Language Proficiency

Language is the bridge across cultures

Thunderbird courses, like so much of the world of global business, are conducted in English. It is critical that students have a proficiency in English to succeed in Thunderbird classes — and ultimately in their global careers.

English proficiency admissions requirement for non-native English speakers

Proficiency in English is required for admission. Applicants whose native language is not English, and who received their qualifying degree in a country where English is not the native language, are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic exam. Thunderbird courses require that students have an excellent proficiency in reading, writing and speaking English. Waivers are not granted.

Business English Communications

Students whose TOEFL score falls below 100 - or the equivalent on the PTE or IELTS examination - will be required to take “Business English Communications” (BEC) courses. The chart below details the corresponding scores with the course requirements. Students will be awarded 3 hours of academic credit for each of the courses.

  BEC I (3 credit hours) BEC II (3 credit hours)
TOEFL score    
80-89 Required Required
90-99 Waived Required
100+ Waived Waived
IELTS or PTE scores Contact Admissions for details Contact Admissions for details

Note: Exam scores are valid for up to two years (from program start), and must be sent directly to Thunderbird from the exam administrator.


If you have any questions about Thunderbird’s English proficiency admissions requirement or second-language proficiency graduation requirement, contact Admissions at admissions@thunderbird.edu or call +1 602 978-7100 or 800 457-6966.