Abstract.: In this paper, a unit cell based approach is followed, where a unit cell consisting of one aggregate surrounded by mortar matrix is used for numerical simulation of mechanical response of cement concrete. Unit cell approach is a simple mathematical approximation that helps us to simplify the simulation of mechanical response of multi-phase composites. To model the failure of matrix, brittle cracking model is used, where the entire fracture zone is represented by a band of micro cracked material. Current study involves; (a) failure analysis of the concrete unit cell when it is subjected to tensile loads, and (b) parametric study of variation of peak strength with shape and volume fraction of aggregate. In this study, circular and square aggregates at various orientations are modelled. The simulation results predict that the peak tensile stresses are not very sensitive to the volume fraction of aggregates, when the unit cell is subjected to tensile loads. This paper effectively demonstrates the power of unit cell model in simulating the nonlinear mechanical response of cement concrete when it is subjected to tensile loading. © 2011 Indian Academy of Sciences.