Forty-eight trainees in surgery, psychiatry, anaesthetics and medicine underwent objective testing of manual dexterity (Mandex test), hand-eye coordination (Gibson spiral maze test) and visuospatial ability (embedded figures task). Surgical trainees performed significantly more quickly on the spiral maze test than psychiatrists (P = 0.03) but made more errors (P = 0.02). Combining male and female subjects across all groups, women were significantly more accurate than men. When men only were compared no psychomotor differences between specialty groups could be demonstrated. There were no differences in visuospatial ability by either sex or specialty. Self-selection on the basis of such skill is therefore unlikely.