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International First-Year Student Requirements

Who is considered an International Applicant?

We consider you an international applicant if you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and you need an F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant student visa in order to study in the United States.

Who is considered a First Year Student Applicant?

  • You are completing (or have already completed) secondary school with very good grades and earned a certificate of completion which enables you to be admitted to a university in your home country.


  • You have not enrolled in a regular session at any college or university after completing secondary school.

International First Year Student Academic Requirements

Marks (Grades Earned)

You must complete secondary school with very good grades (grade point average of approximately 3.4 or better) and earn a certificate of completion, which enables you to be admitted to a university in your home country.

Courses You Must Take: 
If you are enrolled in a secondary school in California click here for courses you must take.

If you are enrolled in a secondary school in the U.S. or a foreign school that follows the American or International Baccalaureate curriculum, click here for courses you must take.

If you are studying outside the U.S., not in an American or International Baccalaureate curriculum, the following courses can meet the “a-g” subject requirements.

a. History/Social Science – 2 YEARS REQUIRED
Two years of history/social science, including one year of world history, cultures and geography. History and culture of the country of your school is acceptable.  If United States (American) history is available at your school, you are expected to complete one year of U.S. History. 

b. Language Arts – 4 YEARS REQUIRED
Four years of college-preparatory English or language of instruction at your school. Courses should include frequent and regular writing, and reading of classic and modern literature.
At least three years of college-preparatory mathematics, leading up to and including calculus.

Most students studying outside the U.S. complete this area with three years of integrated biology, chemistry and physics. If your courses are integrated – that is, they are taught together every year, you must complete at least three full years of integrated science to meet this requirement.

e. Language Other than English or other second language – 2 YEARS REQUIRED, 3 YEARS RECOMMENDED
Two years of the same language other than English OR if taught in a language other than English, students may use their English language courses in this area. Courses should emphasize speaking and understanding, and include instruction in grammar, vocabulary, reading, composition and culture.

f. Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) – 1 YEAR REQUIRED
A single yearlong approved arts course from a single VPA discipline: dance, drama/theater, music or visual art if available at your school.

g. College-Preparatory Electives – 1 YEAR REQUIRED
Courses in social studies or philosophy and advanced courses, beyond those listed above, in languages, mathematics or science.

Required Tests

You are expected to complete these exams as early as possible, but no later than December of your last year of secondary school:

Either the ACT plus Writing Test OR SAT Reasoning Test

The application for admission to the University of California is shared by all UC campuses. If you have your official ACT or SAT test results sent to one campus, it will be available to all UC campuses to which you applied.

Optional Examinations: 
The SAT Subject Tests are not required. However, you are welcome to submit scores if you would like to:

  • Use Subject Tests to satisfy “a-g” subject requirements.
  • Show your mastery of a particular subject or set of subjects.

English Proficiency: UC Merced requires one of the following proficiency exams from all international first year student applicants whose native language is not English:

A score of 560 or better on the English Writing section of the SAT Reasoning Test.


International English Language Testing System (IELTS) − a score of 6.5 or better on the (academic modules) band score.


Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) − a score of 80 or better on the Internet-based test (IBT) and 550 or better on the paper-based test (PBT).

When you take the language proficiency test, please arrange to have a hard copy report forwarded by the testing agency to University of California, Merced, and Office of Admissions, 5200 N. Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343.

Language exam results must be received in the UC Merced, Office of Admissions no later than January, if you are applying for the fall term.