This paper focuses on understanding the phase efficiency and optical loss of MOS-capacitor-based silicon waveguide phase shifters. A total of nine designs have been fabricated using poly-silicon and characterized at wavelengths around 1.55 μm. Detailed comparison of design parameters shows that scaling down the waveguide dimensions, placing the capacitor gate oxide near the center of the optical mode, and reducing the oxide thickness significantly enhance phase modulation efficiency. Our best design to date demonstrates a π-radian phase shift with 0.8-cm device length and 3-V drive. This phase shifter has a transmission loss of 15 dB, the primary source of which is the poly-silicon regions inside the device. An improved material can reduce loss to as little as 4 dB.