Spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE) and magneto-optical (MO) spectroscopy are applied to analyze three sets of shallow magnetic gratings. The experimental data of SE are used to extract geometrical parameters of several samples. A half-micrometer thick transparent interlayer present between the periodic magnetic wires and the substrate in one of the sets of the samples is used to increase the sensitivity of SE and MO measurements. Thanks to this sensitivity the geometrical parameters can be extracted together with the material composition of the magnetic film. In order to interpret the magneto-optical Kerr effect (MOKE) measurement, three theoretical approaches are used in the simulations, the rigorous coupled-wave method (CWM), the local mode method (LMM), and a new approach based on comparing CWM with LMM with defining a 'quality factor' of the grating with respect to the wire edges. Using the MOKE spectra in the 0th and -1st diffraction orders, one set of the samples made with a protection capping is analyzed with respect to the native-oxidation process. The quality factor of these samples is extracted from MOKE in the -1st diffraction order for p-polarized incidence. The monitoring system based on both SE and MOKE is rated as highly sensitive and precise, and with accurate determination of the optical and magneto-optical constants it could by applied in multi-parameter fitting.© (2005) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.