The spent phenolic resin is as raw material for preparing high surface area activated carbon (HSAAC) by microwave-assisted KOH activation. The effects of microwave power, activation duration and impregnation ratio (IR) on the iodine adsorption capability and yield of HSAAC were investigated. The surface characteristics of HSAAC were characterized by nitrogen adsorption isotherms, FTIR, SEM and TEM. The operating variables were optimized utilizing the response surface methodology (RSM) and were identified to be microwave power of 700 W, activation duration of 15 min and IR of 4, corresponding to a yield of 51.25% and an iodine number of 2,384 mg/g. The pore structure parameters of the HSAAC, i. e., Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area, total pore volume, and average pore diameter were estimated to be 4,269 m2/g, 2.396 ml/g and 2.25 nm, respectively, under optimum conditions. The findings strongly support the feasibility of microwave-assisted KOH activation for preparation of HSAAC from spent phenolic resin.