English ("b")

Four units (equivalent to four years or eight semesters) of college-preparatory English composition and literature required, integrating:

  • Extensive reading of classic and modern literature and content-rich works of non-fiction,
  • Frequent writing, from brainstorming to final paper, and
  • Practice listening and speaking with different audiences.

Goals of the requirement

The English subject requirement seeks to ensure that incoming college freshmen are prepared to undertake university-level study; to acquire and use knowledge in critical ways; to think, read, write and speak critically; and to master literacy skills for classes in all University subjects.

More important than the specific topics covered are the more general abilities and habits of mind students should acquire through reading, writing, speaking and other course activities. As indicated in the Academic Literacy Statement of Competencies [PDF] from the Intersegmental Committee of the Academic Senates of the California Community Colleges, the California State University and the University of California (ICAS) and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts [PDF], these include the following:

  1. Students are well-informed, thoughtful and creative readers, writers, listeners and thinkers who incorporate the critical practices of access, selection, evaluation and information processing in their own original and creative knowledge production.
  1. They comprehend and evaluate complex texts across a range of types and disciplines and can construct effective evidence-based arguments and convey intricate or multifaceted information.
  1. They engage with major works of literature, expanding their sense of the variety of human experience in historical and ethical contexts and the range and complexity of human written expression.
  1. They respond to varying demands of audience, task, purpose, genre and discipline by listening, reading, writing and speaking with awareness of self, others and context.
  1. They analyze and evaluate a range of informational and literary texts by asking thoughtful questions and generating hypotheses based on the form and validity of evidence, seeing other points of view and effectively citing specific sources when offering an oral or written interpretation of a text.
  1. They use technology and digital media to access and evaluate a wide range of information and use digital platforms to write, to collaborate, and to publish their work.
  1. They understand the ethical dimensions of academic work as grounded in the respect for other informed viewpoints and the body of knowledge that makes up a scholarly discipline. They have a capacity to question and evaluate their own beliefs; to participate in, and contribute to, intellectual discussions; and to advocate for their own learning needs.

Course criteria & guidance

True academic competence depends on a set of interactive insights, perceptions and behaviors acquired while preparing for more advanced academic work. Good writers are most likely careful readers and critical thinkers—and most academic writing is an informed and critical response to reading. Courses will, at each level, give students full awareness and control of the means of linguistic production, orally, in writing and using a range of technologies.

Regardless of the course level, all approved courses are expected to stress the reading and writing connection, address each of the abilities and habits of mind outlined above and address all of the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking [PDF].They must also satisfy these criteria:

  1. Reading. Acceptable courses require extensive reading of a variety of genres, non-literary as well as literary, including informational texts, classical and contemporary prose and poetry, and literary fiction and non-fiction. Excerpts from longer works are acceptable, but reading will include some full-length works. Reading activities and assignments will promote literal comprehension and retention, depth of understanding, awareness of the text’s audience, purpose and argument, and textual analysis.

  2. Writing. Writing is a way of learning and should enhance students’ understanding of a topic. Courses require substantial, recurrent practice in writing extensive, structured papers directed at various audiences and responding to a variety of rhetorical tasks using evidence taken from complex written sources. Assignments and activities will support understanding of rhetorical, grammatical and syntactical patterns, forms and structures by asking students to respond to texts of varying lengths in unassisted writing assignments. Assignments reflect the idea that writing is a recursive process involving invention, drafting, revision and editing. Courses will address basic issues of standard written English, including style, cohesion and accuracy. Project-based English courses are acceptable, but must include substantial writing assignments for a variety of purposes and audiences.

  3. Listening and speaking. Courses will allow students to develop essential critical listening skills and provide them ample practice speaking in large and small groups. Assignments and activities give students opportunities to be active, discerning listeners, make critical distinctions between key points and illustrative examples, develop their ability to convey their ideas clearly, and listen and respond to divergent views.

English as a Second Language (ESL) /                      English Language Development (ELD)

Advanced-level English courses for second language learners may be approved to meet the English (“b”) subject requirement. Courses must allow students to develop fluency in academic language. Assignments and activities require students to accomplish a variety of intellectually challenging tasks, calling on them to demonstrate, at an advanced linguistic level of competence, their ability to use a variety of writing techniques, modes of development and formal conventions. Courses at this level must include college-preparatory composition and literature comparable to other mainstream college-preparatory English courses described above.

When applying to the University, students may use only one year of English coursework for second language learners to meet their four-year English requirement for UC admissions.

Other options for satisfying the “b” subject requirement

College courses or satisfactory scores on SAT Subject, AP or IB exams can also be used to fulfill the English subject requirement.