We conducted a multicenter, cross-sectional assessment of pulmonary auscultatory skills among medical students and housestaff. Our study included 194 medical students, 18 pulmonary fellows, and 656 generalists-in-training from 17 internal medicine and 23 family practice programs in the Mid- Atlantic area of the United States. All participants listened to 10 pulmonary events recorded directly from patients, and answered by completing a multiple choice questionnaire. Proficiency scores were expressed as the percentage of respondents per year and type of training who correctly identified each event. In addition, we calculated a series of cumulative scores for sound recognition, disease identification, and basic knowledge of lung auscultation. Trainees' cumulative scores ranged from 0 to 85 for both internal medicine and family practice residents (median = 40). On average, internal medicine and family practice trainees recognized less than half of all respiratory events, with little improvement per year of training, and were not significantly better than medical students in their scores. Pulmonary fellows had the highest diagnostic and knowledge scores of all groups. These data indicate that there is very little difference in auscultatory proficiency between internal medicine and family practice trainees, and suggest the need for revisiting these time-honored skills during residency training.