Course Criteria & Guidance

All courses approved for the laboratory science (D) subject requirement will be designed with the explicit intention of developing and encouraging scientific habits of mind important for university-level studies, and aligned with the eight practices of science and engineering identified by the National Research Council Framework and detailed within the California Next Generation Science Standards.

Course Content Guidelines

Courses meeting the laboratory science (D) subject requirement will satisfy these criteria:

  • Regardless of the scientific subject, courses will integrate the eight practices of science and engineering outlined in the  California Next Generation Science Standards and will support students in achieving the core competencies.
    • Courses will provide rigorous, in-depth treatments of the conceptual foundations of the scientific subject studied.
  • The content for biology, chemistry, and physics courses will generally be drawn from the California Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects [PDF].
  • Courses will provide opportunities for students to participate in all phases of the scientific process, including formulation of well-posed scientific questions and hypotheses, design of experiments and/or data collection strategies, analysis of data, and drawing of conclusions.
    • They will also require students to discuss scientific ideas with other students and teachers, differentiate observations from interpretations, engage in critical thinking, and write clearly and coherently on scientific topics.
  • Courses will specify, at a minimum, elementary algebra or its equivalent (e.g., Mathematics I) as a required prerequisite or co-requisite, and will employ quantitative reasoning and methods wherever appropriate.
  • At least 20 percent of class time will include teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities that are directly related to, and support, the other class work, and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis, and write-up of investigations consistent with the practices of the scientific field. Teacher supervision may be synchronous or asynchronous, depending on whether the learning environment is classroom-based, fully online, or a hybrid.
    • It is recommended that at least one scientific investigation conducted in the field or laboratory per year be a student-designed project involving a tested hypothesis (project must be approved and supervised by the instructor).
    • Hands-on laboratory activities must explicitly address safe and ethical practices with respect to experimenters, animals, society, and the environment.
  • Courses will be explicit about the formative and summative assessment practices that will be used throughout to assess student development of deep content understanding, as well as mastery of scientific practices and skills.
    • Courses will include a variety of assessments to ensure the course learning objectives have been met, as well as to challenge students to defend their ideas and conclusions and demonstrate higher-order thinking skills.
    • These measures could include, but are not limited to, multiple choice, short answer, laboratory reports, essays, projects, poster presentations, and videos.
  • Courses will include real-world problems and applications that are appropriate for the context of the school community and the course content.
    • The activities should be aimed at engaging all students in science learning and understanding the role of science in their lives.
  • Schools are encouraged, to the extent possible, to design courses that include the use of technology to increase access and computer-based skills for students. This could include:
    • Visualization programs that provide scientific animations and 3-dimensional modeling;
    • Data collection and analysis tools;
    • Graphing calculators and other tools for mathematical representations;
    • A variety of digital tools for encouraging multiple verbal and visual representations of scientific phenomena; and
    • Computer coding exercises.
    • Courses that give students opportunities to experience learning in evidence-based, non-traditional ways such as a flipped classroom are encouraged.
2 years required, 3 years recommended

Two years of college-preparatory laboratory science required (three years are strongly recommended), including or integrating topics that provide fundamental knowledge in: biology, chemistry, or physics. One year of approved interdisciplinary or earth and space sciences coursework can meet one year of the requirement.

Computer Science, Engineering, Applied Science courses can be used in area D as an additional science (i.e., third year and beyond).

For information on how a student can fulfill UC A-G admissions requirements, please visit the UC Admissions website.

Skills Guidelines

The laboratory science (D) subject requirement aims to ensure that students are adequately prepared to undertake university-level study in any scientific or science-related discipline. Courses satisfying the requirement will support students to:

  1. Ask questions (for science) and define problems (for engineering), and then construct explanations and design solutions.
  2. Develop and use models to solve scientific problems; plan and carry out investigations that involve substantial experimental and/or observational activities.
  3. Observe, analyze, and interpret data; use mathematics and computational thinking.
  4. Formulate arguments and conclusions, and support them with reason and evidence.
  5. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information by:
    1. Reading a variety of domain-specific scientific and technical texts;
    2. Writing clearly and coherently using the language conventions of scientific discourse (e.g., laboratory reports); and
    3. Discussing scientific ideas with other students.

Honors Course Criteria & Guidance

Honors-level laboratory science (D) courses will be demonstrably more challenging than non-honors courses, and will fulfill the following criteria:

  • General A-G honors-level course criteria.
  • Require at least one year of prior college-preparatory laboratory science.
  • Have a comprehensive written final examination, including laboratory concepts and skills. Senior projects and other long-term student inquiries may constitute part of this comprehensive examination.

Core Competencies

The laboratory science (D) subject requirement emphasizes biology, chemistry, and physics because these subjects are preparatory to university-level study in all science-based disciplines. Coverage of these foundational subjects in suitable breadth and depth can potentially be found in a wide range of science courses, including those with an interdisciplinary, engineering, or a career technical education focus, provided the courses conform to the area D guidelines. All courses will align with the eight science and engineering practices of the California Next Generation Science Standards, as summarized below:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering). Students should develop a perception of science or engineering as a way of understanding the world around them, not as a collection of theories and definitions to be memorized.
  2. Developing and using models. Students should understand that scientific models are useful to represent phenomena in the physical world, and should routinely develop or use multiple representations and models to solve scientific problems and to communicate science concepts. They should appreciate that models and theories are valuable only when rigorously tested against observation.
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations. Students should use their scientific knowledge to perceive patterns and regularity, make predictions, and test those predictions against evidence and reason.
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data. This includes developing and maintaining openness to using technological tools appropriately, including graphing calculators and computers, in gathering and analyzing data. Students should be aware of the limitations of these tools, and should be capable of effectively using them while making sound judgments about when such tools are and are not useful.
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking. In particular, students should recognize that measurements and observations are subject to variability and error, and that these must be accounted for in a quantitative way when assessing the relationship between observation and theory.
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering). Students should recognize that abstraction and generalization are important sources of the power of science.
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence. Students should understand that assertions require justification based on evidence and logic, and should develop an ability to supply appropriate justifications for their assertions. They should habitually ask “Why?” and “How do I know?”
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. Students should be able to read a variety of domain-specific scientific and technical texts and to write using the language conventions of scientific discourse, including but not limited to laboratory reports. Useful guidelines for promoting scientific literacy can be found in the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects [PDF].