Gas station without pumps

2011 October 7

Satisfying UC’s a–g requirements with home school

One of the biggest challenges we face in home schooling our son is making sure that he is eligible to enter University of California when he finishes high school. Of course, we don’t know that he’ll want to go to a UC, nor that it would necessarily be a good fit for him, but in California, it is assumed that any serious college-bound student will meet the UC admissions requirements.  Meeting those requirements also makes him eligible at almost any other 4-year college.

UC has a strict set of course requirements for admission (the “a–g requirements”) that can be difficult to meet in an unaccredited program, none of whose courses meet the requirements.  For example, the excellent Art of Problem Solving math courses (which I wrote about in Good online math courses) don’t count toward satisfying “c. Mathematics.  3 years required, 4 years recommended”.  We, of course, are convinced that our son is very good at math, but how do we convince the bureaucratic UC admissions officers of that?  For that matter, how do we convince any college admissions officer at any school that is good enough to meet our son’s needs when he goes to college?

Last night, at a “home school to college” information night run by Alternative Family Education, we were given a pointer to a very important document: Options for Satisfying UC’s “A-G” Subject Requirements for Freshman Applicants Applying for 2012–13, [Update 2013-Nov-6: The link is now—UC loves to churn its web site to break everyone’s links] which outlines for high-school admissions counselors alternative ways for students to satisfy the requirements, besides taking courses on the UC-approved list.  This information, though available to all high-school counselors, had never been to shown to us as parents before, and I’d never stumbled across it in my searches for how to satisfy the UC requirements.

It turns out that most of the requirements can be satisfied by exam, and that higher level classes automatically validate lower level ones in most subjects.

  1. History/Social Sciences can be satisfied with the US History and World History SAT Subject exams.  This may turn out to be the most difficult of the letters for us to validate, as his “World History” course is based primarily on Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science series, with only light coverage of what was going on in the world politically.  Sending him into the SAT Subject exam at the end of that course may not produce the required minimum score, even though that score is fairly low (only 540 for World History and 550 for US History).
  2. English was the one we most feared, since he had dropped English 9 last year, and squeezing 4 years of English (the writing for which he does not particularly enjoy) into 3 years looked like a major challenge.  But getting a 560 on the writing part of the ordinary SAT suffices!  Since he got that in 6th grade, despite the lowest possible score on the essay, this requirement goes from looking impossible to looking trivial.  We still have to work hard to get his writing more fluent, since he doesn’t write easily enough to do well in college, but we only need to worry about him learning, not about how we document it.  We’ll probably make him take the SAT again this year, after some light preparation in essay writing, just so he can check this requirement off his list.
  3. Mathematics can be satisfied with SAT subject Math 2 at 480 (he’s already gotten an 800, so no worries there) or with a 3, 4, or 5 on the Calculus AP, which he’ll be taking in the Spring.
  4. Laboratory Science. Again, SAT Subject exams or AP exams can be used.  He had a year of accredited biology last year, and he’ll take an AP Physics C exam this spring (and probably another one next spring), so there should be no problem here either.  An AP Chemistry course may be a bit more difficult for us to arrange, since the labs are messier than physics labs, and so harder for us to cover at home, but he might take a community college class, since community college classes with at least 30 hours of lab also satisfy the requirement.
  5. Language Other Than English.  Here we have a wealth of options: any of the SAT Spanish Subject tests, any of the AP Spanish tests, or just counting the community college classes he is taking.  He will have met the 3-year recommendation with the community college Spanish 3 class at the end of this semester, and we hope he can get into a Spanish 4 class next semester, after which he should be ready for the AP Spanish Language exam and the SAT Spanish With Listening test.  He’ll probably continue into more advanced Spanish classes at the community college, so that he does not lose his fluency.
  6. Visual and Performing Arts.  He satisfied this last year with courses at the public high school in drama and in video production.  He may end up taking a theater arts class at the community college or university as well (assuming he can get into one).  There is no AP exam in theater, but there is an International Baccalaureate HL (high-level) exam in Theater Arts, which might be worthwhile to take (assuming that he can find it locally).  There is an IB program at Scotts Valley High, but they only have Theater Arts at the SL level, not the HL level.  Getting into community college classes (as difficult as that is with the budget cuts) will almost certainly be easier than finding an IB HL course in this area.
  7. College Preparatory Elective.  There are lots of ways to satisfy this by going beyond the minimum in any other category.  For that matter, his SAT Math 2 subject test score is high enough that it alone would satisfy the UC requirement.

I’m very glad that we were pointed to this document, as it has taken us from near panic about how we would meet the UC admissions requirements to relative certainty that we can show that he has satisfied them.  Now we only need to worry about making sure he learns, a much less daunting prospect than figuring out how to convince bureaucrats.


  1. Just a note on the IB exams — you can’t just sit an IB exam like you can an AP exam. IB is based on you being in an IB class in an IB school. Part of your score comes from various Internal Assessments (IAs) that occur throughout the year, not just your score on a single exam.

    Comment by Jo in OKC — 2011 October 7 @ 09:56 | Reply

    • Thanks. I thought that was probably the case, which means that all the IB options are irrelevant to us.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2011 October 7 @ 14:13 | Reply

  2. […] We were constrained by a desire to meet the University of California a–g requirements (although we can use test scores to dodge most of the requirements), so we knew we needed math, science, foreign language, English, and history.  Toss in the desire […]

    Pingback by Creating a homeschool curriculum « Gas station without pumps — 2012 May 27 @ 10:00 | Reply

  3. […] a previous post, I talked about how to use various tests to satisfy the University of California a–g entrance requirements.  We are still planning to follow the outline described there, but it tuns out that there are some […]

    Pingback by Ways in to University of California « Gas station without pumps — 2012 June 14 @ 16:39 | Reply

  4. […] Satisfying UC’s a–g requirements with home school […]

    Pingback by 2012 in review « Gas station without pumps — 2012 December 31 @ 11:17 | Reply

  5. […] “UC-approved”, so the University needs to have them validated some other way (see my previous post on a–g courses).  The English (requirement b) is validated by his SAT score on the reading section, math […]

    Pingback by Admission by exam at UC | Gas station without pumps — 2013 March 29 @ 08:51 | Reply

  6. […] no attention to the AP exams that test the same subjects deeper. The SAT2 tests in history are to satisfy the University of California a–g requirements, since the ways he learned (a course at home for World History and an unaccredited school course […]

    Pingback by Cramming for the SAT2 | Gas station without pumps — 2013 May 31 @ 01:48 | Reply

  7. […] in which I listed how my son was meeting UC a–g requirements, which I had originally talked about a couple of years ago,  when we started home schooling. This post updates that […]

    Pingback by Meeting UC a–g requirements | Gas station without pumps — 2013 September 7 @ 19:23 | Reply

  8. This was really helpful. I was having that “near panic” feeling too.

    Comment by Danielle — 2014 October 11 @ 17:28 | Reply

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