The aim of the study was to obtain calibration curves for a pair of size exclusion chromatography (SEC) columns operating with 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinone (NMP) as eluent. The dependence of the calibrations on sample chemical structures has been examined. The calibrations have been compared with elution times of several sets of standards. The level of agreement between SEC and MALDI-mass spectrometry has been evaluated. Molecular mass distributions of several complex samples have been examined in terms of these calibrations. The polystyrene (PS) and poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) calibration curves were close, while a set of polysaccharides (PSAC) and other oxygenates eluted much earlier. However, numerous other samples eluted closer to the PS-PMMA line. To a first approximation, deviations between the PSAC and PS-PMMA lines may be treated as an upper limit to errors arising from structure-dependent variations in this SEC system. Below 15 000 u, MMs of oxygenated samples could be estimated to within a factor of similar to2-2.5. Other structural features gave rise to smaller deviations. Good agreement was observed up to about m/z 3000, between SEC and MALDI and LD-MS. The techniques are independent, suggesting that up to this limit, SEC may be considered as a quantitative tool. The accuracy of the measurement is subject to greater uncertainty with increasing molecular mass. The often-made assumption that high-mass materials are composed of aggregates has been examined. Furthermore, evidence from several analytical techniques provides indications of entirely different structural makeup (e.g., nature of fragments in mass spectrometry; trace element concentration) between fractions with different apparent molecular masses-as determined by SEC. It is possible that some molecules adopt 3-dimensional conformations and show up as larger than they really are. While the "aggregates" assumption did not explain our experimental observations, structures of material appearing under the excluded peak in SEC require further careful study.