The following series of questions and
answers is divided into three areas. To skip to one of the sections,
Current UC admissions requirements
The BOARS proposal
does UC stand concerning the SAT?
The University of California faculty's Board of Admissions and
Relations with Schools (BOARS) has released preliminary recommendations
concerning the proposal to end the SAT I requirement at UC. The
BOARS committee, part of the UC Academic Senate, has called for
replacing the SAT I with achievement tests that show a demonstrable
relationship to college preparatory classes in high school. The
BOARS committee recommends a new testing array, to be developed
with the separate assistance of the College Board and ACT. As
proposed, this new test will not put additional test burdens on
students applying to UC. Approval by the Academic Senate and Board
of Regents is still needed and any test changes are not anticipated
until Fall 2006 at the earliest. The BOARS recommendations are
in response to a proposal launched by UC President Richard C.
Atkinson in February 2001.
[For BOARS Proposal] http://www.ucop.edu/news/sat/boars.html
is the SAT I?
The SAT I is a standardized test required for admission to many
American colleges and universities. The test focuses on verbal
and mathematical reasoning abilities that are related to successful
performance in college.
SAT I is a multiple-choice examination that consists of seven
sections, each timed separately. There are two 30-minute sections
and one 15-minute section on verbal skills, and two 30-minute
sections and one 15-minute section on mathematical skills. There
also is an experimental 30-minute section, focusing on either
math or verbal skills, which does not count toward the scores.
receive two scores on the test-one for verbal and one for math-and
each is reported on a 200-to-800 scale where 800 is a perfect
score. Students who do not answer any questions receive a score
of 200. The SAT I is administered seven times per year, and
students may take it more than once. The cost of the test is
$24 per administration, and fee waivers are available for eligible
are the SAT IIs?
The SAT IIs are individual Subject Tests lasting one hour each.
These tests are designed to measure knowledge and the ability
to apply that knowledge in specific subject areas. Students use
the Subject Tests to demonstrate their preparation for college
in specific content areas, whereas the SAT I functions as a standard
by which the verbal and mathematical reasoning skills of college-bound
students can be compared.
Tests are given in five areas:
Mathematics: Math Level IC, Math Level IIC
History and Social Studies: U.S. History, World History
Science: Biology E/M (Ecological/Molecular), Chemistry,
Languages: Chinese with Listening, French, French with
Listening, German, German with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian,
Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening, Latin, Spanish,
Spanish with Listening, and ELPT (English Language Proficiency
Test-not accepted at UC).
format of SAT II tests is generally multiple-choice, though
there are variations; for example, the Writing Test includes
a 20-minute essay section. All Subject Tests except the ELPT
are scored on a 200-to-800 scale.
SAT IIs are administered once in January, May, June, October,
November, and December, though not all subjects are available
on each administration date. The cost for the SAT IIs are as
follows: Writing test $11, Language test $8, other tests $6,
plus a $13 basic fee added to each test sitting (multiple tests
can be taken in one sitting). Fee waivers are available for
What is the ACT?
The ACT is a standardized test designed to assess high school
students' general educational development and their ability to
begin college-level work. The tests cover four areas: English,
mathematics, reading, and science reasoning. The ACT includes
215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours
and 30 minutes to complete with breaks. Actual testing time is
2 hours and 55 minutes.
are reported on a scale ranging from 1 (low) to 36 (high) for
each of the four tests and for the Composite. The Composite
is the average of the four test scores, rounded to the nearest
ACT is administered five times per year, and the registration
fee is $23.
UC admissions requirements
What are the "a-g" courses required of high school
students for UC admission?
The following courses are required to establish UC eligibility
for freshman admission:
- History/social science-two years
- English-four years
- Mathematics-three years
- Laboratory Science-two years in at least two of the three
fundamental disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics
- Language other than English-two years
- College Preparatory Elective-two years (courses from the
subjects listed above plus visual and performing arts)
in 2003, the "f" requirement above will become one
year of work in Visual and Performing Arts (the new "f"),
and the "g" requirement will be one year of College
Preparatory Elective (the new "g" requirement).
purpose of the "a to f/g" requirements is to ensure
that entering freshmen:
- Can participate fully in the first year program at UC in
a broad variety of fields of study;
- Have attained the necessary preparation and requisite skills
in fundamental discipline areas;
- Have attained a body of knowledge that will provide breadth
and perspective to new, more advanced studies; and
- Have attained essential critical thinking, writing and
What are UC's current standardized testing requirements for applicants?
UC requires scores from the SAT I (scores from the same sitting)
or ACT (composite score), along with scores from three SAT II
Subject Tests: Writing, Math (either level), and a third exam
in English literature, foreign language, science or social studies.
How does UC use these tests in determining eligibility and making
To determine students' eligibility for admission to the UC system,
the university uses a statewide eligibility index-a sliding scale
in which relatively low high-school grade-point averages can be
offset by high test scores, and vice versa. High school GPA is
the driving factor for eligibility, in that modest test scores
are required of students who have average to above-average grade-point
averages. SAT II scores (composite of three exams) weigh more
heavily than the SAT I total or ACT composite score in the index
computation, accounting for 75% of the "weight" in the
test score component. Details on the eligibility index are available
on the Web at: http://www.ucop.edu/pathways/infoctr/introuc/fresh.html
addition, UC recently adopted an "Eligibility in the Local
Context" (ELC) policy, effective for the fall 2001 entering
class, under which high-ranking students in each California
high school are eligible for freshman admission. Students in
the top 4 percent of their high school graduating class, who
have completed specified academic work by the end of the 11th
grade, are automatically UC-eligible under this policy. Minimum
standardized test scores are not required to become ELC-eligible.
After a student is determined to be eligible for the UC system,
individual campuses make offers of admission to the student.
Freshmen are selected primarily on the basis of academic achievement
and potential, demonstrated in large part by high school GPA
and scores on standardized tests. Special talents and accomplishments
in the context of disadvantaged circumstances are also taken
into account. The criteria vary among UC's eight undergraduate
Why does UC use standardized tests?
Standardized tests are useful in comparing academic achievements
and/or ability of students from different schools and with different
academic preparation. Standardized tests are a helpful tool in
educational decision making when used correctly.
What tests do other universities require in the admissions process?
Below are example of institutions that require only the SAT I
or ACT composite score:
- University of Georgia
- University of Illinois
- University of Maryland
- University of Michigan
- Penn State-SAT I or ACT math & English only
- Stanford University
- SUNY-SAT I or ACT required at 21 campuses. Stony Brook
also recommends three SAT II Subject Tests.
- University of Washington
- University of Wisconsin
- Yale University
are examples of institutions that require the SAT I or ACT,
plus SAT II Subject Tests:
- University of California-Subject Tests: Writing, Math (either
level), and a third test in English literature, foreign language,
science or social studies
- Dartmouth College-any three Subject Tests except ELPT
- Harvard University-any three Subject Tests
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Subject Tests: Mathematics,
Science, and a third from a different area
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill-SAT II Math IIC
- University of Virginia-Subject Tests: Writing, Math (either
level), and a third test
- Williams College-any three Subject Tests
the following institutions are among those requiring the SAT I
plus three SAT II Subject Tests, or the ACT in lieu of SAT I and
- University of Pennsylvania
- Wesleyan University
What is BOARS proposing?
BOARS is proposing that the University of California no longer
require the SAT I for admission to the UC system. The university
would not alter its present admissions criteria (which include
and SAT I or ACT and SAT II requirement,) pending the approval
of the proposal and the development of new standardized tests
directly tied to the college preparatory curriculum in high school.
BOARS is part of the university's systemwide Academic Senate,
which is the faculty's representative body and has responsibility
for recommending to the Board of Regents the university's admissions
What is the problem with the SAT I?
Unlike curriculum-based tests, the SAT I is not directly related
to subject matter covered in high school coursework. Admissions
processes that rely strictly on aptitude tests like the SAT I
de-emphasize the importance of mastering the high school curriculum.
Furthermore, considerable time in the classroom and at test-preparation
courses is focused on improving SAT I test scores rather than
expanding the student's knowledge of subjects and developing reading
and writing skills.
SAT I-particularly its verbal analogy section-has been heavily
debated in California because it lacks a clear relationship
to specific skills required for UC-level work. Parents have
no way of knowing what the SAT I measures and how they can assist
their children to do better.
How would students benefit from the elimination of the SAT I requirement,
and the use of a new standardized test more directly tied to the
college preparatory curriculum in high school?
Examinations would test what is taught in the classroom. Students
and teachers would therefore have a well-defined set of standards
for specific subject areas. Time spent in the classroom would
be devoted to developing reading, writing and mathematics skills,
along with mastery of other subjects that help prepare students
for college. Students would know that their test scores reflect
their mastery of subject material, rather than poorly defined
Won't this proposal lower UC's standards for freshman admission?
No. On the contrary, it will raise standards by using tests that
assess actual mastery of academic coursework as opposed to mastery
of test-taking skills. BOARS is not proposing to eliminate standardized
tests in the admission process; rather, it is proposing to use
only those tests which have a demonstrable relationship to the
high school curriculum. Eliminating the SAT I requirement would
help strengthen the academic preparation of UC applicants by focusing
their attention on doing well in school, not mastering strategies
for succeeding on a three-hour aptitude test.
What are examples of good practices in the admissions process?
Are the SAT II and high school grade point average examples of
appropriate standards in admissions?
High school GPA and SAT II scores represent measures of academic
success in core coursework, rather than general cognitive abilities.
When exam scores are considered in the context of a student's
learning environment, they become more meaningful and can be used
more fairly to assess academic achievement. Ideally, the SAT II
exams would be directly tied to the California curricula standards.
teachers, students and parents will be well served by tests
that are demonstrably related to curricular standards and core
competency expectations. More specifically, the tests should
measure competency in core subject areas-reading, writing, literature,
mathematics, and the social and physical sciences-and they should
offer sufficient feedback to schools and students to help them
improve their performance. Appropriate assessment tools can
be helpful in providing such feedback.
How does this proposal complement the accountability-based educational
reforms that have been launched in California in recent years?
Gov. Gray Davis and the California Legislature have instituted
a series of educational reforms that raise the bar in terms of
academic expectations for students and overall school performance.
The cornerstones of these reforms include: academic content and
performance standards by grade level and subject area; curriculum
frameworks and textbooks aligned to content standards; a state
testing system that includes a nationally normed achievement test
and criterion-referenced subsections that measure students' progress
against state adopted standards; intensive professional development
programs for teachers focused on reading (especially in the primary
grades), mathematics (especially algebra for middle school students),
and English language development; and a high school exit exam
aligned with state content standards.
BOARS proposal addresses the issue of alignment between what
students are taught and expected to learn in K-12 and the academic,
subject-specific criteria by which students are evaluated for
purposes of UC admission. By focusing on alignment, UC will
provide students, teachers and parents with a clear understanding
of the academic skills required for college; foster coherence
between curricula standards and expectations in high school
and entry level courses for freshmen; create a stronger, more
direct connection between what students accomplish in high school
and their prospects for admission to UC; and focus student attention
on the mastery of subject matter rather than test preparation
based on generic academic standards.
Does the SAT I improve upon the ability of high school grades
and SAT II exams to predict a student's performance in college?
The SAT I adds little, if any, value to the equation. Statistically,
when high school GPA and SAT II scores are used to predict first-year
performance at the university, adding the SAT I score adds a very
small increment to the correlation. Practically, however, this
increment has little or no significance for the admissions process
because the vast majority of the prediction is accounted for by
the GPA and SAT II. Since the SAT II exams are better measures
of a student's mastery of high school subject matter, they are
the better tests to use.
For a preliminary analysis of predicting student success at UC,
see Latest Research.
What are the review process and implementation timeline for the
BOARS proposal? What is the earliest possible date this change
could take effect?
Changes in UC's test score requirements could, at the earliest,
be implemented for the class entering in fall 2006. However, it
is important to note that the university operates under a framework
of shared governance, in which the Academic Senate has responsibility
for recommending revisions to eligibility policies to the president
and Board of Regents. The BOARS proposal will be reviewed by the
campus divisions of the Academic Senate as the next step in this
process. It would eventually go before the Board of Regents for
final approval. Design and definition of any new admissions test
would be contingent on this approval and UC admissions criteria
would not change until a new test is successfully developed.
What is meant by a "holistic" admissions process?
A holistic review consists of a comprehensive assessment of all
information provided on the application, including academic performance,
extra-curricular accomplishment or special talents, personal qualities
(e.g. leadership, motivation, perseverance), response to life
challenges, and likely contribution to the intellectual and cultural
vitality of the campus. Through Comprehensive Review, UC campuses
have implemented a more holistic assessment of applicants, as
opposed to a limited quantitative assessment.
Arenít holistic review processes too expensive?
No, private universities have used holistic review processes for
decades. There is no reason why public universities canít do the
same. UC Berkeley has shown that they can.
Admission to UC can change a young personís life. We have an
obligation to review applicants in their full human complexity.
It is too important a responsibility to do quickly or superficially.
It is a matter of setting priorities and having a fair admissions
process must be the highest priority for an American university.
How might test score reports be made more useful for students
and for UC?
Test score reports could be more useful to students if they explained
the strengths and weaknesses of students' performance on specific
components of each subject exam. In this way, students and teachers
would have important information to guide them to improve performance.