# CIVIL PE EXAM SAMPLE PROBLEMS

GEOTECHNICAL DEPTH

PREPARED BY CIVILPEEXAMS.COM

All Rights Reserved. 200 Sieve: Liquid Limit: Plastic Limit: 98% 96% 90% 64 44 The correct Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) symbol for this soil deposit is: A) B) C) D) GM OL ML OH © 2011 www.civilpeexams. 4 Sieve: Percent Passing the No. The 5-foot long core run yielded a total of 43 inches of specimens. Laboratory classification testing yielded the following results: Percent Passing the No.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problems 1 PROBLEM #1 A 4-inch diameter double-tube barrel is used to obtain rock core specimens from a natural rock formation. The rock core recovery is most nearly: A) B) C) D) 55% 9% 72% 43% PROBLEM #2 Samples of an organic soil deposit were obtained with the use of a split-spoon sampler.com. 40 Sieve: Percent Passing the No. .

. Which geosynthetic will be most appropriate to provide a primary function of separation of fine-grained soils from coarse-grained soils? A) B) C) D) Geogrid Geotextile Geomembrane Geofoam © 2011 www.civilpeexams.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problems 2 Problem #3 A geosynthetic will be utilized at a site with very soft fine-grained soils.com. All Rights Reserved.

The groundwater table is at the bottom of the footing. the allowable bearing capacity of the footing is most nearly: A) B) C) D) 3.400 psf 4. . All Rights Reserved.0 and utilizing the bearing capacity factors listed in the table above.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problems 3 PROBLEM #4 A continuous footing has a width (B) of 4 feet and is embedded 2 feet into a clay material.com.500 psf © 2011 www. The clay material has the following properties: Moist soil unit weight (γm): Saturated soil unit weight (γsat): Cohesion (c): Angle of internal friction (φ): 115 pcf 120 pcf 500 psf 20 degrees Assuming a Factor of Safety of 2.700 psf 5.500 psf 9.civilpeexams.

It has been determined that the vertical total and effective stresses at the middle of the clay layer are 855 psf and 387 psf. The water table is at the ground surface. If the water table is raised 10 feet above the existing ground surface. All Rights Reserved. .479 psf No change © 2011 www. calculate the change in vertical effective stress at the center of the clay layer.civilpeexams. A) B) C) D) 387 psf 855 psf 1.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problems 4 PROBLEM #5 A site contains the stratigraphy presented below. respectively.com.

All Rights Reserved.com.5 feet © 2011 www. Based on the information presented in the diagram below. .000 lb/ft.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problems 5 PROBLEM #6 A 20-foot high retaining wall is to be constructed over soft clay materials and it has been determined (from external stability evaluations) that sliding will control the retaining wall design.5 feet 13 feet 13. the minimum width (B) of the retaining wall that will provide a Factor of Safety of at least 1.5 is most nearly: A) B) C) D) 12 feet 12. The retaining wall weighs a total of 3.civilpeexams.

com .CIVIL PE EXAM SAMPLE PROBLEMS GEOTECHNICAL DEPTH SOLUTIONS PREPARED BY CIVILPEEXAMS.COM © 2011 CivilPEExams.

plugging into the above equation we have: % = 43 ℎ × 100% = 71. So.civilpeexams.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 1 PROBLEM #1: SOLUTION Determine the rock core recovery.com.67% 5 × 12 ℎ Answer is C © 2011 www. . All Rights Reserved. Given: 1) 4-inch diameter barrel 2) 5-foot long core run 3) 43 inches of recovery Solution: The rock core recovery is the percentage of rock specimens recovered during the run and is defined as follows: % = ℎ ℎ × 100% The most important part of this problem is to remember to use units that are consistent.

Given: Percent Passing the No. we know that we have a soil sample with 2% gravel-sized fragments. Since the dot falls on the right side of the “A” line as well as on the right side of the LL = 50 line. Also. Therefore. All Rights Reserved. Therefore. 4 Sieve: 98% Percent Passing the No.civilpeexams. then the letter “O” will be the first symbol in the classification. we will need the following graph: Percent Passing the No. . we need to calculate the plasticity index (PI) as follows: = − = 64 − 44 = 20 Now. we can also eliminate answer “C”. answer “A” can be eliminated.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 2 PROBLEM #2: SOLUTION Determine the Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) symbol. since the problem states that the soil sample is organic. 4 sieve separates sand from gravel. the sample can be classified as “OH. So. Therefore. the gravel (“G”) symbol does not apply.1 In order to determine the plasticity of the sample. we can plot the point of LL = 64 and PI = 20 on the above figure to determine the second letter of the classification. In order to determine the final answer. since 98% passes the No.” Answer is D © 2011 www. 4 sieve. 40 Sieve: Liquid Limit: 96% 64 Source: Naval and Facilities Design Manual 7. 200 Sieve: 90% Plastic Limit: 44 Solution: The No.com.

).com.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 3 PROBLEM #3: SOLUTION Which geosynthetic will be most appropriate to provide to provide a primary function of separation of fine-grained soils from coarse-grained soils? Given: A) B) C) D) Geogrid Geotextile Geomembrane Geofoam Solution: Geogrids have relatively large apertures that will allow fine-grained soils to mitigate upwards to the coarse-grained soils during dynamic loading (i. Geofoam is typically used as a light weight fill in order to reduce the contact stresses on compressible soils. All Rights Reserved. this geosynthetic is not appropriate.civilpeexams. compaction equipment. Geomembranes are used in landfill operations to prevent liquids and solids from migrating to the natural groundwater table. geogrids are not appropriate.e. very small openings that generally only allow water to flow through for drainage purposes and their primary function is generally to provide separation of dissimilar materials. Thus. Therefore. Geotextiles have very. etc. Answer is B © 2011 www. So. this material is not applicable. . traffic.

All Rights Reserved.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 4 PROBLEM #4: SOLUTION The allowable bearing capacity of the footing is most nearly: Given: Moist soil unit weight (γm): Saturated soil unit weight (γsat): Cohesion (c): Angle of internal friction (φ): 115 pcf 120 pcf 500 psf 20 degrees Solution: Since this is a continuous footing.4 (from above table for φ = 20 deg. The bearing capacity equation can be written as follows: 1 = + + 2 where.8.civilpeexams. Terzaghi’s bearing capacity equation can be used and no corrections for size. & 5. Nq. .com.4. Nγ = ultimate bearing capacity (psf) 500 psf 115 pcf (above water) & 120 pcf (below water) footing embedment = 2 feet footing width = 4 feet Bearing capacity factors = 14.) © 2011 www. depth or inclination are required. 6. qult = c= γ= Df = B= Nc.

civilpeexams.0 Answer is C © 2011 www.494 psf 2.com. the ultimate bearing capacity can be calculated as follows: = = 500 14.494 The allowable bearing capacity can be calculated as follows: = Where. a submerged unit weight should be used for the last term of the equation. The moist unit weight can be used for the soil above the water table.4 5.4 9. . = = 9.494 2 = 4747 allowable bearing capacity ultimate bearing capacity = factor of safety = + 1 4 2 1 2 120 − 62.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 5 Since the water table is at the bottom of the footing. Therefore.8 + 115 2 + 6. All Rights Reserved. qall = qult = FS = Therefore.4 + = 9.

© 2011 www. All Rights Reserved.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 6 PROBLEM #5: SOLUTION Determine the change in vertical effective stress by raising the water level 10 feet above the existing ground surface: Given: Solution: The PE exam contains questions that are very simple in concept and the questions may provide data that is irrelevant to the question. you should understand that there is no change in vertical effective stresses by raising the water level by any depth above the ground surface given that the water level is already at the ground surface. . thus confusing the test taker.civilpeexams. This is one of those questions. The proof of this is demonstrated as hereafter. by inspection. If you understand soil mechanics and theory of stresses.com.

civilpeexams.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 7 The following diagram presents the problem after the water table is raised.5 100 = 855 = 468 © 2011 www. Let’s calculate the effective stress before raising the groundwater level.5 − ∆ 130 62. The vertical effective stress at the middle of the clay layer can be calculated as follows: = =2 ∆ = 7. .com.4 + 3 115 + 2. All Rights Reserved.

there is no change in the vertical effective stress by raising the groundwater table. This is a very important concept to understand.4 + 2 130 + 3 115 + 2.092 Thus.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 8 Therefore.479 = 1. .092 = 387 − ∆ 62. Answer is D © 2011 www. = 1.4 62. the vertical effective stress at the middle of the clay layer after raising the water level is as follows: = = 10 ∆ = 17.com.civilpeexams.479 − 1.5 Therefore. = 855 − 468 = 387 Now.5 100 = 1. All Rights Reserved.

.civilpeexams.com. All Rights Reserved.5 is most nearly: Given: Solution: The following free body diagram applies to this problem: © 2011 www.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 9 PROBLEM #6: SOLUTION Based on the information presented in the diagram below. the minimum width (B) of the retaining wall that will provide a Factor of Safety of at least 1.

236 lb/ft = weight of wall = 3.5 − 3.Civil PE Exam: Geotechnical Depth Sample Problem Solutions 10 The factor of safety against sliding can be written as follows: + = = The only force inducing sliding is the active soil pressure.236 = − = 0.5(110pcf)(20ft)2(0.civilpeexams. The soil resistance is provided by the clay layer. Rearranging the above equation and solving for B.55*1. .000 = 12.238) = 5.com.000 tan 15 © 2011 www.82 Answer is C 1.5γH2Ka = 0. All Rights Reserved.5 = 15 degrees (base friction angle of clay) = α*c = 0.55 ∗ 1.000 lbs/ft = 1. B Pa W FS δ Cα = wall width = 0.000 psf Substituting the above values in the equation and solving for B we have 5. we have: − = where.