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Unit of study_

GEOL1501: Engineering Geology 1

Semester 2, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Course objectives: To introduce basic geology and the principles of site investigation to civil engineering students. Expected outcomes: Students should develop an appreciation of geologic processes and their influence civil engineering works, acquire knowledge of the most important rocks and minerals and be able to identify them, and interpret geological maps with an emphasis on making construction decisions. Syllabus summary: Geological concepts relevant to civil engineering and the building environment. Introduction to minerals; igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, their occurrence, formation and significance. General introduction to physical geology and geomorphology, structural geology, plate tectonics, hydrogeology, rock core logging site investigation techniques for construction. Associated laboratory work on minerals, rocks and mapping.

Unit details and rules

Unit code GEOL1501
Academic unit Geosciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
GEOL1002 or GEOL1902 or GEOS1003 or GEOS1903
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Sara Moron Polanco,
Demonstrator(s) Jonathon Leonard,
Tom New,
Lecturer(s) Derek Wyman,
Sara Moron Polanco,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Supervised exam
hurdle task
Final Exam
1 Compulsory Extended Response Problem & Answer 3 from 10 Short Essays
60% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO8
Participation Practical attendance and participation
0% Ongoing 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO11 LO10 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Small continuous assessment Pre-practical quizzes
Online quiz
0% Ongoing 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Small test Week Four Quiz
Online Multiple-Choice Quiz
5% Week 04
Due date: 21 Aug 2023 at 18:00
30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11 LO1 LO2
Small test Week Seven Quiz
Short online Multiple Choice Quiz
5% Week 07
Due date: 11 Sep 2023 at 18:00
30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO7
Small test Week Nine Quiz
Short online multiple choice quiz
5% Week 09
Due date: 03 Oct 2023 at 18:00
30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO7 LO8
Small test Week Twelve Quiz
Short Online Multiple Choice Quiz
5% Week 12
Due date: 23 Oct 2023 at 18:00
30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Tutorial quiz hurdle task Rock ID quiz
in-class identification quiz
20% Week 13 1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO8
Participation Lecture attendance
Weekly lecture attendance
0% Weekly 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO11
hurdle task = hurdle task ?

Assessment summary

  • Pre-practical quizzes: Completion of online multiple-choice questions is required before attending practical classes. Each quiz will be based on that week’s practical exercise in the Practical Manual. 
  • Practical attendance and participation: Practical attendance and participation is based on the completion of the weekly worksheets. Worksheets should be completed during class and checked by your tutors. Feedback will be provided as to the class as appropriate.
  • On-Line Multiple Choice Quizzes – 20% (Weeks 4, 7, 9 and 12): The four compulsory on-line quizzes will be presented via Canvas and will test your understanding of the material presented in lectures and practical classes. They will usually consist of ten multiple-choice or short answer questions and test your knowledge of material presented in the preceding weeks’ lectures and practical classes. Each of the four quizzes will contribute 5% of your final mark (4x5% = 20% of the total marks for the unit). Note that they may include questions that test your rock identification skills and/or your geological map skills.   
  • Rock id quiz (20%): During the practical classes of week 13 of semester (the last week of the semester), all students are required to sit a Rock ID quiz. This test will focus on the identification and description of a set of unknown geological samples (rocks / minerals). This item will contribute 20% towards your final mark. 
  • Final examination (60%): The final exam contributes 60% of your final mark for this unit of study. It will integrate lecture material and concepts together with the knowledge and understanding you acquire in practical classes. All material presented in both lectures and practical classes is potentially examinable in the final exam.  This year the exam will be presented as an ‘open-book’, two-day, take-home paper that will be submitted via ‘Turnitin’. The exam will be comprised of four sections which will include:
    1. Section A) three medium length or extended response’ questions with internal choice (e.g.. answer one of three options); 
    2. Section B) one compulsory ‘essay or extended response’ long-form question on rock masses and/or the geology of water supply dam sites; 
    3. Section C) questions requiring geological map interpretation and geological cross-section construction and
    4. Section D) a comprehensive integrated question focussed on the relationships between site geology and construction decisions that will require you to interpret several types of infomation including ‘rock-core logs’, written material about the site and geological maps of the site. 
  • Lecture attendance: It is expected that you attend lectures weekly. See “Study Commitment” for more details on what is expected of you.
  • Practical exercises: Active intellectual participation is expected during the practical classes, which run for each week of the semester.
  • Trial exams: These exams will not count towards your final mark but will to assist students in passing the course. It is in your
    interest to attempt this task.
  • Self-test quizzes: Completion of these quizzes, which will be available on the Canvas Site, will not count towards your final mark. They are provided to assist students to understand the course content. It is in your interest to attempt this task as it will provide you with feedback on your progress in understanding the practical and lecture material.
  • More information for each of these assessment tasks can be found on the Unit’s Canvas Site.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction - geology and engineering. Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO4
Minerals and rocks (Ex1) (Odd) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO8
Week 02 Geological mapping 1 - introduction to mapping Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO5
Minerals and rocks (Ex1) (Even) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO8
Week 03 Igneous rocks and processes Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4
Igneous rocks (Ex2) (Odd) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8
Week 04 Weathering, the Standard Site Model and Construction Techniques for Challenging Conditions Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Igneous rocks (Ex2) (Even) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8
Week 05 Sedimentary Rocks and Processes Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Sedimentary rocks (Ex3) (Odd) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8
Week 06 Metamorphic rocks and processes Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Sedimentary rocks (Ex3) (Even) Practical (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8
Week 07 Plate tectonics and Natural Hazards Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO2 LO4
Metamorphic rocks (Ex4) (Odd) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8 LO11
Week 08 Folds, Faults and Construction Site Geology Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO5 LO10
Metamorphic rocks (Ex4) (Even) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO8 LO11
Week 09 Investigation Methods for Construction Sites Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO11
Introduction to rock core logging (Ex5) (Odd) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Week 10 Rocks as Engineering Materials and Rock Mass Behaviour Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO11
Introduction to rock core logging (Ex5) (Even) Practical (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Week 11 Engineering Geology of Dams (and Tunnels) Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO11
Rock ID quiz revision (Odd) Practical (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO7 LO10 LO11
Week 12 Engineering geology problems (exam examples) Lecture and tutorial (4 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO10 LO11
Rock ID quiz revision (Even) Practical (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO7 LO10 LO11
Week 13 In class: Rock Identification Quiz Practical (1 hr) LO3 LO8 LO11
Exam Preparation Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO8 LO10 LO11

Attendance and class requirements

Equipment: From the first practical session onwards, students will need to bring the following equipment: a small pocket knife or metal point, a selection of colored pencils, a drawing pencil and an eraser, a compass, a protractor, and a 30 cm ruler. 



Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

  • Required textbook: Waltham, T. (2001). Foundations of Engineering Geology. CRC Press. 
  • Recommended textbook: Marshak, S., (2015). Portrait of A Planet, 5th Edition. Norton WileyDIrect.
  • Recommended textbook: Christiansen, E. H., & Hamblin, W. K. (2015). Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate an understanding of the concepts and language of geology and engineering geology
  • LO2. demonstrate an understanding of the processes that have formed the earth, its minerals, its rocks and modify the Earth’s surface physical features
  • LO3. identify and name common rocks and minerals
  • LO4. demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the built environment and its geological substrate and the possible impacts of natural earth hazards on engineered structures
  • LO5. interpret geological maps, geological cross-sections and rock-core logs, in the context of the built environment, construction, and engineered structures
  • LO6. demonstrate knowledge of site investigation techniques and their application to decision making in construction and civil engineering practice
  • LO7. find and analyse information
  • LO8. demonstrate enhanced skills in written, oral, and interpersonal communication
  • LO9. demonstrate a team approach to scientific and engineering investigation, and the process of learning
  • LO10. demonstrate basic skills in computing, numeracy, and data handling
  • LO11. demonstrate a sense of responsibility and independence as a learner that will guide your ongoing professional development and civil engineering practice.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

In response to these student requests we intend to provide additional worked example answers and lecture summary material on the Canvas site. The request to change the lecture time-slot for the Tuesday lecture from 8am to 10am was successful. Student opinion as to the length of lectures was divided. Some are happy with current format (2 hr sessions) whereas an equal number suggested that a one-hour format would be more productive. We have moved to a one-hour lecture on Tuesdays with a two-hour presentation on Wednesdays. In addition, the changes to the lecturing style required by the Covid-19 situation requires that we the lecture content in an online format. The availability of a large volume of pre-recorded lecture material which has developed for online presentation should provide students with more flexibility in accessing the lecture material.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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