The accuracy of quantitative XPS analysis can be improved using predetermined transmission functions. Two different calibration methods are used for estimating the transmission function T(E) of a photoelectron spectrometer, applying a survey spectra approach (SSA) and a quantified peak-area approach (QPA) to minimize the quantification error. For the SSA method, Au, Ag and Cu spectra measured with the Metrology Spectrometer II have been used. The new QPA method was built up from Au 4f, Au 4d, Au 4p3/2, Ag 3d, Ag 3p3/2, Cu 3p, Cu 2p3/2, Ge 3p and Ge 2p3/2 standard peak areas, applying adequate ionization cross-sections and mean free path lengths for different pass energies (10 and 50 eV), lens modes (large area, large area XL, small area 150) and x-ray sources (Al/Mg Twin and Al Mono). In the energy range 200–1500 eV a transmission function T(E) = a0 + b1E (where a0, b1 and b2 are variable parameters) was found to give an appropriate approximation for eight tested spectrometer settings, implementing the largest changes in the case of pass energy variations. Determination and application of the transmission functions were integrated in the XPS analysis software (UNIFIT 2004) and tested by means of an Ni90Cr10 alloy. The results demonstrate the practicability of the SSA and QPA methods, giving decreased errors of <8% in comparison with errors up to 38% obtained using Wagner's sensitivity factors. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.