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5 Steps To Apply AP Credit As A UC Transfer

5 Steps to Apply AP Credit as a UC Transfer

I was working with a student a couple of weeks ago planning out a community college schedule and the AP calculation situation came up. It was hairier than usual (way hairier…) and it made me realize I should alert any readers to the ins and outs of applying AP units at a UC. I cannot stress enough how imperative it is to carefully check each college (College of Engineering, College of Letters and Science, etc), in addition to the major, to make sure you are calculating your final units correctly.

This is going to sound wild, but it’s true

In some instances you may have different total units at the same UC, depending on which college is calculating the results. If you’re hugging 60 semester units as a final count, a miscalculation could put you under the minimum transfer units.

The AP rule for the UCs:

AP exams with scores of 3, 4, or 5 earn either 5.3 semester units or 8 quarter units.  That’s a guarantee. Some exams may be applied to IGETC  (a community college GE path) or possibly the standard GE path. However, standard GE is variable — for instance, Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science will not allowed AP exams to fulfill any course in its standard GE path. But regardless of whether the AP score matches a course you still always get those base units.

Here’s where it gets dicey:

Each college has its own rules as to how an AP exam score may be applied, and the big problem is duplication of major required coursework.  I’ll give you an example:

Transfer Student 
AP Macro – score of 3
AP Calc AB – score of 4
AP Calc BC – score of 4

  • Major: Econ
    –Macro and Micro Econ required for major
    –Calc 1 and Calc 2 required for major
  • Applying to:
    — UC Berkeley
    — UC Davis
    — UCLA
    — UC San Diego
    — UC Santa Barbara


Berkeley (L&S)

— AP Macro and macro course duplication unclear (need to verify with Berkeley admissions). Possible loss of 3 units if the course is taken alongside the AP.
— Calc AB and Calc BC do not duplicate Calc 1 and Calc 2. Those courses MUST be taken for the major. (Hence both the AP units and the course units will count.)


Davis (all colleges)

— AP Macro. Score of 3 or higher is a duplication of the macro course. If course taken, student loses 3 units.
— Calc AB and Calc BC do not duplicate Calc 1 and Calc 2 courses, so student MUST take the courses and will get both sets of units.


UCLA (all colleges)

— AP Macro. A score of 4 duplicates the macro course. Since student has a score of 3, the macro course MUST be taken. (This will lead lead to 3-unit loss at Davis and possible loss at Berkeley.)
–AP Calc AB. Score of 4 is not a duplication of Calc 1. Student will get units for both AP and Calc 1 course.
–AP Calc BC.  Score of 4 is a duplication of Calc 1 course and student will lose 5 units from the Calc 1 course. This unit loss is non-negotiable because student MUST take Calc 1 for Berkeley, UCLA and Santa Barbara.  (An AP score of 5 duplicates both Calc 1 and Calc 2, meaning a 10 unit loss if courses are taken).


San Diego (all colleges)

–AP Macro. Score of 5 is a duplication.  A score of 3 or 4 means student MUST take the course, which may translate to possible unit losses at UCLA, Davis, or Berkeley.
–AP Calc AB. Score of 4 is a duplication of Calc 1, so taking the course (which is required for Berkeley, UCLA) leads to a 5-unit loss.
–AP Calc BC. Score of 4 or 5 duplicates both Calc 1 and Calc 2, so student loses 10 units if both courses are taken.


Santa Barbara (all colleges)

— AP Macro does not duplicate macro course. Student MUST take the course.
— AP Calc AB and Calc BC do not duplicate Calc 1 and Calc 2. Student MUST the courses.


Whoo boy!

The 5 steps to sorting it all out —

For each UC, you can calculate the AP credit policy by college here.

  1. The key to duplication is if the AP exam score is equated with a specific course at a UC, such as a score of 3 in AP Macro duplicates Davis’s Econ 1A.

  2. If an AP exam is not listed (for instance, Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science does not list AP Micro or Macro), that means the college has no policy and you must find the duplication answer from admissions.  Not being listed does not mean there will not be a duplication.

  3. You then need to go to the major at assist.org and see if the major has any policy that overrides the college. Some majors will allow validation of an earlier course via AP (such as Calc 2 validating Calc 1), but the policy is major-specific, and some majors will not allow AP to fulfill any major requirement.

  4. While on assist, verify any course a UC college listed as duplicating an AP exam (above example, AP Macro equates with Davis’ Econ 1A).  If Davis’ Econ 1A matches the required CCC course that gives you the definitive answer.

  5. Lastly, how does the UC determine which units are omitted if there is a duplication? I was always under the impression the UC chose the option that would best benefit the student. However, I received an email from the UC stating the following:

    If a campus has equated the AP Macroeconomics exam to their Macroeconomics course, the student will not get credit for the college Macroeconomics course (we award credit in chronological order).  If a campus does not equate the AP exam to their Macroeconomics course, then they will allow both the AP and the college credit. [emphasis mine]

The email noted in two places that unit credit is awarded in chronological order, meaning the first one completed will be kept and the second omitted. That is why losing both Calc 1 and Calc 2 (5 semester units each) is a bigger blow than losing the earlier AP at 5.3 semester/8 quarter units.

Final thoughts

Needless to say, it can be a complicated process assuring you are calculating units correctly. Based on the above student scenario, there are some UCs that could have a 10-unit deficit when calculating the final tally. A student might think the total is 65 semester (five units over the minimum 60), while UCSD may, for example, calculate only 55.

For what it’s worth, the biggest hurdle when I speak with high school students is convincing them that sometimes it is in their best interest not to take Calc BC if they are transferring to a community college.


–> I offer assistance in AP and course evaluation and scheduling. Click here to reach out.

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Lindy King

CA College Transfer offers college admissions services to students hoping to transfer to a UC. Lindy King is the author of the best-selling UC transfer book, "How to Transfer to a UC from a California Community College," now in its 3rd edition. Available on Amazon and iTunes.

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