In this study, sequencing batch reactor (SBR) with an anaerobic/aerobic/anoxic operating mode was used to culture granular sludge. Optimal adjustment of cycle duration was achieved by the direction ofpH, oxidation reduction potential and dissolved oxygen parameters. The results showed that the treating efficiency was significantly improved as the cycle was shortened from 450 to 360 min and further to 200 min. Nitrogen and phosphorus removal were nearly quantitative after 50 days operation and maintained stable to the end of the study period. The typical cycle tests revealed that simultaneous denitrification and phosphorus removal occurred when aerobic granules were gradually formed. The nitrite effect tests showed that less than 4.8 mg N/L of the nitrite could enhance superficial specific aerobic phosphate uptake rate (SAPUR) under aerobic condition, indicating that the traditional method to evaluate the capability of total phosphate-accumulating organisms (PAOs) was inaccurate. Additionally, a high level of nitrite was detrimental to PAOs. A novel method was developed to determine the activity of each kind of PAOs and other denitrifying organisms. The results showed that (1) nitrate, besides nitrite, could also enhance SAPUR and (2) aerobic granular sludge could perform denitrification even when phosphate was not supplied under anoxic condition, suggesting that other denitrifying organisms besides denitrifying phosphate-accumulating organisms also contributed to denitrification.