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Unified Soil Classification System

The Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) is a soil classification system used in engineering and geology
to describe the texture and grain size of a soil. The classification system can be applied to most unconsolidated
materials, and is represented by a two-letter symbol. Each letter is described below (with the exception of Pt):

First and/or second letters Second letter

Letter Definition Letter Definition

G gravel P poorly graded (uniform particle sizes)

S sand W well-graded (diversified particle sizes)

M silt H high plasticity

C clay L low plasticity

O organic

If the soil has 5–12% by weight of fines passing a #200 sieve (5% < P#200 < 12%), both grain size distribution
and plasticity have a significant effect on the engineering properties of the soil, and dual notation may be used
for the group symbol. For example, GW-GM corresponds to "well-graded gravel with silt."

If the soil has more than 15% by weight retained on a #4 sieve (R#4 > 15%), there is a significant amount of
gravel, and the suffix "with gravel" may be added to the group name, but the group symbol does not change.
For example, SP-SM could refer to "poorly graded SAND with silt" or "poorly graded SAND with silt and
gravel."

Contents
1 Symbol chart
1.1 ASTM D-2487
2 See also
3 References

Symbol chart
Group
Major divisions Group name
symbol

clean gravel <5% well-graded gravel,


GW
smaller than No.200 fine to coarse gravel
gravel
> 50% of coarse fraction Sieve GP poorly graded gravel
retained on No.4 (4.75 mm)
sieve GM silty gravel
gravel with >12% fines
Coarse grained soils GC clayey gravel
more than 50% retained on or
above No.200 (0.074 mm)sieve well-graded sand,
SW
clean sand fine to coarse sand
sand
≥ 50% of coarse fraction passes SP poorly graded sand
No.4 (4.75 mm) sieve SM silty sand
sand with >12% fines
SC clayey sand

ML silt
inorganic clay of low plasticity,
silt and clay CL
lean clay
liquid limit < 50
organic silt, organic
organic OL
Fine grained soils clay
50% or more passing the No.200 silt of high plasticity,
(0.074 mm) sieve MH
elastic silt
inorganic
silt and clay clay of high
CH
liquid limit ≥ 50 plasticity, fat clay

organic clay, organic


organic OH
silt

Highly organic soils Pt peat

ASTM D-2487
Soil Classification
Criteria for Assigning Group Symbols and Group Names Using Laboratory Tests Group
Group Name
Symbol

CU >= 4 and
Clean Well-graded
GW
Gravels 1 <= Cc <= 3 gravel

Less than 5% CU < 4 and


fines Poorly
GP
1 < Cc < 3 graded gravel
Gravels

More than 50% of coarse Fines classify


fraction on No. 4 Sieve as ML
Gravels with GM Silty Gravel
Fines or MH

More than Fines classify


12% fines as CL Clayey
GC
COARSE-GRAINED gravel
or CH

SOILS More than 50% retained


on No.200 Sieve CU >= 6 and
Well-graded
Clean Sands SW
1 <= Cc <= 3 sand

Less than 5%
fines CU < 6 and
Poorly
SP
1 <= Cc <= 3 graded sand
Sands

50% or more of coarse fraction Fines classify


passes No.4 sieve as ML
Sands with SM Silty sand
Fines or MH

More than Fines classify


12% fines as CL
SC Clayey sand
or CH

FINE-GRAINED PI > 7 and


plots on or
SOILS 50% or more passes the CL Lean clay
no. 200 Seive above "A" line
inorganic
PI < 4 and
plots below
Silts and Clays ML Silt
"A" line
Liquid limit less than 50

Liquid limit -
oven
OL Organic clay
organic dried < 0.75

Liquid limit -
OL Organic silt
not dried

Silts and Clays inorganic PI plots on or CH Fat clay


above
Liquid limit 50 or more
"A" line

PI plots below
MH Elastic silt
"A" line

Liquid limit -
oven
OH Organic clay
Organic dried < 0.75

Liquid limit -
OH Organic silt
not dried

HIGHLY ORGANIC
PT Peat
SOILS

[1]

See also
AASHTO Soil Classification System
AASHTO
ASTM International

References
Classification of Soils for Engineering Purposes: Annual Book of ASTM Standards, D 2487-83, 04.08,
American Society for Testing and Materials, 1985, pp. 395–408
Evett, Jack and Cheng Liu (2007), Soils and Foundations (7 ed.), Prentice Hall, pp. 9–29,
ISBN 0132221381

Specific

1. ASTM Standard D2487, 2000, "Standard Practice for Classification of Soils for Engineering Purposes
(Unified Soil Classification System)," ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2000,DOI:
10.1520/D2487-00, www.astm.org.

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