The discriminative value of patient characteristics and dyspeptic symptoms for upper gastrointestinal endoscopic findings was prospectively assessed in 1,147 patients attending for their first diagnostic endoscopy and who answered paper (n = 431) or computerized (n = 716) questionnaires. The questionnaires provided detailed information concerning present dyspeptic symptoms, with special attention to provoking and/or relieving factors, and smoking and/or drinking habits. In logistic regression models each of a number of 'specific endoscopic diagnoses' was contrasted with normal endoscopy (n = 390), and 'relevant endoscopic disease' (oesophagitis, peptic ulcers, cancers; n = 269) was contrasted with 'irrelevant' and normal endoscopic findings (n = 878). From the regression model a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve could be constructed, and the area under the ROC curve (AUC) was calculated to summarize the discriminative power of the regression model. The best discrimination from patients with a normal endoscopy was achieved for patients with gastric (AUC = 0.86) or duodenal (AUC = 0.85) ulcers, followed by patients with hiatus hernia (AUC = 0.78 or oesophagitis (AUC = 0.77). The discriminative performance of the regression models was somewhat less for duodenitis/bulbitis (AUC = 0.75) and endoscopic gastritis (AUC = 0.73). In an open-access endoscopy unit setting, the value of preinvestigation history-taking for the prediction of clinically relevant endoscopic disease was very limited (AUC = 0.63).