Subject-specific electives

Additional course guidance

In addition to the general “g” subject area criteria, each elective course must meet the subject-specific guidelines described below.


Courses should enable students to establish a breadth of understanding of history (e.g. world history, political history or economics history) and should provide an understanding of the human past, including its relation to the present. Courses should develop a student’s ability to think critically, to evaluate historical data and to analyze and synthesize evidence. All history courses should require extensive reading and writing.

Examples of approved courses include: Gender in U.S. History, The World Since 1945, U.S. History through Film.

Social science

Courses should be in one of the following social sciences: anthropology, economics, geography, political science, psychology or sociology. Alternatively, courses could also be interdisciplinary in nature, drawing knowledge from two or more of these fields. Course objectives should include as many of the following as are applicable to the field:

  • An understanding of the development and basic features of major societies and cultures,
  • An examination of the historic and contemporary ideas that have shaped our world,
  • An understanding of the fundamentals of how two or more political and economic systems function, 
  • An examination of the nature and principles of individual and group behavior,
  • A study of social science methodologies, and
  • A comparison of cultures and perspectives.

To develop students’ ability to think critically, to evaluate ideas and information, and to analyze and synthesize qualitative and quantitative evidence (in the laboratory or in the field), social science courses must include a body of basic knowledge, extensive reading and written and oral exposition. Courses designed to meet state-mandated social studies graduation requirements are acceptable provided that they meet the above criteria. Courses with applied, service or career-related content are acceptable if those components are used to augment the strong academic content of the course.

Examples of approved courses include: Latin American Studies, African-American Economics, Community Service: A Sociological Perspective, Comparative World Religions.


Courses must require substantial reading with frequent and extensive practice in writing that is carefully evaluated and criticized, as noted in the “b” subject area criteria. Courses in journalism, speech and debate are acceptable electives if they meet these general requirements in reading and writing. Semester-long courses, such as creative writing, poetry, mythology and others, also may be accepted. Courses may be multidisciplinary, drawing knowledge from two or more disciplines.

Examples of approved courses include: Journalism, Creative Writing, Speech and Debate, Fiction and Film, Literature and World Religions.

Advanced math

Acceptable electives are courses in mathematics with intermediate algebra as a prerequisite, such as trigonometry, linear algebra, precalculus (analytic geometry and mathematical analysis), calculus, probability and statistics.

Computer science

A computer science course is acceptable if it fulfills the following objectives:

  • Teaches students to express algorithms in a standard language,
  • Requires students to complete substantial programming projects, and
  • Involves the study and mastery of various aspects of computer architecture (e.g., how computers deal with data and instructions, the internal components of a computer and the underlying computer logic).

Examples of approved courses include: Computer Programming

Laboratory science

In this subject area only, ninth- and 10th-grade courses are often accepted as electives. Courses should cover topics from the biological, earth or physical sciences and must include laboratory and/or field activities. Advanced 11th- and 12th-grade courses must provide opportunities for students to integrate and extend their understanding of basic science through courses in a focused area. A terminal course designed only to meet graduation requirements is not an acceptable science elective

Examples of approved courses include: Agricultural Science, Astronomy, Biotechnology, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Introductory Integrated Science, Medical Arts, Veterinary Science.

Language other than English (LOTE)

Elective courses must be in the same language used to satisfy the “e” requirement and have the equivalent of two years of the language as a prerequisite. For a student’s second language other than English to qualify as an elective, the equivalent of the second year of the language must be completed to fulfill the elective requirement.

Visual and performing arts (VPA)

Advanced courses in the visual and performing arts can be considered to meet the elective (“g”) requirement, but must still address the five component strands of the state California VPA Content Standards [PDF]. Advanced courses should enable students to understand and appreciate artistic expression and, where appropriate, to talk and write with discrimination about the artistic material studied. Courses devoted to artistic performance and developing creative artistic ability should have prerequisites (either one year of introductory coursework or experience approved by the instructor) and should assume proficiency beyond the introductory level. Courses must require on the average the equivalent of a five-period class per week. Work outside of the class must be required (e.g., portfolio/performance preparation, reading, writing, research projects, critical listening/viewing). VPA courses that are a semester or a year in length can be considered for the “g” subject area.

Sample courses

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