Carbonaceous adsorbents were prepared by heat treatment of coal reject at 600 degrees C, after chemical treatment in HNO3, H2SO4, and NaOH at 25 and 75 degrees C. Pore structure characterization and the phenol adsorption capacities of the adsorbents showed that nitric acid pretreatment significantly enhanced the surface properties, consequently the adsorption capacities of the adsorbents. A number of samples were subsequently prepared by carbonizing coal reject at 600 degrees C, after pretreatment in HNO3 under various conditions. The acid concentration, residence time, and reaction temperature were varied to obtain adsorbents with various pore structures. The adsorption capacities of the derived adsorbents for phenol, p-nitrophenol, and benzene were measured to gain further insights into the pore structure evolution. Adsorption isotherms of phenol, p-nitrophenol, and p-chlorophenol on the best adsorbent prepared were determined and correlated with theoretical isotherm equations, such as the Langmuir, Freundlich, and Redlich-Peterson equations.