In this article we address the problem of the existence of superconvergence points for finite element solutions of systems of linear elliptic equations. Our approach is quite different from all other studies of superconvergence. We prove that the existence of superconvergence points can be guaranteed by a numerical algorithm, which employs a finite number of operations (provided that there is no roundoff-error). By employing this approach, we can reproduce all known results on superconvergence of finite element solutions for linear elliptic problems and we can obtain many new results. Here, in particular, we address the problem of the superconvergence points for the gradient of finite element solutions of Laplace's and Poisson's equations and we show that the sets of superconvergence points are very different for these two cases. We also study the superconvergence of the components of the gradient of the displacement, the strain and stress for finite element solutions of the equations of elasticity. For Laplace's and Poisson's equations (resp. the equations of elasticity), we consider meshes of triangular as well as square elements of degree p, 1 ≤ p ≤ 7 (resp. 1 ≤ p ≤ 4). For the meshes of triangular elements we investigate the effect of the geometry of the mesh by considering four mesh patterns that typically occur in practical meshes, while in the case of square elements, we study the effect of the element type (tensor-product, serendipity, or other). © 1996 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.