BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE Safe prescribing requires accurate and practical information about drugs. Our objective was to measure the utility of current sources of prescribing guidance when used to inform practical prescribing decisions, and to compare current sources of prescribing guidance in the UK with idealized prescribing guidance. METHODS We developed 25 clinical scenarios. Two independent assessors rated and ranked the performance of five common sources of prescribing guidance in the UK when used to answer the clinical scenarios. A third adjudicator facilitated review of any disparities. An idealized list of contents for prescribing guidance was developed and sent for comments to academics and users of prescribing guidance. Following consultation an operational check was used to assess compliance with the idealized criteria. The main outcome measures were relative utility in answering the clinical scenarios and compliance with the idealized prescribing guidance. RESULTS Current sources of prescribing guidance used in the UK differ in their utility, when measured using clinical scenarios. The British National Formulary (BNF) and EMIS LV were the best performing sources in terms of both ranking [mean rank 1·24 and 2·20] and rating [%excellent or adequate 100% and 72%]. Current sources differed in the extent to which they fulfilled criteria for ideal prescribing guidance, but the BNF, and EMIS LV to a lesser extent, closely matched the criteria. DISCUSSION We have demonstrated how clinical scenarios can be used to assess prescribing guidance resources. Producers of prescribing guidance documents should consider our idealized template. Prescribers require high-quality information to support their practice. CONCLUSION Our test was helpful in distinguishing between prescribing resources. Producers of prescribing guidance should consider the utility of their products to end-users, particularly in those more complex areas where prescribers may need most support. Existing UK prescribing guidance resources differ in their ability to provide assistance to prescribers.