The purpose of undergraduate surgical education is to prepare the student for both the residency and eventual practice of medicine. To help determine the surgical knowledge and skills that would eventually the useful to the student, we conducted a survey of residents in training, physicians in practice, and surgical educators (department chairpersons and clerkship directors). Members of the Curriculum Committee of the Association for Surgical Education developed a questionnaire in which the respondents were asked to grade the functional importance of 84 areas of knowledge and 46 skills (0 = unnecessary, 3 = proficiency necessary). Using a modified Delphi technique to collect information, we sent the questionnaire to eight medical school graduation classes of 1975 (730 persons) and 1980 (776 persons) and all department chairpersons and/or clerkship directors (179). The results of the survey (46% response) revealed considerable agreement about the importance of certain skills and areas of knowledge, enabling us to rank order skills and knowledge based on mean responses (0.0 to 3.0). Physicians in practice, residents, and educators believed that certain areas of knowledge (e.g., acute abdominal problems, appendicitis, shock, cancer of the breasts) and skills (e.g., history taking and physical examination, gowning, suture removal) were very important (greater than 2.250, while other areas of knowledge (e.g., transplantation, liver abscess, soft tissue sarcomas) and skills (e.g., insertion of Swan-Ganz catheter, abdominal paracentesis, cricothyroidotomy) were less important (less than 1.3). This approach allows us to assign priorities to areas of knowledge and skills when determining curriculum content and to include functional criteria when developing educational objectives.