Background: Women express various opinions regarding expectations and experiences of having Pap tests, particularly with regards to explanation of the procedure, its implications and results, and accompanied preventive health activities. Aim: To explore patient expectations and experiences regarding Pap tests and associated screening activities. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with volunteer female patients. Results: Twenty-four women were interviewed. There was variation in expectations regarding consultations for a Pap test, and also of the information given as to what is meant by a 'normal' result. Many women expressed a preference for a female and regular health professional to undertake their smear. Conclusion: Recognition of general and individual barriers to cervical screening by health professionals will enhance patient access to, and acceptance of, screening activities. Understanding patient expectations regarding Pap tests ensures practitioners deliver health services with sufficient information and without false reassurance.