants to their programs. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(4):419-423.]

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