Recent work has demonstrated an unexpected prevalence of copy number variation in the human genome, and has highlighted the part this variation may play in predisposition to common phenotypes. Some important genes vary in number over a high range (e.g. DEFB4, which commonly varies between two and seven copies), and have posed formidable technical challenges for accurate copy number typing, so that there are no simple, cheap, high-throughput approaches suitable for large-scale screening. We have developed a simple comparative PCR method based on dispersed repeat sequences, using a single pair of precisely designed primers to amplify products simultaneously from both test and reference loci, which are subsequently distinguished and quantified via internal sequence differences. We have validated the method for the measurement of copy number at DEFB4 by comparison of results from >800 DNA samples with copy number measurements by MAPH/REDVR, MLPA and array-CGH. The new Paralogue Ratio Test (PRT) method can require as little as 10 ng genomic DNA, appears to be comparable in accuracy to the other methods, and for the first time provides a rapid, simple and inexpensive method for copy number analysis, suitable for application to typing thousands of samples in large case-control association studies.