How to Get into UC Berkeley: Admission Requirements, SAT and ACT Scores, GPA and More

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So you want to go to Berkeley—go you! Come join us in the beautiful Bay Area. Ranked #2 among U.S. public universities by U.S. News & World Report, Berkeley (also affectionately known as “Cal”) features an idyllic campus, world-class professors, and a famously activist student body. The opportunities are endless—if you’re ready to explore them, read on for a closer look at how to get into UC Berkeley: everything from UC Berkeley admissions to UC Berkeley SAT scores and UC Berkeley ACT scores!


Table of Contents


Quick UC Berkeley Admissions Statistics

Let’s start out with the basics. Wondering how to get into UC Berkeley? Here are the facts you’ll need!

UC Berkeley SAT Scores (middle 50%, composite)1330-1530
UC Berkeley ACT Scores (middle 50%, composite)29-35
Average GPA for admitted UC Berkeley students (unweighted)3.86-4.00
UC Berkeley acceptance rate (2020)17.6%

Of course, that isn’t the whole picture. Read on for more about UC Berkeley admissions.
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The UC System and Test-Blind Admissions in 2021

Before we dive into UC Berkeley test scores, an important note: UC admissions has announced that, beginning with students applying for fall 2021 admission, they will not take SAT or ACT scores into consideration.

This is different from a test-optional policy. With a test-optional policy, you choose whether or not the school will consider your scores. With a test-blind policy, the schools won’t consider them, even if you do send them. However, this is only (definitely) true for the fall 2021 entering class!

This may not be true for future applicants, depending on pending litigation. Legally, a judge has decided that the test-optional policy the UC system had decided to implement first was unfair to applicants with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has only been decided with a preliminary injunction, though. This could be overturned later. If the UC system’s lawyers win their case, the schools will become test-optional instead of test-blind for applicants for fall 2022 forward. Watch this space for more news!
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More About UC Berkeley SAT Scores

Before we dive into UC Berkeley SAT scores, an important note: UC Berkeley admissions has announced that, beginning with students applying for fall 2021 admission, they will not take SAT or ACT scores into consideration.

If you have awesome SAT or ACT scores, that’s great—they can definitely still help you with things like course placement and even scholarships (though not the UC Regents and Chancellor’s scholarships, also now test-blind). However, they will not be an admissions factor in 2020.

If you’re wondering how these scores came into play historically, though— as you might expect, Berkeley students tend to receive fairly high scores. This table shows the 25th-75th percentiles in each section for the admitted class of 2020.

UC Berkeley Composite SAT Scores (middle 50%)1330-1530
UC Berkeley Evidence-Based Reading and Writing SAT Scores (middle 50%)640-740
UC Berkeley Math SAT Scores (middle 50%)670-790

The composite score of 1330-1530 is useful to take into consideration, even if you’re applying for admission after the new testing policy has gone into effect. Why? For one, it shows you exactly how strong UC Berkeley students are academically. These scores place the middle 50% of admitted students between the 89th and 99th percentile of all SAT takers. No doubt about it, they’re high achievers!
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More About UC Berkeley ACT Scores

Again, just a reminder that UC Berkeley will not take ACT scores into consideration starting with students applying for the class of fall 2021. If you’re trying to figure out your chances of admission, the average ACT score won’t help you. However, there are still reasons to keep this information in mind! Here’s a brief snapshot of the most recent data available for UC Berkeley ACT scores:

UC Berkeley Composite ACT Scores (middle 50%)29-35
UC Berkeley English ACT Scores (middle 50%)28-35
UC Berkeley Math ACT Scores (middle 50%)27-35
UC Berkeley Reading ACT Scores (middle 50%)28-35
UC Berkeley Science ACT Scores (middle 50%)26-34

Does that mean you shouldn’t take the ACT or SAT if you’re applying to UC Berkeley? No! This can be really helpful for getting scholarship money and class placement. Also, remember that even though Berkeley may not be considering your test scores, this might not be true for other colleges you’re applying to.
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UC Berkeley Acceptance Rate

UC Berkeley’s acceptance rate shows that it truly deserves the “most selective” label that U.S. News & World Report has given it. For freshman admission in 2020, the school received 88,066 applications and accepted 15,461 students, yielding an overall admissions rate of 17.6%.

This is slightly above the 2019 admissions rate of 16.8% (87,389 applicants, of whom 13,558 were admitted). However, this is a slight difference in the grand scheme of things.
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UC Berkeley GPA Average

Admitted students to UC Berkeley had unweighted GPAs of 3.86-4.00 (middle 50%). The fact that this is the middle 50% of GPAs is key, as it means that the upper 25% of students admitted had perfect 4.00s.

How do schools calculate GPAs? Use this process for an unweighted (out of 4.00) GPA:

  1. Look at your high school transcript.
  2. Give yourself points for each grade:
  3. Assign 4 points for each A.
  4. Assign 3 points for each B.
  5. Assign 2 points for each C.
  6. Assign 1 point for each D.
  7. Divide the total by the number of graded courses.

Weighted GPAs at UC Berkeley ranged from 4.27-4.62. This happens when schools weight honors or AP courses by assigning 5 points for each A, 4 for each B, and so on.

As UC Berkeley admissions moves away from using standardized test scores, grades will likely become even more important in the admissions process.
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UC Berkeley Freshman Profile

Although data from the 2020 admissions cycle is just beginning to come in, the school has already provided some key statistics about their latest group of incoming freshmen. 76.5% of admitted students attended public schools. 5.25% come from rural areas, while 26.6% are in the first generation in their family to attend college.

The 2019-2020 admitted class provides even more info about the kinds of students that UC Berkeley admits. In short? They come from all over and have all different kinds of backgrounds. Undergraduates came from 52 U.S. states and territories, as well as 74 countries. Combined, admitted students spoke 20+ languages!

Age isn’t a barrier to admission at Berkeley, either. The oldest undergraduate admitted was 28; the youngest was 15.

The 2019-2020 freshman also included 200+ more underrepresented minority students (Native Americans, African Americans, and Chicanx/Latinx) than the previous year, for a total of 2,934 students.

In other words, UC Berkeley students constitute an incredibly diverse body in a number of ways.
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Other Berkeley Admissions Requirements and Information

To be considered for UC Berkeley admission, you’ll need to meet the requirements for the UC system overall. One key requirement is the subject requirement (A-G). This means taking 15 year-long courses in high school, getting a minimum grade of a C. 11 must be completed before your final year.

You can also meet some of these requirements through testing, by the way—so don’t write off those standardized exams just yet!

Important! The letter grade requirement for A-G courses completed during the 2020 winter, spring or summer terms has been temporarily dropped. Pass/Credit grades meet the requirement, but will NOT be part of the GPA calculation (so GPA requirements for A-G classes still apply).

These subject requirements include:

A) History: 2 years, including specific requirements;
B) English: 4 years, including specific requirements;
C) Mathematics: 3 years, including specific requirements;
D) Science: 2 years, including specific requirements;
E) Language other than English: 2 years, including specific requirements;
F) Visual and performing arts: 1 year, including specific requirements;
G) College-preparatory elective: 1 year, including specific requirements.

In addition to taking these courses, there is also a UC Berkeley GPA requirement: to be considered for admission, you need a 3.0 GPA in A-G courses taken in the 10th and 11th grade years if you are a California resident. Non-residents, you’ll need a 3.4 GPA in those subjects.
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Berkeley Admissions FAQs

Is it harder to get into UCLA or Berkeley?

The short answer is UCLA—but the longer answer is that it will be easier for some students to get into UCLA and some to get into Berkeley.

Recent admissions data shows that UCLA is slightly more competitive, with a 14% acceptance rate in 2019-2020 (last year’s admission rate was 16.8% for Berkeley). This is a very small difference, though!

Meanwhile, UCLA had average SAT scores of 1365, while Berkeley’s ranged slightly higher, 1330-1530 (implying an average SAT score of 1430). Similarly, UCLA’s average composite ACT score was 29, while this is the bottom of the 50% range for Berkeley. UCLA’s average weighted GPA was 4.31, while this is at the lower end of Berkeley’s middle 50% range of 4.27-4.62.

What does this tell us? UCLA lets in a smaller percentage of its applicants, but Berkeley’s have higher stats. In other words, the UC Berkeley applications pool is likely more competitive.

Because of this, it’s not really “easier” or “harder” to get into one school over the other. Instead, focus on boosting your GPA as high as possible, showing off your extracurriculars, and writing stellar essays that explain why each school is right for you!

Does UC Berkeley use the Common App?

Nope! None of the UC schools use the Common Application, actually. They use their very own University of California application, instead. This is true of all of the UCs, such as UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz.

Does UC Berkeley offer financial aid?

Yes, it does— and it tends to be pretty generous. Entering freshmen receive an average of $23,767 in aid.

There are two different kinds of financial aid: need-based and merit-based. Need-based aid includes scholarships, federal loans and work-study programs. Last year, 41% of Berkeley students received some kind of need-based financial aid overall.

Merit-based aid is based on academic achievements, athletics, or other accomplishments. Average Berkeley freshmen received almost $8,000 in merit-based aid.

Does UC Berkeley require the SAT Subject Tests?

According to the University of California system website, the answer is “it’s recommended.” Don’t be fooled though. ‘Recommended,’ in this case, would be like your doctor telling you that, “I recommend that you get that mole removed as soon as possible.” They aren’t required, but most competitive students are going to submit them.

I really hate to make light of a difficult (and immensely frustrating) situation, but consider a few facts. In the fall of 2015, 78,918 students applied to UC Berkeley. The average unweighted GPA of accepted students was 3.91. To say the least, it’s a tall order for anyone to receive the ‘fat envelope’ from UC Berkeley.

Because of the deluge of applicants, SAT Subject Tests play an important role in college admissions. For example, if your application is going up against a near-identical student, it may all come down to how you performed on your Subject Tests. Though you’ll never know either way if Subject Test scores tipped the balance, they are a powerful tool in the ultra-competitive world of college admissions.

Show more about choosing SAT Subject Tests for UC Berkeley admissions

Okay, which SAT Subjects Tests should I take?

Again, let’s go back to the source: the official UC website. In short, if you want to apply to either the College of Chemistry and/or the College of Engineering, they ‘recommend’ Math Level 2 and a science test that matches your intended major.

Yet if you’re not a future engineer or scientist, you have more options. For what it’s worth, here’s my advice on which three SAT Subject Tests to take:

  1. English Literature
  2. Mathematics Level 1 or 2 (2 is preferable as long as you can get a higher score here than on 1)
  3. Your Choice (consider one that is related to the major you want to pursue, but most importantly one you can get a high score on)

To succeed at applying to any or all of the University of California schools, having a solid foundation in English and Math will show admissions counselors that you can do well in the English and Math courses required for graduation. However, the ‘your choice’ will likely have the greatest impact, as you can show off your natural strengths. Fluent in Spanish? Take the Spanish Subject Test. Did you ace U.S. History? Take the U.S. History Subject Test! Love dissecting frogs in Biology? Take the Biology Subject Test!

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A Final Word: How to Get Into Berkeley

If Berkeley’s your dream school, you’re in good company! So how do you get the edge in applying?

UC Berkeley admissions officers review the following characteristics when going over your application.

  • Difficulty of courses taken in high school and grades received in those courses
  • Your personal qualities, such as leadership, motivation, and passion for helping the community
  • Your extracurricular activities
  • Performance in outside of school academic enrichment programs

With all of that said, though, Cal does use a holistic review process: they look at how the aspects of your application combine to show off who you are, not just what your grades have to say about you.

If you’re a junior or senior, focus on what you can control now: your current grades and activities, and emphasizing your personal qualities and performance in various activities on your application. Show off who you are and why you’re a good fit for Berkeley! Good luck!

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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