A new method to measure refractive index and the accuracy analysis as well is presented. The characteristic includes that the direction of incident light is not perpendicular to the interface but close to the critical angle of total internal reflection. That the specular reflectivity changes sharply near the critical angle implies that a high measuring sensitivity be reached easily. A narrow p- polarized laser beam and a prism or a quasi-semi-cylindrical lens in contact with a sample are applied in the apparatus. In order to match a high accuracy, a photoelectronic receiver with dual-channel divider is designed to compensate the stability of output of laser. One of the advantages of the method is its high accuracy. The uncertainty in the refractive index measurement is in the fourth decimal place at least. The exact direction of incident laser beam depends on the accuracy of result expected. Another outstanding advantage is its particularly straightforward in use experimental techniques. The method will be the most promising tool to study the response of refractive index to subtle changes of different conditions.© (1998) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.