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An apparatus and method for characterizing the complex coupling coefficient of a multilayered periodic structure either during or after inscription is described. This apparatus is capable of continuously measuring the complex reflectivity at single or multiple wavelengths to a resolution limited by Rayleigh scattering in the waveguide section where the structure is inscribed. The apparatus is also capable of rejecting undesired signals associated with stray reflections in the system and unwanted environmentally induced change in optical path lengths during the inscription procedure. The complex coupling coefficient of the multilayered periodic structure can be derived from the measured complex reflectivity and can reveal errors present in the structure. The complex coupling coefficient can also be used to derive an error signal to enable implementation of a closed loop inscription system capable of inscribing error free multilayer structures.