This study compared standard gamble (SG), time trade-off (TTO), and category scaling (CS) methods for assessing preferences among hypothetical outcomes of coronary artery bypass surgery. High correlations among assessment methods, as found in some previous studies, do not assure the absence of systematic differences in rating obtained by different methods. This study used analysis of variance to test for differences among the three assessment methods. Questionnaire responses were obtained from 67 of 109 physicians participating in a postgraduate course on clinical decision making, following a lecture and workshop on utility theory. SG and CS were used to rate multivariate combinations of angina (none, moderate, and severe) and survival (0, 5, and 10 years); and SG, TTO, and CS were used to rate univariate outcomes with angina (none, moderate, and severe) for the remainder of their life expectancy. SG ratings were higher than TTO ratings, which were higher than CS ratings (p less than 0.001 for all comparisons). Multivariate responses revealed a significant interaction between angina and survival dimensions using CS, but not using SG. We conclude that these methods are not interchangeable and that differences between SG and CS require a more complex explanation than differences in attitude toward risk.