Two basic oxidation modes of composites with oxidizing particles in a non-oxidizing matrix have been observed. Mode 1 is defined as the complete oxidation of all the particles within an outer layer of the composite, while mode II exhibits partial oxidation of the particles, deep into the composite. Using microscopic observations to plot the silica layer thickness on particles (whiskers) vs the depth of the particles (whiskers) below the composite surface is proposed as a powerful means of categorizing and quantifying actual oxidation modes. Thus, mullite/SiC-whisker composites were found to have mode I oxidation behavior, while certain (mullite + ZrO 2 )/SiC-whisker composites were found to exhibit mode II behavior, followed by a mixed mode after severe exposures. It is proposed that mode II behavior appears when oxygen diffusivity in the matrix is much higher than that in the product oxide layer.