To evaluate the necessity of an objective cardiopulmonary exercise test in the selection procedure of patients for heart failure studies, 50 patients with congestive heart failure New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II and III and a left ventricular ejection fraction less than 40% were subjected to a cardiopulmonary exercise test. The results of the exercise test were compared with the independent clinical estimation of NYHA class and data of measurements obtained at rest. The NYHA classification separated the patients with a mild to moderate impairment of aerobic capacity from patients with a moderate to severe impairment of aerobic capacity very well, but 32% of the NYHA class II patients had a near normal aerobic capacity, and 29% of the NYHA class III patients had a very severe impairment of aerobic capacity, more compatible with NYHA class IV. Only data from exercise measurements showed differences between groups. The determination of maximal aerobic capacity for an objective assessment of patients' performance at exercise is necessary for a proper selection procedure of patients for heart failure studies.