Background. As part of the process to develop more community-oriented medical teaching in Vietnam, eight medical schools prepared a set of standard learning objectives with attention to the needs of a doctor working with the community. Because they were prepared based on government documents and the opinions of the teachers, it was necessary to check them with doctors who had already graduated and were working at different sites in the community. Methods. Each of the eight medical faculties asked 100 practising recent graduates to complete a questionnaire to check the relevance of the skills that the teachers considered most important. We used mean and standard deviation to summarize the scores rated by the respondents for each skill and percentile at four points: p50, p25, p10 and p5 to describe the variation of scores among the respondents. Correlation coefficient was used to measure the relationship between skill levels set by the teachers and the perception of practicing doctors regarding frequency of using skills and priority for each skill. Additional information was taken from the records of focus group discussions to clarify, explain or expand on the results from the quantitative data. Results. In many cases the skills considered important by teachers were also rated as highly necessary and/or frequently used by the respondents. There were, however, discrepancies: some skills important to teachers were seldom used and not considered important by the doctors. In focus group discussions the doctors also identified skills that are not taught at all in the medical schools but would be needed by practising doctors.. Conclusion. Although most of the skills and skill levels included in the learning objectives by the teachers were consistent with the opinions of their graduates, the match was not perfect. The experience of the graduates and their additional comments should be included as inputs to the definition of learning objectives for medical students. © 2007 Hoat et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.