This paper describes a sensitive strategy employing fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry (FAB-MS) for defining the anomeric configurations of pyranose sugars in oligosaccharides. The method, which is applicable to mixtures of reduced or unreduced oligosaccharides, is based upon FAB-MS analyses of deuteroacetylated derivatives before and after oxidation with chromium trioxide. This reagent, whose potential value in carbohydrate chemistry was first recognized by Angyal and which was subsequently more fully exploited by Lindberg, oxidizes beta-pyranosides to keto-esters leaving alpha-pyranosides largely intact. In this paper we show that the products of chromium trioxide oxidation can be successfully analysed at the microgram level using FAB-MS. The molecular and fragment ions produced in the FAB experiment define the number of sites oxidized and their location in the sequence. For samples which fragment poorly we describe a mild methanolysis procedure, compatible with FAB-MS, which preferentially cleaves the esters formed during the oxidation. Incorporation of an acetolysis step prior to oxidation permits analyses of polysaccharides. This oxidation/FAB-MS strategy should prove valuable in structural analyses of a wide range of biologically important carbohydrates which cannot be isolated in sufficient quantities to permit nuclear magnetic resonance studies.