A method for estimating error rates in low-density parity check codes includes calibrating an encoder according to specific channel parameters and according to dominant error events in the low-density parity-check code. Dominant codewords are classified based on characteristics of each codeword that are likely to produce similar error rates at similar noise levels; codeword classes that produce the highest error rate are then tested. Error boundary distance is estimated using multiple binary searches on segments. Segments are defined based on codeword, trapping set and biasing noise components of the channel. To improve calculation speed the most significant subclasses of codewords, trapping sets and noise signals are used.