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A new numerical method for analyzing birefringence and dispersion characteristics of birefringent optical fibers is presented. A major advantage of the method, based on the solution of full‐vectorial Maxwell equations, is its high accuracy no matter how great the geometrical anisotropy of the optical fiber. To verify the reliability of our numerical procedure, the modal birefringence and the form‐induced polarization mode dispersion in elliptical core fibers with different eccentricities are investigated and their values compared with some theoretical and experimental results. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.