The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) requires directors of internal medicine residency programs to rate their residents in overall clinical competence and its essential components. In the study reported here, the authors investigated the relationships among these ratings and compared them with the residents' performance on the ABIM's certification examination in the years 1980 through 1985. The ratings of the individual components of clinical competence were correlated moderately with examination performance and very highly with each other. The individual components that were less dependent on medical knowledge (for example, interpersonal skills or humanism) had slightly smaller correlations with examination performance. The ratings of overall clinical competence were also related moderately to examination performance. Changes in the pattern of the ratings over time indicated that fewer candidates were receiving lower ratings while more were receiving higher ratings. The pass rates for each rating level were the same or lower; for example, the pass rate for candidates rated 5 was 68 percent in 1980 and 56 percent in 1985. The similar ranking of examinees by the program directors and the examination provides evidence for the validity of the examination.