We implement the C-shaped sample test method and micro-cantilever beam testing to measure the local strength of microscopic, low-aspect-ratio ceramic particles, namely high purity vapor grown a-alumina Sumicorundum (R) particles 15-30 mu m in diameter, known to be attractive reinforcing particles for aluminum. Individual particles are shaped by focused ion beam micromachining so as to probe in tension a portion of the particle surface that is left unaffected by ion-milling. Mechanical testing of C-shaped specimens is done ex situ using a nanoindentation apparatus, and in the SEM using an in-situ nanomechanical testing system for micro-cantilever beams. The strength is evaluated for each individual specimen using bespoke finite element simulation. Results show that, provided the particle surface is free of readily observable defects such as pores, twins or grain boundaries and their associated grooves, the particles can achieve local strength values that approach those of high-perfection single-crystal alumina whiskers, on the order of 10 GPa, outperforming high-strength nanocrystalline alumina fibers and nano-thick alumina platelets used in bio-inspired composites. It is also shown that by far the most harmful defects are grain boundaries, leading to the general conclusion that alumina particles must be single-crystalline or alternatively nanocrystalline to fully develop their potential as a strong reinforcing phase in composite materials. (C) 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.