This paper reports on some outcomes of a research study evaluating a new assessment framework of clinical competence used in undergraduate nursing programmes in the Mid West Region of Ireland. First, this paper presents both the strengths and weaknesses of the present model, as articulated by student nurses. Second, it generates a broader critical debate around the concept of competency assessment. The model of competence in question was developed by the Irish Nursing Board then elaborated on by the University of Limerick in partnership with local health service providers in 2002. Methodology involved a triangulated approach, comprising a series of focus group interviews with students (n=13) and preceptors (n=16) followed by a survey of students (n=232) and preceptors (n=837). Findings from the student focus groups are reported here. Themes identified using Burnard's (1991) framework for analysis are preparation for competency assessment, competency documentation, supporting assessment in practice, organisational and resource factors and the competency assessment structure and process. Results from this research have implications for refinement and revision of the present competency assessment framework, for student and staff preparation and for collaboration between stakeholders.