An increasing public demand to monitor and assure the quality of care provided by physicians and surgeons has been accompanied by a deepening appreciation within the profession of the demands of self-regulation and the need for accountability. To respond to these developments, the public and the profession have turned increasingly to assessment, both to establish initial competence and to ensure that it is maintained throughout a career. Fortunately, this comes at a time when there have been significant advances in the breadth and quality of the assessment tools available. This article provides an overview of the drivers of change in assessment which includes the educational outcomes movement, the development of technology, and advances in assessment. It then outlines the factors that are important in selecting assessment devices as well as a system for classifying the methods that are available. Finally, the drivers of change have spawned a number of trends in the assessment of competence as a surgeon. Three of them are of particular note, simulation, workplace-based assessment, and the assessment of new competences, and each is reviewed with a focus on its potential.