Going through the match with a partner? Find out how the Match Algorithm works for couples.

The algorithm treats the ROLs of a couple as a single unit of paired ranks. So a match is established only if both partners match at a pair of ranked programs.

The algorithm first tries to match the couple into their first set of paired ranks. If a match for both applicants is not possible at this rank, it moves down to their next paired rank, and so on.

It’s possible to include a ‘no match’ option to indicate one partner is willing to go unmatched if the other can match to their preferred program.

If applicants do not obtain a match as a couple, the algorithm does not process their rank order lists separately to find a possible match for each individual.

  • Since the ROLs of a couple are considered as a single unit, decide as a couple what pairs of programs you are prepared to rank. Ranking more pairings will reduce the likelihood that partners will remain unmatched, but don’t rank any combinations that aren’t acceptable to you both. Then, decide together the order in which those pairs are preferred.
  • Because of the various combinations involved, couples ROLs are longer than individual ROLs, so give yourself plenty of time to create and enter your list.
  • Each member of a couple must have the same number of ranks on their respective ROLs.
  • It’s possible to include a ‘no match’ option to indicate one partner is willing to go unmatched if the other can match to their preferred program. This is recommended to give one another the best chance, in case one partner’s application is stronger. If you include a ‘no match’ option, it should be at the bottom of the ROL so both partners have the best chance of matching to programs.

For more detailed tips, check out our  couples ranking example .

If you participate in the match as part of a couple, your match results are linked to your partner’s results. Couples’ ROLs are processed as a single unit of paired ranks, meaning you either match or don’t match together. If applicants do not obtain a match as a couple, the algorithm does not process their rank order lists separately to find a possible match for each individual.

The only way one partner can match while the other does not is if the match occurs at a set of paired ranks that includes a ‘no match’ option for one partner.

Check out our detailed couples ranking example for tips to ensure you and your partner maximize your chances of matching.

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Couples ranking example

Step 1

Each partner should prepare his/her own, individual list of preferred programs on a separate sheet of paper.

In the following example, Partner I will be applying to programs 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E and Partner II will be applying to programs 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D and 2E.

Partner I Partner II
1) 1A 1) 2A
2) 1B 2) 2B
3) 1C 3) 2C
4) 1D 4) 2D
5) 1E 5) 2E

Step 2

Next, both partners must decide together what pairs of programs they are prepared to rank. For example, they could consider all the possible pairings where the programs are in the same general location. The couple could also consider whether they wish to form any pairs where the programs are not in the same location. One rank in a pair may be designated as “No match” to indicate that one partner is willing to go unmatched if the other can match to their preferred program. Please note that the list you create at this step does not necessarily reflect the final order that will be submitted.

Partner I Partner II
1A 2A
1A 2C
1A 2E
1E 2A
1E 2C
1E 2E
1B 2B
1C 2D
1C 2E
1D 2D
1D 2E
1A 2B
1B 2A
1A 2D
1C 2A
1A No match
No match 2A
1B No match
No match 2B

Note that the pairings above do not represent all possible pairings that the couple could rank. A couple may choose to rank some or all possible combinations of their programs, including pairings with programs in different locations and pairings with one of the partners left unmatched. Ranking more pairings will reduce the likelihood that partners will remain unmatched. However, unacceptable pairings should be omitted from the list. You should not rank any programs at which you are not willing to train.

Step 3

Next both partners must decide together the order in which these pairs are preferred. The couple might have a final list of paired programs that looks like the one shown below. Each partner must then enter his/her side of the list independently into the online system.

Partner I Partner II
1) 1A 1) 2A
2) 1B 2) 2B
3) 1A 3) 2C
4) 1C 4) 2D
5) 1D 5) 2E
6) 1C 6) 2E
7) 1D 7) 2D
8) 1A 8) 2E
9) 1E 9) 2A
10) 1E 10) 2C

Once you have listed all your couples rank options, you may choose to continue ranking programs to maximize individual match opportunities.

A rank of ‘No match’ should only be used if the couple agrees that one partner matching is a more acceptable result than neither partner matching. Using the pattern below, both applicants are given the same opportunity for their best case match result as an applicant who submits an individual rank order list. Please note that you cannot duplicate a couples rank (i.e., if you rank 1A and 2A as your first ranks, you cannot list them again further down your list).

Partner I Partner II
11) 1A 11) 2B
12) 1A 12) 2D
13) 1A 13) No match
14) 1B 14) 2A
15) 1B 15) 2C
16) 1B 16) 2D
17) 1B 17) 2E
18) 1B 18) No match
19) 1C 19) 2A
20) 1C 20) 2B
21) 1C 21) 2C
22) 1C 22) No match
23) 1D 23) 2A
24) 1D 24) 2B
25) 1D 25) 2C
26) 1D 26) No match
27) 1E 27) 2B
28) 1E 28) 2D
29) 1E 29) 2E
30) 1E 30) No match
31) No match 31) 2A
32) No match 32) 2B
33) No match 33) 2C
34) No match 34) 2D
35) No match 35) 2E

For example, if Partner I’s best match opportunity was program 1C (their third choice) and Partner II’s best match opportunity was program 2A (their first choice), they would match at rank 19. However, if Partner I had no viable match opportunity (i.e., they were not ranked by any programs or ranked behind other candidates and all positions were filled) and Partner II’s best match opportunity was program 2A (their first choice), they would match at rank 31, giving both partners the match result they would have received had they submitted individual rank order lists.

The couple will match to the most preferred pair on their list where both partners can be matched, or where one partner can match and the other chooses to be unmatched.

If your partner withdraws from the match, does not submit an ROL or does not correctly identify you as his/her partner, you must submit your ROL as an individual in order to participate in the match.

Couples ranking example

Step 1

Each partner should prepare his/her own, individual list of preferred programs on a separate sheet of paper.

In the following example, Partner I will be applying to programs 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E and Partner II will be applying to programs 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D and 2E.

Partner I Partner II
1) 1A 1) 2A
2) 1B 2) 2B
3) 1C 3) 2C
4) 1D 4) 2D
5) 1E 5) 2E

Step 2

Next, both partners must decide together what pairs of programs they are prepared to rank. For example, they could consider all the possible pairings where the programs are in the same general location. The couple could also consider whether they wish to form any pairs where the programs are not in the same location. One rank in a pair may be designated as “No match” to indicate that one partner is willing to go unmatched if the other can match to their preferred program. Please note that the list you create at this step does not necessarily reflect the final order that will be submitted.

Partner I Partner II
1A 2A
1A 2C
1A 2E
1E 2A
1E 2C
1E 2E
1B 2B
1C 2D
1C 2E
1D 2D
1D 2E
1A 2B
1B 2A
1A 2D
1C 2A
1A No match
No match 2A
1B No match
No match 2B

Note that the pairings above do not represent all possible pairings that the couple could rank. A couple may choose to rank some or all possible combinations of their programs, including pairings with programs in different locations and pairings with one of the partners left unmatched. Ranking more pairings will reduce the likelihood that partners will remain unmatched. However, unacceptable pairings should be omitted from the list. You should not rank any programs at which you are not willing to train.

Step 3

Next both partners must decide together the order in which these pairs are preferred. The couple might have a final list of paired programs that looks like the one shown below. Each partner must then enter his/her side of the list independently into the online system.

Partner I Partner II
1) 1A 1) 2A
2) 1B 2) 2B
3) 1A 3) 2C
4) 1C 4) 2D
5) 1D 5) 2E
6) 1C 6) 2E
7) 1D 7) 2D
8) 1A 8) 2E
9) 1E 9) 2A
10) 1E 10) 2C

Once you have listed all your couples rank options, you may choose to continue ranking programs to maximize individual match opportunities.

A rank of ‘No match’ should only be used if the couple agrees that one partner matching is a more acceptable result than neither partner matching. Using the pattern below, both applicants are given the same opportunity for their best case match result as an applicant who submits an individual rank order list. Please note that you cannot duplicate a couples rank (i.e., if you rank 1A and 2A as your first ranks, you cannot list them again further down your list).

Partner I Partner II
11) 1A 11) 2B
12) 1A 12) 2D
13) 1A 13) No match
14) 1B 14) 2A
15) 1B 15) 2C
16) 1B 16) 2D
17) 1B 17) 2E
18) 1B 18) No match
19) 1C 19) 2A
20) 1C 20) 2B
21) 1C 21) 2C
22) 1C 22) No match
23) 1D 23) 2A
24) 1D 24) 2B
25) 1D 25) 2C
26) 1D 26) No match
27) 1E 27) 2B
28) 1E 28) 2D
29) 1E 29) 2E
30) 1E 30) No match
31) No match 31) 2A
32) No match 32) 2B
33) No match 33) 2C
34) No match 34) 2D
35) No match 35) 2E

For example, if Partner I’s best match opportunity was program 1C (their third choice) and Partner II’s best match opportunity was program 2A (their first choice), they would match at rank 19. However, if Partner I had no viable match opportunity (i.e., they were not ranked by any programs or ranked behind other candidates and all positions were filled) and Partner II’s best match opportunity was program 2A (their first choice), they would match at rank 31, giving both partners the match result they would have received had they submitted individual rank order lists.

The couple will match to the most preferred pair on their list where both partners can be matched, or where one partner can match and the other chooses to be unmatched.

If your partner withdraws from the match, does not submit an ROL or does not correctly identify you as his/her partner, you must submit your ROL as an individual in order to participate in the match.