A prospective, randomized, controlled trial was conducted to see if a pre-test, given immediately before teaching, improved performance in a subsequent post-test. The study was also used to assess the educational value of a structured teaching method. Third year medical students were randomized into study and control groups. In phase I, the study group completed a subject-specific multiple choice question (MCQ) pre-test immediately before a teaching demonstration on vascular disorders. The control group completed a placebo pre-test. At the completion of teaching both groups did the same subject-specific post-test. The experiment was repeated in phase II where the groups were crossed over and traumatology was the subject of the demonstration. In both phases of the experiment there were no significant differences between the post-test marks of the experimental and control groups (P = 0.128 and 0.397, respectively). The experimental groups did, however, increase their marks significantly when their post-test results were compared with pre-test marks (P less than or equal to 0.0001, phase I and II). It was concluded that the pre-test did not result in a measurable increase in learning. The study did demonstrate that the teaching method was effective as post-instructional knowledge increased by nearly half when compared with pre-test levels.