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2014 August 4

Changes to UC admissions requirements

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:25
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The University of California has just made it much more difficult for students to satisfy the a–g requirements for admission:

Effective for students applying to UC in November 2014 for freshman admission in fall 2015, one full year of Geometry must be completed to satisfy the mathematics (“c”) subject area requirement. In other words, even if students complete three year-long math courses, they will not have fulfilled the mathematics subject requirement for UC admissions unless they have taken, and passed with a letter grade of C or better, one full year of Geometry.

As a result of the revised mathematics subject requirement, the omission of a Geometry course can no longer be validated by higher-level math courses, such as Algebra II/Trig, Trigonometry, Math Analysis, Pre-Calculus, or Calculus, taken at the high school or college level. Furthermore, the omission of a Geometry course cannot be validated with any examination score.

UC faculty have determined that an examination score (SAT/ACT, SAT Subject, AP, IB, etc.) cannot validate the omission of a Geometry course. This includes “challenge” exams taken to demonstrate proficiency in a subject for which a student receives only a Pass or Fail grade. If, however, based upon a challenge exam, a high school awards both grades and units for the completion of Geometry, UC would consider that course omission validated.

A student can use a non-transferrable college/university course in Geometry to satisfy the requirement. However, advanced courses in mathematics, even those that are UC-transferrable, will not validate the omission of a Geometry course.


My son was fortunate in that he got into UC before this requirement was created, and he had taken a high school geometry course (in 7th grade) that would count:

UC will continue to allow students to self-report on the UC admission application a Geometry course completed in grade 7 or 8 to meet the mathematics (“c”) subject requirement. UC will not require the submission of a middle school transcript, nor will high schools be required to list middle/junior high school math courses on high school transcripts, but doing so is recommended.

But students who are relying on on-line courses are in deep trouble (particularly since the UC-approved online courses are generally rather awful remedial courses):

 Non-UC-approved online courses may not be accepted through principal certification. Beginning with
the 2013-14 academic year, students may use only UC-approved online courses to satisfy the subject


  1. The geometry fact sheet doesn’t appear to be accessible now (or, perhaps by non-counselors).

    Comment by kcab — 2014 August 5 @ 13:58 | Reply

    • My fault, as I had accidentally included the closing ] in the URL. I’ve fixed the link now.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2014 August 5 @ 17:56 | Reply

      • Thanks. I think this has policy implications for the math pathways in my kids’ districts. Some folks in the schools have been assuming that an on-line course followed by an exam would be an acceptable way for kids to take geometry if the middle school stops offering it.

        Comment by kcab — 2014 August 5 @ 21:03 | Reply

  2. It is interesting on how dependent they would be on just the name of a course. No real concern for the content of the course. I teach a “Geometry” course. I spend more time with algebra and trig in the course than I do old school geometry. I guess just being concerned about the label makes it easy.

    Comment by gflint — 2014 August 7 @ 10:37 | Reply

  3. It sounds like you are in a place where you should have known this was coming for several years and even seen the rationale behind it. Where did this originate? I do know that students in my state get rushed through math so they can take calculus, and often know almost no geometry that isn’t part of trig. Of course, even ones who took geometry probably don’t remember the things that get used in physics and engineering (volumes and areas from solid geometry, alternate interior and exterior angles, etc) so I suspect they are hoping the kids get exposed to formal proofs in that class.

    Comment by CCPhysicist — 2014 August 9 @ 10:59 | Reply

    • How could I know about changes like this? Faculty are the last people to be informed about anything—I usually find out about stuff from the local newspaper before the administration tells the faculty. So far, all I know is that it came from a “statewide taskforce” that included UC, CSU, community colleges, and high school teachers. The chance that this task force had anyone from my campus on it is only about 10–20%.

      If they were asking for formal proofs, I could perhaps see the point—but there are better ways to teach proofs than geometry (the applied discrete math courses taken by computer science and computer engineering students, for example) which they won’t accept, and there is no requirement that the geometry courses that they will accept actually do proofs.

      So far as I can see, this was a plan created by geometry teachers to provide job security—there is no pedagogical reason to single out geometry as the only high school subject that one can’t establish sufficient competency in by exam.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2014 August 9 @ 11:32 | Reply

      • Understood. The only background I can add is that my state requires Geometry and Algebra I for graduation, so they might be following other states for the main concept of minimum math. Pickiness about testing competency is, of course, pure bureaucracy.

        In my state, this grad requirement means there is very little content in the Geometry course in our schools compared to the year of Euclidean Geometry that I took in a previous lifetime, because all it has to cover is what is on the state graduation exam. Hence area of a circle but not area of a sphere.

        Comment by CCPhysicist — 2014 August 11 @ 06:17 | Reply

        • They had previously required 3 years of math, so adding geometry as a specific requirement in those three courses will not increase the amount of math incoming students will have had. It will have very little effect on most applicants—in fact, I can’t see many it will affect other than home school students, since it seems deliberately designed to prevent all the ways that home school parents usually validate their courses (rigorous online courses like Art of Problem Solving or exam scores like the SAT 2 math level 2).

          Perhaps you are right that the main effect will be to water down geometry courses even further than they are already. Sad, if true.

          Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2014 August 11 @ 09:47 | Reply

  4. So a geometry course in sixth grade doesn’t count? As as an out of state homeschooling parent who went to UC schools, I am very frustrated by UC admissions requirements. Do they really think that they get better students by putting up so many roadblocks?

    Comment by Kai — 2014 August 9 @ 19:04 | Reply

    • UC admissions is not about getting better students. It is about running an enormous bureaucracy with little pain for the bureaucrats.

      I’ve not yet tracked down where this particular bit of misguided rule-making came from, but I might take some time to do so, when I’m not so busy.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2014 August 9 @ 21:28 | Reply

  5. I found out today that the geometry requirement was approved by a committee (probably BOARS: Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools) in 2009.

    Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2014 August 13 @ 15:30 | Reply

  6. UGH. What a mess! My son will be applying to the UCs this coming fall. He took geometry in 8th grade from AoPS, which was online and ungraded (at the time). He’s now taking post-calc classes as a junior, so clearly he has math ability. How can I ensure that this new requirement doesn’t trip up his application? Do we just self-report the class as taken and hope for the best?

    Comment by Linda — 2015 January 5 @ 13:54 | Reply

    • “Do we just self-report the class as taken and hope for the best?” That’s what I would do. Clearly if he had the AoPS course, he’s well exceeded the standard high school geometry course. I doubt that UC will raise any questions if he has gone on to do higher math.

      AoPS had the option of getting grades from the instructor even back then, but they didn’t advertise it—you had to ask for a report.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2015 January 5 @ 14:12 | Reply

      • Thanks! That’s what we’ll do then.

        The other conundrum is that he was going to apply via the Admission by Exam route. He has the required 2 SAT subject tests (Math & Physics), but I read a confusing disclaimer: “Students may not use an SAT Subject Test to meet these requirements if they have completed a transferable college course with a grade of C or better in that subject.” That sounds like AP Physics, AP Calc and/or Multivariable at the CC would deem both subject tests void. Not sure how to approach this other than to apply by exception.

        Comment by Linda — 2015 January 5 @ 14:30 | Reply

        • AP courses are not “transferable college courses”. Multivariable calculus is not covered by an SAT subject test. Some of my early thoughts on this topic are in and updated thoughts at

          To be on the safe side, though you could have him take a couple more SAT subject tests. My son took world history and US history, which gave him the exams needed to pass the a-g requirements, and also turned out to eliminate one general-ed requirement at UCSB.

          Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2015 January 5 @ 14:41 | Reply

          • In one of your linked posts, you wrote, “After taking the SAT Math 2 test, he took some college math courses at UCSC. Does his taking those courses suddenly invalidate his SAT2 Math score? Or would only a college precalc class invalidate the SAT2 Math level 2? What, exactly, does “in that subject” mean in this context? Does the timing of the completion of the course and the taking of the exam matter? Or just the completion of the course and the admission to UC?”

            Those are same questions rolling around in my head! I wasn’t sure if “in that subject” = meant any math class that was precalculus or higher or not. Incidentally, he took the SAT subject test after finishing AP Calc BC. Not sure if that muddies the water, but I’m relieved that you feel the AP courses and Multivariable won’t be a problem.

            UC-edu-speak gives me a headache.

            My son would rather get a root canal than take a history test! :-) Thanks for the suggestion, though!

            Comment by Linda — 2015 January 5 @ 15:10 | Reply

            • I suspect that taking an AP course would not invalidate the SAT 2 score for admission by exam, but a community college precalc course would. Whether a community college calculus class would is unclear. I agree that this rule is very badly written—incomprehensible to those to whom it might apply.

              My son was not fond of history either, but decided that taking the tests was a relatively painless way to show UC that he had taken the relevant history courses. Since the SAT 2 US history score resulted in one of his general-ed requirements being fulfilled at UCSB, he thinks it was well worth the trouble. (He prepped for the tests by re-reading Larry Gonnick’s Cartoon History books.)

              Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2015 January 5 @ 21:40 | Reply

  7. […] Changes to UC admissions requirements […]

    Pingback by Blog year 2015 in review | Gas station without pumps — 2015 December 31 @ 17:07 | Reply

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