Abstract Growth efficiency is the amount of stemwood produced per unit of leaf area. It is an index that accounts for the influences of both photosynthetic efficiency and carbon allocation on stemwood production. Growth efficiency is becoming popular as an index to the general vigour or disease resistance of trees and stands, and is an aid in the interpretation of silvicultural experiments. Four separate estimates of growth efficiency were compared for a thinning × fertilising experiment in an even-aged regrowth Eucalyptus marginata Donn ex Smith (jarrah) stand in the northern jarrah forest of Western Australia. Both stand growth efficiency (SGE) and average tree growth efficiency (ATGE) showed large increases in response to thinning and fertilising. The large response of SGE and ATGE to thinning was mainly due to the removal of the less efficient trees. However, when trees in each plot were ranked on their growth efficiency, i.e. ranked tree growth efficiency (RTGE), the increase in RTGE in response to thinning was found to be limited to the most efficient 50 stems ha −1, with very little response in the less efficient trees. The response of RTGE to fertilising occurred over the range of tree growth efficiency classes. Therefore, the size of the response of growth efficiency to thinning and fertilising was dependent on the basis on which growth efficiency was analysed. We recommend that analysis of the effect of cultural treatments on tree growth efficiency should be done after ranking trees on their growth efficiency, i.e. on RTGE Within a thinning × fertilising treatment, individual tree growth efficiency (ITGE) was most strongly correlated with tree basal area increment, that is, the more efficient trees were the faster growing trees. ITGE could not be reliably predicted from tree leaf area, height, crown width, crown depth or tree diameter.