Laboratory science ("d")

Two units (equivalent to two years) of laboratory science are required, three units are strongly recommended, providing fundamental knowledge in two of the following disciplines:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Course guidance

The intent of the laboratory science requirement is to ensure that entering freshmen have a minimum of one year of preparation in at least two of the areas of physics, chemistry and biology/life science. This requirement can be satisfied by taking two courses from among these specific subject areas, but courses from across the broad spectrum of scientific subjects are potentially acceptable.

Goals of the laboratory science requirement

The overarching goal of the subject requirement in laboratory science is to ensure that freshmen are adequately prepared to undertake university-level study in any scientific or science-related discipline. The term “laboratory” is intended to signify an empirical basis of the subject matter, as well as inclusion of a substantial experimental and/or observational activity in the course design. The requirement emphasizes biology/life sciences, chemistry and physics because these subjects are preparatory to university-level study in all scientific and science-related disciplines. However, coverage of these foundational subjects in suitable breadth and depth can potentially be found in a wide range of science courses provided the courses conform to the criteria described under the Course Requirements below.

All courses certified in the laboratory science subject area should be designed with the explicit intention of developing and encouraging these scientific habits of mind:

  1. Students should develop a perception of science as a way of understanding the world around them, not as a collection of theories and definitions to be memorized.

  2. Students should emerge from high school embracing an ease in using their scientific knowledge to perceive patterns and regularity, make predictions, and test those predictions against evidence and reason.

  3. Students should recognize that abstraction and generalization are important sources of the power of science.

  4. Students should understand that scientific models are useful to represent phenomena in the physical world. They should appreciate that models and theories are valuable only when vigorously tested against observation.

  5. Students should understand that assertions require justification based on evidence and logic, and should develop an ability to supply appropriate justifications for their assertions. They should habitually ask “Why?” and “How do I know?”

  6. Students should develop and maintain openness to using technological tools appropriately, including graphing calculators and computers, in gathering and analyzing data. They should be aware of the limitations of these tools, and should be capable of effectively using them while making sound judgments about when such tools are and are not useful.

  7. Students should recognize that measurements and observations are subject to variability and error, and that these must be accounted for in a quantitative way when assessing the relationship between observation and theory.

Course requirements

Regardless of the scientific subject, all approved courses are expected to satisfy these criteria:

  1. Courses should be consistent with and illustrate the goals described above.

  2. Courses must explain the relevant phenomena on the basis of the underlying biological, chemical and/or physical principles, as appropriate. They should provide rigorous, in-depth treatments of the conceptual foundations of the scientific subject studied.

  3. Courses should afford students opportunities to participate in all phases of the scientific process, including formulation of well-posed scientific questions and hypotheses, design of experiments and/or data collection strategies, analysis of data and drawing of conclusions. They should also require students to discuss scientific ideas with other students and to write clearly and coherently on scientific topics.

  4. Courses must specify, at a minimum, elementary algebra as a prerequisite or co-requisite, and should employ quantitative reasoning and methods wherever appropriate.

  5. Courses must take an overall approach that is consistent with the scientific method in relation to observing, forming hypotheses, testing hypotheses through experimentation and/or further observation, and forming objective conclusions.

  6. Courses must include hands-on laboratory activities that are directly related to and support the other class work, and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis and write-up. These hands-on activities should account for at least 20 percent of class time, and should be itemized and described in the course description.

  7. The content for physics, chemistry and biology/life sciences courses in grades 9 through 12 will usually be drawn from the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools [PDF], and may, in some cases, also be drawn from the California Career Technical Education Model Curriculum Standards [PDF]. While these standards can be a useful guide, coverage of all items in the standards is not necessary for the specific purpose of meeting the subject requirements for university admission. Likewise, simple coverage of all standards is not enough to assure course approval. For success in college, secondary science teachers should help students learn to assimilate the major ideas and principles that encompass the standards rather than explore the breadth of all the standards. More important than the topics covered, or even than the skills directly used in class, are the more general abilities and attitudes gained through the effort of mastering the course content. These general abilities and attitudes are described in the goals section above.

Sample courses

Samples of courses approved in the “d” subject area are available for reference as you prepare your own course for UC approval.


Other options for satisfying the “d” subject requirement

UC-transferable college courses or satisfactory scores on SAT Subject, AP or IB exams can also be used to fulfill the laboratory science subject requirement.