Letters of recommendation (LORs) have limited value to admission committees, as very few LOR characteristics predict how students perform during medical school. That’s according to a new paper forthcoming in Academic Medicine.

The study, led by Kent DeZee, MD, MPH, FACP, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University, was designed to determine whether medical students’ LORs from their application to medical school predicted medical school performance. Included in the study were 437 LORs from students of three consecutive graduating classes (2007-2009) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

The findings showed that of 76 LOR characteristics, 7 were associated with graduation status. Specifically, being rated as “the best” among peers and having an employer or supervisor as the LOR author were associated with induction into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, whereas having non-positive comments was associated with bottom of the class students.

The paper will be published in the October 2014 issue of Academic Medicine.