This paper presents a general coupling extended multiscale FEM (GCEMs) for solving the coupling problem of elasto-plastic consolidation of heterogeneous saturated porous media. In the GCEMs, the numerical multiscale base functions for the solid skeleton and fluid phase of the coupling system are all constructed on the basis of the equivalent stiffness matrix of the unit cell, which not only contain the interaction between the solid and fluid phases but also consider the time effect. Furthermore, in order to improve the computational accuracy for two-dimensional problems, a multi-node coarse element strategy for the GCEMs is proposed, and a two-scale iteration algorithm for the elasto-plastic consolidation analysis is developed. Some one-dimensional and two-dimensional homogeneous and heterogeneous numerical examples are carried out to validate the proposed method through the comparison with the coupling multiscale FEM and standard FEM. Numerical results show that the newly developed GCEMs can almost preserve the same convergent property as the standard FEM and also possesses the advantages of high computational efficiency. In addition, the GCEMs can be easily applied to other coupling multifield and multiphase transient problems. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.