How to Prepare GATE Geotechnical Engineering | Geotechnical Engineering Preparation Strategy

How to prepare for Geotechnical Engineering for GATE


GATE, came with a lot of opportunities every year for students in order to score better and the best is brought to you by this subject. Of course, you would have gone through analysis of previous year papers, and if you haven’t let me get it clear. Geotechnical Engineering (also known as Soil mechanics) comprises of 12-15% of GATE’s overall marking scheme which is a total of about combining Surveying Engineering, Steel Structure, and concrete technology.

GATE Civil Syllabus mentions the following for Geotechnical Engineering subject.

Soil Mechanics: Origin of soils, soil structure and fabric; Three-phase system and phase relationships, index properties; Unified and Indian standard soil classification system; Permeability – one dimensional flow, Darcy’s law; Seepage through soils – two-dimensional flow, flow nets, uplift pressure, piping; Principle of effective stress, capillarity, seepage force and quicksand condition; Compaction in laboratory and field conditions; One-dimensional consolidation, time rate of consolidation; Mohr’s circle, stress paths, effective and total shear strength parameters, characteristics of clays and sand.

Foundation Engineering: Sub-surface investigations – scope, drilling bore holes, sampling, plate load test, standard penetration and cone penetration tests; Earth pressure theories -Rankine and Coulomb; Stability of slopes – finite and infinite slopes, method of slices and Bishop’s method; Stress distribution in soils – Boussinesq’s and Westergaard’s theories, pressure bulbs; Shallow foundations – Terzaghi’s and Meyerhoff’s bearing capacity theories, effect of water table; Combined footing and raft foundation; Contact pressure; Settlement analysis in sands and clays; Deep foundations – types of piles, dynamic and static formulae, load capacity of piles in sands and clays, pile load test, negative skin friction.

Coming on to the point that how to prepare for it. Well, Geotechnical Engineering is all related to soil and its behavior, so we will discuss it in three parts:

  1. Fundamentals –

Fundamentals comprise of topics dealing with soil types, its structure, properties, and classification. This portion comprises of definitions and formulae based on them. There are high possibilities of formulae based questions coming from this part of Geotechnical Engineering. We recommend you not to mug up the formulae rather analyze how they appear from the definitions, for your sake. These fundamentals are how your foundations will build-up for better scoring.

The topics comprise in Fundamentals include:

Basic Types of Soil, Properties of soil, Classification of Soil, Soil Structure and clay minerals, compaction, compressibility, and consolidation.

  1. Geotechnical Structures –

Geotechnical Structures comprises of different types of dams and the analysis of seepage and determination of effective stress and permeability through them and retaining walls. This is the portion where your technical part starts. As described earlier, a brief knowledge of fundamentals is required to understand this portion of Geotechnical engineering. For studying this portion of geotechnical engineering as per GATE requirements, reference books available in the market might not be enough. We recommend redirecting to study materials (not handwritten notes) provided by any educational institute for deepened knowledge in this portion.

The topics comprise in Fundamentals include:

Effective Stress Capillarity and Permeability, Seepage Analysis, Vertical stresses below applied loads, Shear strength of soils, and stability of slopes, lateral earth pressure, and Retaining Walls.

  1. Foundations –

Coming on to the last and the final part i.e. Foundations. As you all would have seen the construction of foundation sometime in their life. If not just go to YouTube and try to understand the basic shape of foundations. In this portion, a visualization of knowledge is a must understand the topic. Foundations are the basic need of Geotechnical engineering because as a civil engineer, you have to construct the different structures, and you always require a foundation to start on. Foundation is not the foundation of Geotechnical Engineering but without it, practical implications of Construction are not possible. For this portion too, we recommend some kind of study material from some educational institutes, again we repeat do not refer handwritten notes.


Since we have let you know about its parts and how to study them. Let us talk about reference books that might be helpful on such occasions. If you are preparing for GATE, obviously either you are a college student or a dropout. For college students, we recommend study what your college teachers teach you, it will build your fundamentals at least. Many students might not be lucky enough, for them, we are recommending some books to refer for the fundamentals.

The reference books are –

  1. Soil Mechanics And Foundation Engineering” by K.R. Arora
  2. “Basic and Applied Soil Mechanics” by Gopal Ranjan



There are many other books out there in the market you may refer them also but remember stick to only one. Referring to too many books will do you no good, instead, you will end up exhausted and confused.

For study materials, if you are unable to pay for study materials, YouTube is filled with many video lectures of good faculties. You can refer to those for good understanding along with reference books.

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