To encourage students to undertake more challenging work in high school, the University assigns extra weight to grades received in honors-level courses. The University has a very specific definition for what is honors-level coursework which often differs from those of honors programs offered by high schools.
UC caps the number of extra honors points included in a student's UC GPA from designated honors-level courses to no more than four years or eight semesters. It is acceptable for students to complete more than eight semesters of honors coursework, but no more than eight extra points will be computed into the GPA. Most students complete approved honors-level courses in grades 11 and 12, although some advanced students may be able to complete these courses as early as grade 10. The University limits the amount of extra honors points added to the UC GPA for honors-level coursework completed in grade 10 to no more than two years or four semesters.
Course criteria & guidelines
The University grants the honors designation and extra points in students’ GPA computation only to those courses that meet the following criteria. The University strongly encourages that such courses be available to all sectors of the school population.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
All "a-g" approved AP courses receive the UC honors designation. For a list of AP courses that are "a-g" approved, please refer to the Advanced Placement program's “a-g” course list.
Beginning with the 2015-16 submission period, institutions may only add AP courses to their "a-g" course list that have passed the AP Course Audit. This means that institutions will need to submit AP Course Audit materials to the College Board no later than June 1 to ensure their new AP courses are authorized and then submitted to UC for "a-g" review prior to the close of the annual submission period on September 15.
All AP courses on an "a-g" course list must be authorized by the College Board's AP Course Audit for each year the course is offered.
International Baccalaureate (IB) courses
Designated "a-g" approved IB courses receive the UC honors designation. For a list of IB courses that are granted the honors designation, please refer to the International Baccalaureate program's “a-g” course list.
A three or more semester unit (or four or more quarter unit) UC-transferable college course in the “a-g” subject areas automatically receives UC honors status. Designated nontransferable college courses in English and mathematics can fulfill the "a-g" subject requirements, but will not receive the honors weight in the UC GPA.
To determine whether a California community college course can satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements, search for the college’s “a-g” course list.
School-created honors courses
Defined as a course specifically designed by an institution with distinctive features which sets it apart from regular high school courses in the same discipline areas. Courses should be seen as comparable in terms of workload and emphasis to AP, IB or introductory college courses in the subject. These honors-level courses must satisfy the following requirements:
- Must have established prerequisites, as appropriate to the discipline.
- Honors-level courses must have a comprehensive written final exam. The purpose of the final examination is to permit students to exhibit depth of knowledge and sustained mastery of subject material. The final examination permits each student to demonstrate knowledge that is acquired, integrated and retained.
- Acceptable honors-level courses are specialized, advanced, collegiate-level courses designed for 11th- and 12th-graders who have already completed foundation work in the subject area. Ninth- and 10th-grade-level high school courses that schools might designate as “honors” do not meet the UC honors-level requirement and therefore are not granted special “honors” credit by the University.
- In addition to ninth- and 10th-grade courses, other courses that a school may designate as “honors” for local purposes but that do not fill the requirements stated in this section will not be granted special credit by the University.
- In addition to AP and IB higher-level courses, high schools may certify as honors-level courses no more than one yearlong course (or two semester-long courses) in each of the following subject areas and disciplines: history, English, advanced mathematics, each laboratory science, each language other than English and each of the four VPA disciplines.
- If there are no AP or IB higher-level courses in a given subject area or discipline, the high school may certify up to, but no more than, two yearlong courses (or four semester-long courses) at the honors level in that area or discipline. Exceptions to this rule require strong justification and documentation.
- Most high school courses, which are not an AP or IB higher-level course, shall be designated as an honors-level course only when there is a regular course offered in the same subject area at the same grade level. Exceptions to this rule require strong justification and documentation.