The use of linear and second order stress extrapolation to obtain KI and KII in two-dimensional finite element models of a thick plate containing an edge crack was examined. Three loading cases were studied, including classical Mode I and Mode II problems and a problem of tribological contact. Linear extrapolation was observed to yield accurate predictions of KI in cases of dominant Mode I loading. In Mode II situations, notably where the crack faces experienced compressive normal stresses, second order extrapolation was observed to improve estimates of KII. © 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.