The search continues for a single reliable test of liver function that provides accurate prognostic information in chronic liver disease, in acute liver failure, and about graft function following orthotopic liver transplantation. Although transaminases, the commonly used markers of hepatocellular injury, have a high sensitivity in screening for liver disease, they do not provide any information about prognosis. Rational assessment of liver function using bilirubin, serum albumin and prothrombin-time is limited by the relative lack of sensitivity of these measurements and their inability to identify the functional reserve of the liver. Dynamic liver function tests are an improvement on the static tests but are generally cumbersome. The ideal liver function test would be cheap, easy to perform and analyse, safe, have a simple pharmacokinetic profile with minimal drug interactions, have a high predictive value and provide quick results. Numerous quantitative liver function tests have been developed and have shown promise in some studies. The aim of this review is to assess the place of these tests in the practical management of liver disease.