The Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Surgical Specialty Associations in the UK have introduced competence-based syllabi and curricula for surgical training. The syllabi of the Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Programme (ISCP) and Orthopaedic Curriculum and Assessment Programme (OCAP) define the core competencies, that is, the observable and measureable behaviours required of a surgical trainee. The curricula define when, where and how these will be assessed. Procedure-based assessment (PBA) has been adopted as the principal method of assessing surgical skills. It combines competencies specific to the procedure with generic competencies such as safe handling of instruments. It covers the entire procedure, including preoperative and postoperative planning. A global summary of the level at which the trainee performed the assessed elements of the procedure is also included. The form has been designed to be completed quickly by the assessor (clinical supervisor) and fed-back to the trainee between operations. PBA forms have been developed for all index procedures in all surgical specialties. The forms are intended to be used as frequently as possible when performing index procedures, as their primary aim is to aid learning. At the end of a training placement the aggregated PBA forms, together with the logbook, enable the Educational Supervisor and/or Programme Director to make a summary judgement about the competence of a trainee to perform index procedures to a given standard.