The commissioning of a three-dimensional treatment planning system requires comparisons of measured and calculated dose distributions. Techniques have been developed to facilitate quantitative comparisons, including superimposed isodoses, dose-difference, and distance-to-agreement (DTA) distributions. The criterion for acceptable calculation performance is generally defined as a tolerance of the dose and DTA in regions of low and high dose gradients, respectively. The dose difference and DTA distributions complement each other in their useful regions. A composite distribution has recently been developed that presents the dose difference in regions that fail both dose-difference and DTA comparison criteria. Although the composite distribution identifies locations where the calculation fails the preselected criteria, no numerical quality measure is provided for display or analysis. A technique is developed to unify dose distribution comparisons using the acceptance criteria. The measure of acceptability is the multidimensional distance between the measurement and calculation points in both the dose and the physical distance, scaled as a fraction of the acceptance criteria. In a space composed of dose and spatial coordinates, the acceptance criteria form an ellipsoid surface, the major axis scales of which are determined by individual acceptance criteria and the center of which is located at the measurement point in question. When the calculated dose distribution surface passes through the ellipsoid, the calculation passes the acceptance test for the measurement point. The minimum radial distance between the measurement point and the calculation points (expressed as a surface in the dose–distance space) is termed the γ index. Regions where correspond to locations where the calculation does not meet the acceptance criteria. The determination of γ throughout the measured dose distribution provides a presentation that quantitatively indicates the calculation accuracy. Examples of a 6 MV beam penumbra are used to illustrate the γ index.