Module code: ENG2104

Module Overview

The module is designed to introduce the essential fundamental principles of soils in terms of soil properties, states, behaviours, mechanics, and some preliminary design approaches. It builds upon the basic soil descriptions and properties introduced in ENG1075 Engineering Geology and Geomechanics and lays theoretical foundations to ENG3175 Geotechnical Engineering. It will also introduce fundamental soil testing methods for determining key soil properties.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

CUI Liang (Sust & CEE)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 80

Seminar Hours: 20

Tutorial Hours: 11

Laboratory Hours: 6

Guided Learning: 22

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The module contents are designed to equip students with the core theories and principles in soil mechanics as well as problem-solving skills which are essential for a geotechnical engineer. Students will be introduced the following indicative contents and get prepared for simple geotechnical design:

Effective stress and pore-water pressure regimes:  

Definition and nature of effective stress; principle of effective stress; short-term and long-term scenarios; hydrostatic, artesian and underdrained conditions; effect of capillary rise 

Shear strength:  

Nature of shear strength; drained and undrained shear strength; loose, dense, and critical states; contraction and dilation; influence of volume change and generation of pore-water pressure; shear box apparatus; triaxial apparatus, Mohr’s circle, stress paths; residual strength, ring shear apparatus; shear vane; factors affecting measured values of shear strength 

Compressibility and consolidation:  

Compressibility characteristics of normally- and over-consolidated soils; classical theory of one-dimensional consolidation; pore-water pressure isochrones; secondary effects 

Earth pressure:  

Types of earth-retaining structure, coefficients of earth pressure - active, passive and at rest; Rankine theory; Coulomb wedge analysis; short-term and long-term problems; analyse of gravity walls, sheet pile wall and anchored walls; consider material sustainability when choosing appropriate retaining wall.    

Laboratory work:  

Unconsolidated Undrained triaxial test, odometer test, Health & Safety in soil laboratory

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
School-timetabled exam/test CLASS TEST (1 hour) 20
Practical based assessment Full lab report on UU triaxial test 10
Practical based assessment Short lab report on consolidation test 5
Examination EXAMINATION (2 hours) 65

Alternative Assessment

For each lab report an alternative coursework is set that covers the same learning outcomes.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate: 

  • The ability to determine soil stresses and parameters 

  • The ability to carry out element soil testing for determining soil parameters. 

  • The ability to make appropriate choice of soil strength parameters for various soil conditions.  

  • The ability to predict the soil consolidation settlement and its required time, 

  • The ability to analyse lateral earth pressure and design retaining walls. 


  Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of: 

  • Knowledge and understanding and their application of the principles of effective stress and shear strength (LO’s 1, 2) are partially assessed through class test (20%). 

  • Practical skills in triaxial test and oedometer test are assessed through laboratory work and subsequent reporting and interpretation of results (10% for triaxial test report and 5% for oedometer test report) (LO’s 2, 3, 5, 6, 7).  

  • Knowledge and understanding of the principles of effective stress, shear strength, earth pressure and retaining structure, compressibility, and consolidation theory (LO’s 1, 2, 3, 4) are assessed through the final examination (65%). 


  Formative assessment 

  • Quiz for each of the four topics is available on Surreylearn to provide formative assessment on understanding of theories and principles. 



  • Verbal feedback is provided in tutorial sessions and class exercise periods.  

  • Feedback to class test and lab reports is provided on returning work. 

  • Instant feedback will be provided on submission of quizzes on SurreyLearn. 

Module aims

  • Interest students in the broad area of geotechnical engineering by relating the real geotechnical disasters/problems to soil mechanics principles
  • Provide students with the fundamental understanding of the properties, states, behaviour, and mechanics of soils
  • Give students training on solving problems by applying the theories and principles in soil mechanics
  • Offer students basic design exercises of retaining wall
  • Provide hands-on training to students on element soil testing
  • Offer students basic design exercises of retaining wall
  • Provide hands-on training to students on element soil testing

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Compute in situ stresses for soil profiles - including for different groundwater conditions and surface loadings KCT
002 Select appropriate test method and determine shear strength parameters; understand the use of soil parameters in geotechnical designs; solve soil strength related problems KCPT
003 Describe the process of one-dimensional consolidation, measure soil compressibility and predict consolidation settlement with respect to amount and required time KCT
004 Analyse stresses on earth-retaining structures and design simple retaining structures KCP
005 Conduct the fundamental geotechnical laboratory tests to determine soil parameters; understand the hazards and risks in the laboratory and wear proper PPE when undertaking the laboratory work KCPT
006 Synthesis and graphical presentation of data from the two laboratory tests using digital tools KT
007 Technical report writing skills and information retrieval skills developed via completing the full lab report for UU triaxial test KT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to provide students with an introduction of soil mechanics theories and approaches of using these theories to solve problems and carry out simple design. This module will provide essential theories and knowledge for ENG3175 Geotechnical Engineering and other geotechnical modules at FHEQ Level 7. 

The module is delivered weekly first via captured theoretical contents (11 hours) available to students before timetabled sessions. It is followed by interactive seminars (2 hours/week for 11 weeks) to exercise problem-solving techniques via class examples. Students then apply the knowledge and problem-solving methods to solve questions in the tutorial sessions (1 hour/week for 11 weeks) with supports from staff and PGR helpers. To help students consolidate the understanding of theories, students will carry out two element soil testing in laboratories, the UU triaxial test (3 hours) and the consolidation test (3 hours). 

Apart from the seminars and tutorials, students are expected to carry out independent learning on a weekly basis to complete tutorial questions, quizzes, and required laboratory reports. They will exercise the skills of retrieving information and undertake research to address open-ended questions for lab reports and writing up technical lab reports. Students will navigate and utilise digital resources on SurreyLearn, such as recorded contents, online quizzes, to aid their learning. They will exercise digital communication skills by using the discussion forum on SurreyLearn, Teams, emails to discuss the learning issues with lecturers and peers. They will develop capacity of using digital tools, such as Excel to process laboratory test data and graphically present data for soil parameter determination and Word to produce technical report. 

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ENG2104

Other information

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience, in line with the Surrey Curriculum Framework. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:   

  • Digital capabilities: Students will develop capacity to use digital tools to process laboratory test data and graphically present data for soil parameter determination and produce technical report. Students will exercise digital communication skills by using the discussion forum, Teams, emails to discuss learning issues with lecturers and peers. Students will develop capacity in utilising digital resources on SurreyLearn to support learning. 

  • Employability: This module enhances students’ employability through equipping them with core knowledge, problem-solving skills and design skills in geotechnical engineering. Students develop teamwork skills while working as groups in laboratory. Communication skills and technical writing skills will be developed through the production of laboratory reports.  

  • Sustainability: This module improves students’ awareness of material sustainability through design suitable retaining wall.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Civil Engineering BEng (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering MEng 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.