To encourage students to undertake more challenging studies in high school, the University of California assigns extra weight to grades received in honors-level courses. UC maintains an honors “a-g” course policy that defines the types of honors courses eligible for the UC honors designation.
When calculating a student’s UC GPA to determine if the student meets or exceeds the minimum GPA by residency status, the number of UC-designated honors courses receiving the additional grade points is limited to eight semesters or four years. Students may complete more than eight semesters of honors coursework, but a maximum of eight extra points will be factored into the UC GPA.
Most students complete UC-designated honors courses in grades 11 and 12, although some may complete these courses as early as grade 10. The University limits the amount of extra points added to the UC GPA for UC-designated honors courses completed in grade 10 to no more than four semesters or two years. This limitation also only affects the GPA calculation that determines if an applicant meets or exceeds the minimum GPA UC requires based on residency status.
Course criteria & guidelines
Courses that meet the criteria outlined below may be granted UC honors designation and qualify students to earn extra points in their UC GPA computation. The University strongly encourages honors-level courses be made available to all segments of the school population.
School-created honors courses
Beginning with the 2016-17 submission period, the following course criteria are effective for honors-level courses seeking "a-g" approval:
Honors courses designed by an institution to demonstrate distinctive features that set it apart from regular high school courses in the same "a-g" subject area are eligible for the UC honors designation. These courses should be comparable in terms of workload and rigor to Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or introductory college-level courses in the subject.
There is no limit to the number of UC-designated honors-level high school courses that may be approved for an institution's “a-g” course list.
School-created honors courses must satisfy the following general requirements:
- Honors-level courses are specialized, advanced courses designed for 10th-, 11th- or 12th-graders who have already completed foundation work in the subject area. High school courses offered at the grade 9 level that schools might locally designate as “honors” are not eligible for the UC honors designation.
- Courses must have established prerequisites, as appropriate to the discipline.
- Honors-level courses must have a comprehensive final examination or a substantive, culminating project. The purpose of the final exam/project is for students to exhibit depth of knowledge and sustained mastery of subject material.
- In general, it is highly [but not required] high school courses being considered for the UC honors designation will have a non-honors equivalent course offered at the same frequency (e.g., annually, every other year, etc.), in the same subject area, and at the same grade level.
In addition to meeting the general UC honors course criteria, courses must meet subject-specific requirements:
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
All “a-g” approved AP courses receive the UC honors designation. For a list of approved AP courses, please refer to the College Board Advanced Placement program’s “a-g” course list.
Institutions may only add AP courses to their “a-g” course list that have passed the College Board’s AP Course Audit. Institutions should submit AP Course Audit materials to the College Board in a timely manner to ensure their new AP courses are authorized and then submitted to UC for “a-g” review prior to the close of UC’s annual “a-g” course 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. It is also highly recommended that schools offer a non-honors equivalent course at the same frequency (e.g., annually, every other year, etc.), in the same subject area, and at the same grade level to their AP course.
International Baccalaureate (IB) courses
Designated “a-g” approved IB courses receive the UC honors designation. For a list of IB courses that carry the UC honors designation, please refer to the International Baccalaureate program’s “a-g” course list.
It is also highly recommended that schools offer a non-honors equivalent course at the same frequency (e.g., annually, every other year, etc.), in the same subject area, and at the same grade level to their IB course.
UC-transferable college courses with 3 (or more) semester units or 4 (or more) quarter units in any “a-g” subject area will receive UC honors status. Designated non-transferable college courses in English and mathematics may fulfill the “a-g” subject requirements, but will not carry the extra honors weight when calculating the UC GPA.
To determine whether a California community college course will satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements, search for the college’s “a-g” course list.