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1. The materials that constitute the earths crust are arbitrarily divided by the civil
engineers into two categories as soil and rock. Soil is a natural aggregate of mineral
grains that can be separated by such gentle mechanical means as agitation in water.
2. Soil-forming factors are: parent materials, topography, climate, organisms, and time.
3. Based on method of formation, soils are classified as: sedimentary soils, residual
soils, fills (man-made soil deposits), and organic soils.
4. Soil structure (flocculated /dispersed) refers to the orientation and the distribution of
particles in a soil mass, and is governed by the environment of deposition.
5. Clay minerals are a group of complex alumino-silicates, mainly formed during the
chemical weathering of primary minerals. Most clay mineral particles are of plate-
like form having a high specific surface. The principal clay minerals are: kaolinite,
illite and montmorillonite. Calcium is a very common exchangeable ion in soils.
6. A phase in a soil mass is its one part, which is physically and chemically different
from the other parts. Soil contains three components (phases), namely, air, water and
solid matter.
7. Porosity and degree of saturation are commonly expressed as a percentage.
8. The relative density of a cohesionless soil is its natural density relative to its loosest
and densest possible states of compaction. It is generally expressed in percent, and
may vary from a minimum of 0% for very loose soils to a maximum of 100% for very
dense soils.
9. The degree of resistance offered by a fine-grained soil to deformation is called its
consistency. It greatly depends on water content of the soil. Depending on the water
content, a soil can be placed in one of the four basic states of matter: solid, semisolid,
plastic, and liquid.
10. The water content at the point of transition from solid to semisolid state is defined as
the shrinkage limit. The water content at the point of transition from semisolid to
plastic state is defined as the plastic limit. The water content at the point of transition
from plastic to liquid state is defined as the liquid limit.
11. Plasticity index (liquid limit plastic limit) of a soil indicates the range of water
content over which it remains in plastic state.
12. D10 (effective size), is defined as the particle diameter corresponding to 10% finer by
weight. Coefficient of uniformity is an indicator of the spread (or range) of particle
sizes. Coefficient of gradation is an indicator of the shape of the particle size
distribution curve.
13. Soil classification is the placing of a soil into a group of soils all of which exhibit
similar behaviour. The purpose of soil classification is to obtain a consistent and
internationally recognized description of the soil under consideration. This facilitates
the interchange of general information about similar soils and forms a basis for
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decisions on further tests required for the solution of a particular engineering problem.
Soil classification also permits us to solve many types of simple soil problems.
14. When the grains are angular, there is more interlocking among grains, and therefore
the strength and stiffness of the soils would be greater.


1. Effective stress at a point within a saturated soil mass is equal to total stress minus
neutral stress at that point. Effective stress controls certain aspects of soil behaviour,
notably compression (i.e. volume change), and strength. Neutral stress cannot cause
volume change or produce frictional resistance.
2. For water table below ground surface, a rise in the water table causes a reduction in
the effective stress and a fall in the water table produces an increase in effective
stress. For water table above ground surface, a fluctuation in the exposed water table
does not alter the effective stress in the soil.
3. Construction of a fill as well as the placement of a surcharge load increases the
effective stress. Capillarity in soil mass causes an increase in effective stress at a
point within the soil mass.
4. Head is defined as the energy carried by the fluid per unit of its weight. Its SI unit is
m. Velocity head is negligible; therefore, the total head is equal to sum of pressure
and elevation heads, also known as piezometric head.
5. Flow between any two points depends only on the difference in total head.
6. Darcy (1856) presented a simple empirical equation for the velocity of water through
saturated soils under laminar flow conditions.
7. Discharge velocity is not the actual velocity within the soil mass, because it is based
on the gross cross-sectional area of the soil. The actual velocity of water is called
seepage velocity.
8. The hydraulic conductivity of saturated soils is lower and increases rapidly with the
degree of saturation.
9. Constant head test is used primarily for coarse-grained soils with k > 10-4 m/s. Falling
head test is used for fine-grained soils with 10-7 <k< 10-4.
10. In an isotropic soil, seepage force always acts in the direction of flow.
11. Seepage force, J = hwA, where h is the loss in the total head through frictional
drag, and A is the area of cross-section through which water flows.
12. Seepage force per unit volume is known as seepage pressure, j = hwA/LA=iw.
13. For an upward fluid flow in which seepage force equals the submerged soil weight
[icritical = /w= (G 1)/(1 = e)], fine sands and coarse silts lose their shear strength.
This hydraulic condition is called quick condition or quicksand.
14. A shock on certain loose soils, which causes a volume decrease in the soil skeleton,
may result in zero effective stress. This phenomenon is termed liquefaction.
15. The graphical solution of Laplace equation consists of two sets of orthogonal curves,
namely, flow lines and equipotential lines. Flow lines indicate the direction of the
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flow whereas equipotential lines are the lines drawn through points of equal total head
(that controls the flow). A set of flow lines and equipotential lines is called a flow net.


1. Compaction, in general, is the densification of soil by expulsion of air present in its

voids, which requires mechanical energy. Compaction is almost instantaneous, and
the soil always remains unsaturated after compaction.
2. Major factors that affect compaction are soil type, compactive effort and confinement.
3. Sheepsfoot rollers are most suitable for cohesive soils. Vibratory rollers are most
suitable for granular soils.
4. Strategies for ground improvement are: avoid the particular site, design the planned
structure accordingly, remove and replace unsuitable soils, and attempt to modify the
existing ground.
5. There are several techniques for improving the weak ground. Examples: shallow
surface compaction, deep compaction (heavy tamping, preloading, explosion,
vibration, compaction grouting), dewatering, improvement by admixtures (lime and
cement stabilizations), grouting, heating and freezing, soil reinforcement, anchoring
and bolting, soil nailing, improvement by confinement.
6. The net load (load in excess of overburden pressure) applied on the foundation soil
causes vertical stress increase in soil mass, resulting in foundation level settlement.
7. An isobar is a line which connects all points of equal stress below the ground surface.
In other words, an isobar is a stress contour. Since isobars form closed figures and
resemble the form of a bulb, they are also termed bulb of pressure or pressure bulb.
Vertical pressure bulb is most important in the calculation of settlements of
8. Consolidation is the process whereby the application of pressure on a soil layer over a
period of time causes a reduction in its volume by expelling fluid from the pores and
by packing the soil grains closer together. The reverse process of consolidation is
called swelling which occurs when water is sucked into a soil following removal of
applied loads.
9. Settlement of foundation soils caused by load application may be divided into three
broad categories: Immediate settlement, primary consolidation settlement, secondary
consolidation settlement.
10. In normally consolidated clays, the present effective overburden pressure is the
maximum pressure to which the soil has been subjected in the past. In
overconsolidated clays, the present effective overburden pressure is less than that
which the soil has experienced in the past.
11. The maximum effective past pressure is called the preconsolidation pressure.
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1. The shear strength of a soil mass is the internal resistance per unit area that it can
offer to resist failure and sliding along any plane inside it. Shear strength is the most
important property of soils, because solutions to soil stability problems (bearing
capacity of foundations, stability of slopes, and lateral stress from backfills on
retaining structures) are greatly dependent on it.
2. Cohesion (c) and angle of shearing resistance () (aka angle of internal friction, or
simply friction angle) are the shear strength parameters.
3. The direct shear test is the oldest and simplest form of shear test. The triaxial shear
test is the most common and versatile shear test used to determine the shear strength
and stress-strain properties of soil.
4. When the structure is built very slowly, such that there is no build-up of excess
porewater pressure because of adequate time available for drainage, the loading
applied is called drained loading. When the structure is built very quickly, such that
there is build-up of excess porewater pressure because there is hardly any time
available for drainage, the loading applied is called drained loading.
5. The loading is neither fully drained nor fully undrained. Most of the time, the short-
term loading is assumed to be instantaneous and hence undrained, especially in clays.
In granular soils, which have high permeability, even short-term loading is drained.
6. Unconfined compression test is a special type of UU triaxial test in which confining
pressure is kept zero. This is commonly used for saturated clayey soils.
7. For normally consolidated (NC) clays, cCD = 0. Average values CD of NC clays can
range from 200 for highly plastic clays to 300 for silty or sandy clays. For OC clays,
CD will be lower and cCD will be higher. For compacted clays, CD is typically 350
300 and can be as high as 350. CD decreases with increasing plasticity index.
8. Objectives of site investigation are: to determine sequence and extent of each soil and
rock stratum underlying the site; to determine the engineering geological
characteristics of each stratum and geotechnical properties of soil and rock which may
affect design and construction procedures of the proposed engineered systems and
their foundations; and to determine the location of groundwater table and possible
harmful effects of soil, rock and water on materials to be used for construction of
structural elements of foundation.
9. Stages of site investigation are: collection of available information, site
reconnaissance, preliminary site investigation, and detailed site investigation
10. Subsurface investigation task is generally made through test pits and trenches, and
11. Methods of boring/drilling include auger boring, wash boring, percussion drilling,
rotary drilling
12. Undisturbed samples have natural structure and moisture, and they truly represent the
in situ soil mass in terms of their properties.
13. For a single-storey building, the depth of exploration is about 3.5 m.
14. Seismic refraction and electrical resistivity methods are geophysical methods of
subsurface exploration.
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15. Standard penetration test (SPT) is commonly conducted in boreholes at a regular

interval of 1.5 m unless there is no change of strata.
16. Plate load test (PLT) is a very common field test to determine the load-bearing
capacity of foundation soils.
17. The trench/tunnel excavation is supported by timbering, sheet piling, ground anchors,
soil nailing and ground freezing.


1. If the retaining wall does not move either to the left or to the right of its initial
position, the soil backfill will be in a state of elastic equilibrium, that is, the horizontal
strain is zero. The ratio of the effective horizontal stress to the vertical stress is called
the coefficient of earth pressure at rest.
2. Rankine (1957) investigated the stress conditions in soil at a state of plastic
equilibrium, which refers the condition in which every point in a soil mass is on the
verge of failure. For the estimation of pressure on the wall, it is assumed that the wall
extends to an infinite depth and is frictionless.
3. Major types of retaining walls are gravity retaining walls, semi-gravity retaining
walls, cantilever retaining walls, and counterfort retaining walls
4. Design steps for retaining walls include proportioning the sections of the wall,
checking for overturning, checking for sliding along the base, and checking for
bearing capacity failure.
5. Main components of mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls are backfill,
reinforcement, and skin/cover.
6. An exposed ground surface that stands at an angle with the horizontal is called a
slope. Major causes of slope failure are gravitational forces and seepage forces.
7. Slope stability is analyzed by determining the factor of safety. When FSs is equal to 1,
the slope is in a state of impending failure. Generally, a value of 1.5 for the factor of
safety with respect to the strength is acceptable for the design of a stable slope.
8. In case of infinite slopes, the curvature of the slip surface remains constant
everywhere except the points at edges. The curvature of the slip surface changes from
point to point in case of finite slopes.
9. Taylor s method of slope stability analysis is based on several assumptions such as:
Failure surfaces are arc of cylindrical shape, and so they appear on cross-sections as
circular arcs, the whole sliding mass is considered as a single block, the overall
moment equilibrium condition is satisfied, the analysis is = 0 analysis, slope
consists of homogeneous material up to firm depth, and undrained shear strength does
not vary with depth.
10. Embankments stabilized with basal geosynthetic layers are designed and checked
against the following failure modes: overall slope stability failure, lateral spreading,
embankment settlement, overall bearing failure, and pullout failure.
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1. The lowest part of a structure is generally referred to as foundation. Its function is to

transfer the load of the structure to the soil on which it is resting. A properly designed
foundation is one that transfers the load throughout the soil without overstressing the
soil. Overstressing the soil can result in either excessive settlement or shear failure of
the soil, both of which cause damage to the structure.
2. For shallow foundations, the ratio of depth of foundation to width of foundation is
less than or equal to unity.
3. The load-bearing capacity depends on the shape of the footing, depth of the footing,
direction of the loading, and location of water table with respect to the footing base
4. The Terzaghi ultimate bearing capacity theory provides the simplest equation for
estimating the ultimate bearing capacity of shallow foundations.
5. Various bearing capacity terms are: ultimate bearing capacity (qu), net ultimate
bearing capacity (qnu), gross safe bearing capacity (qs), net safe bearing capacity (qns),
safe bearing pressure or net safe settlement pressure (qn), and allowable bearing
pressure (qna).
6. Nc, Nq and N are the bearing capacity factors, and they are functions of angle of
shearing resistance of foundation soils.
7. Deep foundations are structural members (made of steel, concrete or timber) that
distribute the load vertically rather than horizontally. They are generally used to
transmit the loads to a deeper load bearing strata when no adequate bearing strata
exist at shallow depths.
8. Piles are structural members made of steel, concrete and/or timber. A pile foundation
is much more expensive than spread footings and likely to be more expensive than a
raft foundation.
9. Based on the mechanism of load transfer, piles are classified as point-bearing piles
and friction piles.
10. The factor of safety used estimation of allowable pile capacity ranges from 2.5 to 4,
depending on the uncertainties of the ultimate load calculation.
11. Negative skin friction is a downward drag force on the pile by the soil surrounding it.
12. In most cases, piles are used in groups to transmit the structural load to the soil. A pile
cap is constructed over group piles.
13. A drilled pier (also termed as drilled shaft; drilled caisson or simply, caisson; or
bored pile) is a cast-in-place pile generally have a diameter of about 2.5 ft ( 750 mm)
or more.
14. A well foundation is an open caisson made of timber, steel, concrete or masonry
which is open both at top and bottom, and is commonly used for bridge foundations in