This paper makes recommendations for the improvement of assessment in postgraduate dental education. The recommendations arc based on a twelve-month study conducted in 1998/99 which evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the existing assessment systems. Evidence was taken from examination syllabi, assessments and records. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives from national bodies and with trainers and trainees in the West Midlands. Strengths in parts of the system include: commitment and professional experience; commissioned work; opportunity to share experience; a monitoring framework; procedures for maintaining standards and examples of broadbased assessments. Weaknesses include: lack of assessment of quality; existence of some forms of unregulated assessment; lack of transparency and lack of clarity between training and assessment. Development is recommended in three broad areas: a competence-based model of assessment; distinguishing assessment from the analysis of educational needs and quality assurance. The introduction of a competence-based model is the most significant and is addressed in some detail. Specific proposals for consideration by national regulatory bodies and education providers include: strengthening the management of assessment; national leadership in the development of a competence model of assessment; widening the assessment base; clearer criteria for inspection; revisions to how vocational training, HO/SHO training and general professional training are assessed and training for trainers.