To encourage students to undertake more challenging work at the advanced secondary level, the University assigns extra weight to grades received in honors-level courses. The University uses a very specific and narrow definition of honors-level work 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 certified honors-level work to no more than four years or eight semesters. It is acceptable for students to complete more than four yearlong honors courses, but no more than four extra points will be computed into the GPA. Most students complete UC-certified honors-level work 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 work completed in grade 10 to no more than two years or four semesters.
Guidelines and criteria
The University grants special honors designation and extra points in students’ grade point average 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
AP courses in the “a-g” subjects which are designed to prepare students for the College Board Advanced Placement Examination are automatically granted honors status, even if the courses are primarily offered at the 10th-grade level.
UC will only approve AP courses that have passed, or are in, the AP Audit process. All AP courses on an "a-g" course list must be authorized by the College Board AP Audit for each year the course is offered.
International Baccalaureate (IB) courses
Designated IB courses offered by schools participating in the IB program are automatically granted honors status. For a list of IB courses that are granted the honors designation, search for the International Baccalaureate program “a-g” course list.
A 3 or more semester (or 4 or more quarter) unit UC-transferable California college course in the “a-g” subjects automatically receives honors status. Designated nontransferable college courses in English and mathematics can fulfill the subject requirements, but will not receive the honors weight in the GPA. To determine whether a community college course can satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements, search for the college’s “a-g” course list.
These "a-g" course lists are works in progress and currently do not include nontransferable English and math college courses in addition to UC-transferable career technical education (CTE) courses. The lists will continuously be updated and expanded as course offerings change and as courses not yet included are reviewed.
"Other" honors courses
Defined as a course specifically designed by the school 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.
Additional subject-specific guidelines
UC-certified honors-level courses must meet additional criteria specific to each subject area:
- History/social science (“a”)
- English (“b”)
- Mathematics (“c”)
- Laboratory science (“d”)
- Language other than English (“e”)
- Visual and performing arts (“f”)
In the elective (“g”) subject area, only AP, designated IB and UC-transferable college course are designated as UC honors-level courses.
Samples of honors-level courses approved in the “a-g” subject areas are available for reference as you prepare your own course for UC approval.