Step 1: Determine Your Areas of Interest
What is a specialization?
A specialization is also known as a major. By the end of first year, every UBC Science undergraduate student must choose a specific area of study. Throughout the rest of your time at UBC, you’ll complete courses within that area of study. As a first-year student planning your timetable, consider areas of interest (potential specializations) and build your timetable based on pre-requisites needed for your intended specialization. Be sure to read the related and important information on the UBC Academic Calendar. We’ve included a link on the right.
It’s okay to change your specialization later on
Many specializations have the same—or almost the same—first-year requirements. Knowing what you want to study in second year will help you choose your courses for first year, but don’t worry if you haven’t narrowed your choice down quite yet.
UBC Academic Calendar (BSc)
UBC Science offers numerous areas of specializations for students. Visit the UBC Academic Calendar now and scroll down to check out the details of your interested specialization(s). Each specialization Calendar entry will show you an overview of your degree, including the sample timetable you could have at each year level.
Design Your Own Timetable
This is the typical choice for first-year UBC Science students, and offers the most flexibility. You select both the courses and the particular sections of courses you attend according to the requirements of the degree specialization (major) you want to enter in second year. You take only one section of a course—one that fits your needs and schedule. Most of your lectures will be in large rooms but labs and tutorials will be in smaller groups.
Science One Program
If you want a challenging first year at UBC, apply to Science One, an innovative course in which the traditional disciplines of biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics are presented in a unified, integrated format. Students take a single, academically rigorous interdisciplinary 25-credit course, which incorporates lectures, tutorials and labs, as well as a mandatory biology laboratory, for a total of 27 credits. A separate application is required for admission to Science One. Learn more
Coordinated Science Program
Coordinated Science (CSP) groups one section of biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics courses into a standard timetable. All CSP students attend the same sections of specific core science courses, with an option in computer science. It offers less flexibility but because you are in the same classes with CSP students, you will more quickly develop friendships. Registration is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. No application is required. Eligible students register for a CSP standard timetable when registration opens. Learn more
Step 3: Consider Other Courses and Pre-requisites for Second Year
Each program specialization has requirements for admission. Make sure you are clear on what you plan to complete in first year. Look at areas of interest (potential specializations) and the courses that must be taken for admission. See the specialization admission requirements.
2017-18 Requirement for Major in Computer Science
Starting in May 2018 we will require students to have completed at least one of CPSC 103, CPSC 110 or SCIE 001 (Science One) in order to be considered for admission to a specialization involving CS (MAJ, CMJ, HON, CHN, double major, anything else).
To be promoted to second year, students must complete 24 credits total, including 15 credits in Science subjects.
Keep in mind that by the end of third year, all Science students need to complete the lower level Science requirements, which include laboratory course work, physical sciences, computational science, along with biology or another science. It is best to include a mix of Science subjects in your first year.
All UBC Science students need coursework focusing on communicating skills—usually two first-year English courses. In first year, you can choose to take SCIE 113, the First Year Seminar in Science, instead of an English course.
When should I take my communications credits?
It is not mandatory to take your communications credits in first year, but it might be a good idea to complement your Science courses with SCIE 113 or an English course.
Do I need to take the Language Proficiency Index (LPI) Exam?
See if you are exempt from the LPI exam and eligible for 100-level English courses here. A sitting of the LPI exam is offered at the end of August or start of September. Students required to take the LPI exam must obtain a score of 5 in order to take first-year English courses at UBC. Alternatively, if you are planning on taking SCIE 113, take it in second term. As well, take no more than 12 to 13 credits (roughly four courses) in first term and use the additional time to improve your reading and writing skills. Consult on-campus resources to support your learning.
Electives are courses that allow you to gain knowledge and skills that complement your interests in particular areas of science. During your degree, you must complete at least 12 Arts credits (in addition to any English courses used to fulfill the communication requirement). Bachelor of Science (BSc) students may take courses offered in any Faculty of School. A maximum of 18 credits outside of Science and Arts may be taken throughout your whole degree.
When should I take my electives?
Get advice, but ultimately, the decision is up to you. Balance your required courses with one or two electives each term, or stay focused on your intended path.
What electives should I take?
Browse the Course Schedule to see what courses are available and might be of interest. Popular electives include earth and ocean sciences, economics, psychology, philosophy, music, anthropology.
A pre-requisite is a course that must be completed prior to taking the selected course.
A co-requisite is a course that must be completed in advance OR during the same session (either in term 1 or 2) as the selected course.
Step 4: Look at Your High School Courses
When you’re admitted to UBC, your high school courses are assigned a grade-level based on the typical curriculum of a student from a British Columbia school. If you did not complete high school in BC, the grade-level your courses are assigned (Grade 11 or Grade 12) is recorded in the Student Service Centre under Grades and Records. Check it now.
Then use the following chart to determine the specific courses you need to take, based on the high school courses you completed.
|High School: Do You Have?||No||Yes|
|Biology 11 or Biology 12
At least one year of biology during your senior secondary program.
|Take BIOL 111||Take ONE of ASTR 101, ASTR 102, BIOL 112, BIOL 121, EOSC 110, EOSC 112, EOSC 114, ATSC 113, GEOB 102 or GEOB 103.|
|Math 12 (pre-calculus) with at least 80%
Visit the UBC Math site for details.
|Take MATH 110* if your pre-calculus grade is under 80%||Take ONE of MATH 180,184, 100, 102, 104 or 120** (see next row for how to choose)|
|Math 12 with at least 80% AND a separate Calculus 12 course
Visit the UBC Math site for details.
|Take MATH 180 or 184||Take ONE of MATH 100, 102, 104 or 120**|
Two years of secondary school chemistry--in some countries this normally requires an AP, IB or A-level course
|Take CHEM 111 and TWO of CHEM 123, PHYS 101 or 117, PHYS 118 (or PHYS 107** and 108**)||Take TWO of CHEM 121, CHEM 123, PHYS 101 or 117, PHYS 118 (or PHYS 107** and 108**)|
Two years of secondary school physics-in some countries this normally requires an AP, IB or A-level course. Visit the UBC Physics & Astronomy site for details
|Take PHYS 100 and TWO of CHEM 121, 123, PHYS 101 or 117, PHYS 118||Take TWO of CHEM 121, CHEM 123, PHYS 101 or 117, PHYS 118 (or PHYS 107** and 108**)|
Are you exempt from the LPI? If you're uncertain, check here. If you're NOT exempt, did you achieve a level 5 on the LPI?
|Take Writing 098. Check LPI deadlines, which are also found on the First Year English website.||Take SCIE 113 and ONE of ENGL 110, 111, 112, 120** and 121** or take TWO of those ENGL courses. SCIE 113 is available only to first years. You have until the end of Year 3 to complete the Communication Requirement.|
* A two-term course. For information on the Mathematics Basic Skills Test, which may permit a student to take MATH 100, 102, 104, 180, or 184 instead of MATH 110, visit the UBC Math site.
** Honours courses intended for students specializing in the area.
How many courses should I take each term?
A full course load is 30 credits or more over the two terms of winter session (September to April). If you commute, have family responsibilities, work, or volunteer more than five hours a week, do not attempt a full course load. Allow time for fun! Sports, recreation and social time give you balance. Many students choose to take fewer courses in first term and add another course in second term once they become accustomed to the work load and academic expectations. You can always take some courses over the summer session.
For every course, allow five to eight hours per week to do the required readings, group study, assignments, and exam prep.
To be eligible for student loans, you need at least 9 credits per term, which means 18 credits per winter session.
To qualify for an honours option in second year, you must complete 30 credits in the winter session of your first year, with no failed courses.
What about advance credit?
Advance credit (from AP, IB, or A-level courses) does not count toward your winter session course load because you earned it before starting studies at UBC. It does count for promotion and towards your total BSc credits.
Step 6: Advance or Transfer Credits
If the course is core to your area of study, it may be worthwhile to take the UBC course. Sure, you are likely to do well, but it also ensures you learn the material as it is taught at UBC. If the course is an elective, then why not accept the advance credit and give yourself more flexibility in planning your first year?
If you're coming from high school and have received a large amount of advance credit, consider taking more electives. If you’re deeply passionate about the subject, ask the Science Student Information Centre about more challenging honours-level first-year courses. Or take a second-year course in the subject—but don’t overestimate your readiness for second year.
Unless it’s an elective, we recommend you register for the course on your registration day. This ensures you have the course if you don’t get the advanced or transfer credit. If you receive the advance credit and decide to keep it, you can drop the UBC course later and find an elective. To find out what credit you may be receiving, see how UBC recognizes A-Levels, AP, or IB.
Tips to Remember
- Create multiple worklists. Spots fill up quickly and you may have to quickly switch to a plan B if an important course is filled.
- Allow for time when planning back-to-back classes, especially if they're in different buildings. Use UBC Wayfinding to see the distance you’ll need to travel between buildings.
- Laboratory/Tutorial Component: Some first-year Science courses require you to also register for a laboratory/tutorial section. Make sure you register for those in addition to the main lecture.
- Some courses are only offered in one term.
- Some courses have restrictions. Still try to register for the course - the restriction might be for you. If you have issues, learn more in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
- Need additional academic planning support? We recognize that each student's situation is unique and that first year course selections can be overwhelming. Please know our knowledgeable and friendly Science academic advisors are here to support you.