The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has spent 4 years developing a set of entry standards which define the minimum features of general practices expected for the mid-1990s. The project design followed a slow, iterative process, with several opportunities for wide consultation with professional, consumer and Government groups. The draft standards were piloted in 25 volunteer practices, modified and then field-tested in 200 randomly selected practices representing urban and rural practices. Results of this field testing showed that the standards had content validity and that reliable measures were possible using triangulation from several data sources. The current version of the standards has been distributed widely for voluntary application in Australian general practices from early 1997.