SUMMARY Disc-shaped specimens are frequently tested in order to establish an understanding of the properties of ceramic material. In this study three-dimensional finite element stress analysis has been used to investigate the loading characteristics of this shape of specimen and the effect of incorporating scratches and voids into its structure. The results indicated that stress increased as loading was carried out nearer to the centre of the specimen. The presence of cracks did not affect these stresses whereas the presence of a void resulted in a very high stress concentration.