The development and clinical application of lung function tests have a long history, and the various components of lung function tests provide very important tools for the clinical evaluation of respiratory health and disease. Spirometry, measurement of the diffusion factor, bronchial provocation tests and forced oscillation techniques have found diverse clinical applications in the diagnosis and monitoring of respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung diseases and asthma. However, there are some practical issues to be resolved, including the establishment of reference values for individual test parameters and the roles of these tests in preoperative risk assessment and pulmonary rehabilitation. Novel measurements, including negative expiratory pressure, the fraction of exhaled nitric oxide and analysis of exhaled breath condensate, may provide new insights into physiological abnormalities or airway inflammation in respiratory diseases, but their clinical applications need to be further evaluated. The clinical application of lung function tests continues to face challenges, which may be overcome by further improvement of conventional techniques for lung function testing and further specification of new testing techniques.