The CRISPR-Cas9 system has recently emerged as a versatile tool for biological and medical research. In this system, a single guide RNA (sgRNA) directs the endonuclease Cas9 to a targeted DNA sequence for site-specific manipulation. In addition to this targeting function, the sgRNA has also been shown to play a role in activating the endonuclease activity of Cas9. This dual function of the sgRNA likely underlies observations that different sgRNAs have varying on-target activities. Currently, our understanding of the relationship between sequence features of sgRNAs and their on-target cleavage efficiencies remains limited, largely due to difficulties in assessing the cleavage capacity of a large number of sgRNAs. In this study, we evaluated the cleavage activities of 218 sgRNAs using in vitro Surveyor assays. We found that nucleotides at both PAM-distal and PAM-proximal regions of the sgRNA are significantly correlated with on-target efficiency. Furthermore, we also demonstrated that the genomic context of the targeted DNA, the GC percentage, and the secondary structure of sgRNA are critical factors contributing to cleavage efficiency. In summary, our study reveals important parameters for the design of sgRNAs with high on-target efficiencies, especially in the context of high throughput applications.