University Seal of Biliteracy & Cultural Competence (USBCC)

updated sealSDSU’s University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence (USBCC) is a digital badge that SDSU students can earn by participating in a cultural and linguistic immersion experience and demonstrating Working Proficiency through standardized testing that covers reading, writing, listening, and speaking in a language other than English. SDSU's USBCC is a standardized measurement of biliteracy skills and is open to all students who meet the requirements, regardless of their pathways to proficiency in their languages.

As a transborder HSI, SDSU launched its USBCC in Spanish in the Spring of 2021 to value and honor the language of our CaliBaja region. The USBCC was made possible through a three-year grant awarded by the California Department of Education’s Multilingual California Initiative. Additional languages are planned for the future.

Would you be interested in obtaining a University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence? Please complete the interest form.

Learn more about the Fowler Student who First Earned the SDSU University Seal of Biliteracy!

View the results of a systematic national canvass of Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs in the U.S. conducted by the American Councils Research Center. 

  • The proficiency exam required for the University Global Seal of Biliteracy is an individual, proctored exam with four sections, covering reading, writing, listening and speaking.
  • Each semester, the details of the exam will be covered in an orientation meeting for students who have applied to obtain the Global Seal. Exams may be offered in person or remotely proctored.
  • It is important to note that the exam will evaluate the level of each student’s proficiency in each of the four areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking, and students must obtain Working Proficiency or higher in ALL of the 4 categories in order to obtain the Seal.
  • Following the University Global Seal of Biliteracy orientation each semester, all Global Seal applicants will be invited to attend Practice Seminars at SDSU where they are able to practice their language and identify the areas where they need additional support prior to the exam.
  • Finally, each applicant is responsible for signing up to take the Proficiency exam prior to the assigned deadline each semester.
  • Exam results are reported to SDSU International Affairs. For students who do not meet the minimum Working Proficiency level in one or more of the four areas, they will be notified about the areas in need of improvement, and given the option to re-test within the next month. For students in the inaugural Spring 2021, the cost of re-testing must be covered by the student.
  • The University Global Seal of Biliteracy is not just about the language, but about holistic bilingualism and the interconnection between language and culture.
  • Some students will already have participated in a study, intern or research abroad experience, which fulfills the requirement. However, it is important to highlight that this is NOT the only way to gain an understanding of the language’s cultural context, and this opportunity is open to students who have not participated in a traditional study abroad program.
  • Examples of other ways to meet this requirement for our inaugural Spanish cohort include taking an SDSU Transborder course with regular class meetings in Tijuana, Baja California, participating in a virtual course or internship in a Spanish-speaking country, or completing the International Business department’s “Global Business Project” or another departmentally-based project focused on the cultural context of Spanish.
  • Students applying to obtain their University Global Seal of Biliteracy should be prepared to describe their immersion experience, and articulate how it has contributed to their understanding of and proficiency in the language.
  • Application to obtain the inaugural SDSU University Global Seal of Biliteracy in 2021 was open to current SDSU students in the International Business major or the Fowler College of Business, who were graduating in 2021.
  • Whether they were spring, summer or fall 2021 graduates, they needed to be prepared to take the proficiency exam in Spring 2021, and demonstrate participation in a cultural and linguistic immersion experience while at SDSU.
  • 40 students are on track to receive their Global Seal in May 2021.

I am a fluent native speaker of Spanish, but I have never taken a Spanish class at SDSU. Am I eligible to earn a Seal of Biliteracy?
Yes. The Seal of Biliteracy is a valuable opportunity, regardless of your pathways to proficiency in your languages.

Why should I obtain the SDSU University Global Seal of Biliteracy?
Regardless of whether your first language is English or another language, certification of your biliteracy can provide a competitive advantage in hiring and promotion. The SDSU University Global Seal of Biliteracy is a standardized measurement of your biliteracy skills.

Why is a digital badge important to my career?
The badge can be put on LinkedIn so that employers can easily see your level of biliteracy. Research informs us that employers view proficiency in more than one language as an asset, so that when all things are equal, a biliterate job candidate will be chosen. Learn more about the American Councils Research Center's results of a systematic national canvass of Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs in the U.S.

Can the language proficiency exam be done remotely?
Yes. Exams will have the option to be completed remotely in Spring 2022, but will still be proctored. This requires you to have access to a laptop as well as a smartphone during the exam.

NOTE: Chromebooks and tablets are not supported.

What is the minimum language proficiency level required to obtain a University Global Seal of Biliteracy?
The exam will determine whether you have reached Functional Proficiency (intermediate-mid) or Working Proficiency (advanced-low). You must have a minimum of Working Proficiency in order to obtain the University Global Seal of Biliteracy at SDSU.

Is the proficiency exam the only requirement I need to complete in order to receive the University Global Seal of Biliteracy?
If you take the exam and test at the level of Working Proficiency (advanced-low), and can demonstrate that you have experience with cultural and linguistic immersion, you will receive the Seal.

Do I have to be an IB major, Fowler College of Business or Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Education student to participate?
In this 2021-2022 academic year, yes. The SDSU University Global Seal of Biliteracy is only being offered to International Business majors, Fowler and Joint PhD Program in Education students with an advanced level of Spanish. In the future, additional majors and languages may be eligible. Students interested in a University Global Seal of Biliteracy in another language or major should complete this Interest Form.

I am an IB major with advanced Spanish language skills, but my IB concentration is in another language. Am I still eligible for the SDSU University Global Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish?
Yes, you are eligible to apply!

How many times can I take the proficiency test to prove my level?
If you are not satisfied with your initial score on the exam, you will be permitted to take the test again. You will be responsible for the cost to re-test, which is $29.90.

What is the best way to prepare for the proficiency test? I’m not taking a Spanish class this semester and I’m afraid I will be unprepared.
A test-taker guide and a sample test are available, so that you understand how the exam will function, and what will be tested.

How many times can I take the AVANT Sample Test?
You can take the Sample Test as many times as you want, but you will not receive any score.

NOTE: The questions are not adaptive in the Sample Test, but rather show sample items from each level on the test. The real test will adapt to your level as you proceed through the questions.

How soon will I receive my results?
Proficiency exam scores will be reported to SDSU within 1-2 weeks. You will be contacted with your results.

If you are preparing to re-test, you will be able to get feedback from International Affairs about the areas of the test where your scores were lowest (reading, writing, listening, speaking), so that you can specifically target your preparation in those areas.

What is the timeline for Fall 2021?
Orientation will be held on September 29, 2021. 

Alfaro, C., Barton, R., & Castro, A. (2022). Lengthening the Language Line From High School to Higher Education: University Global Seal of Biliteracy. California Association for Bilingual Education, 15–18.

Lengthening the Language Line From High School to Higher Education

The United States has experienced an outpouring in Dual Language (DL) education programs over the last decade, and California’s Proposition 58 has provided school districts increased flexibility in the types of language program models offered in schools. In 1998, California approved Proposition 227, which banned bilingual education and required students to learn English only. After the passage of Proposition 227, grass-roots efforts led by a coalition of civil rights leaders, teachers, and education advocates (Californians Together) resulted in policy change with Assembly Bill 815. 

These efforts established the State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) in California in 2011 (Heineke & Davin, 2020) with the purpose, as documented in the literature, to prepare students with the skills necessary for the twenty-first century. The SSB, designed by language advocates, teachers, administrators, and state policymakers, not only encourages linguistically diverse students to learn English and maintain their home language but also promotes access for English speakers to develop proficiency in another language.


We are thrilled that you are interested in a digital copy of the University Global Seal of Biliteracy Handbook. We ask that you provide the following information, as we would like to know who is benefiting from this tool.  After you submit the form, you will be led to a confirmation message with a link to download the handbook.

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Contact Us

Cristina Alfaro

Associate Vice President Cristina Alfaro

Program Director 
University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence

[email protected]

Lysandra Perez

Lysandra Perez

Program Coordinator
University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence

[email protected]