Cylindrical shells with discontinuity in the thickness and that are subjected to axisymmetric loading have been analysed. Two types of finite elements are used: the first is based on thin shell theory and the second on thick shell theory. The loadings considered are a uniform internal pressure and a circular ring load at the mid-section. The effect of these loads for various end conditions and various step-ratios in the thickness have been analysed. Numerical results are presented and compared for both the theories. It has been shown that the transverse normal stress acting along the thickness direction is not negligible compared to other stresses at places of discontinuity either in the thickness or in the loading. The weight of the shell is kept constant for various step-ratios. © 1993.