A magnetic separator for isolating magnetically-labeled substances of interest, such as immunological agents, from a non-magnetic test medium using a method of high gradient magnetic separation. The target substance is contacted with microscopic magnetic particles having a receptor for binding with the target substance. The test medium containing the magnetic particles is held in a non-magnetic container and placed into a gap within an arrangement of magnets for causing the magnetic particles to adhere to selected locations upon the interior wall of the container. The quantity of magnetic particles may be controlled to cause the magnetic particles collected upon the interior wall to form a monolayer. The magnets are arranged upon a yoke which may provide linear, surrounding multipolar, or partially surrounding multipolar configurations of magnetic pole faces about the gap. The magnetic pole faces may be of differing cross-sectional areas to enhance the magnetic field gradient in regions adjacent to the smaller pole faces. The method and apparatus may be used for such investigations as enzyme-labeled competitive immunoassay and "sandwich" immunoassays.