International Graduates of Non-ACOE Accredited Schools
Please read the following information if you are applying for registration in any Canadian province or territory other than Quebec.
For registration in the province of Quebec, please visit the website of the Ordre des Optométristes du Québec at: http://www.ooq.org/.
Pour de l’information concernant l’inscription dans la province du Québec, veuillez visiter le site internet de l’Ordre des optométristes du Québec au http://www.ooq.org/.
Credential Assessment Process for All Provinces (except Quebec)
This flow chart outlines the steps in the registration process for international graduates of non-ACOE accredited schools seeking registration to practise in Canada. Please note that Steps 1.a, b., c., d., and e., in the flow chart, can all be completed while the internationally educated graduates are still overseas. More information about each of these steps, and about alternative language tests, is detailed below. Although not all the English proficiency tests are available overseas, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) English proficiency test can be completed from outside of Canada.
Updated May 5, 2016
FORAC (Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada) NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS DIRECTLY
The Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FORAC) (formerly known as CORA) has now established a national process. Click here to visit FORAC’s website.
Starting January 1, 2017, new applicants for registration must be certified to prescribe drugs (or TPA-certified) prior to making their application to the College. This includes those applying for registration in Ontario under labour mobility provisions. Applicants presently in the system would be accepted under the current requirements.
September 19, 2014: Important memo to international applicants from the FORAC office:
Please be advised that new applications from International Graduates of non-ACOE Accredited Schools will now be accepted by FORAC directly.
Applications that have already been received prior to June 30, 2014, but not yet completed by the College, have been transferred to the National Credentialing Office and continue to be processed. FORAC has set up the following email address for new and current applicants: firstname.lastname@example.org. The mailing address is:
FORAC Credentialing Service
Sheppard Centre Post Office
4841 Yonge Street – Unit B6
PO Box 43215
Phone number: 416-644-0055
Thank you for your patience during the transition period. We look forward to assisting you with your academic credentialing request.
—National Credentialing Office
Access to Applicant Information and Records Policy
Applicants are entitled to access documents provided to the College as part of their application process. Please refer to the following College policy.
College's Pre-Registration and Credential Assessment Process to June 2014
(updated February 13, 2015)
For applicants whose credentials have already been assessed by the College, the appeal option available within the pre-registration process is an internal review by College staff followed by reconsideration by the Registration Committee. Appeal decisions are made by a new panel of decision-makers who were not involved in the original decision on your credential assessment.
If your credentials have been assessed by FORAC, please refer to FORAC’s website for appeal information.
If your credentials were assessed by the College (not FORAC) and you are dissatisfied with the Registration Committee’s decision, you may appeal the decision by March 13, 2015. A review, followed by reconsideration by the Registration Committee, will be held within 45 days of the receipt of your request by the College and you will be notified of the results within 30 days of the Committee’s consideration of your appeal.
Applicants may request reviews and appeals on procedural and substantive grounds; that is, relating to assessment panel procedures and the merits of its decisions.
In the case of an appeal of a credential assessment decision by the College, the following steps will be followed:
- Applicants provide the College with a written request for an appeal. Reasons for the request and any supporting documentation must be provided at this time. Contact information including address, phone number, and email address are also required.
- The appeal is scheduled.
- The appeal is held by the Registration Committee appeal panel. The applicant does not attend. The panel bases its decision on the information in the applicant’s record, the Committee’s original credential assessment decision, the written request for appeal, and any additional information provided by the applicant.
- The appeal panel notifies the applicant of its decision in writing with reasons that explain the basis for the decision. The applicant is advised that the appeal decision is final.
Applicants must provide new information about their credentials. In particular, applicants should provide detailed information related to any areas of deficiency noted in the Registration Committee’s decision letter.
To appeal the Registration Committee's decision, contact Ms. Cassia Hudgins by email or fax providing at least the minimum evidence (expressed in course hours/days/weeks) in one or more of the following areas: Ocular Health/TPA; Refraction/Binocular Vision/Physiological Optics; Dispensing/Contact Lenses/Opthalmic Optics; and Clinical Skills and Judgment. For the minimum course hours required in each of the subject areas, click here.
Applicants are to refer to the World Education Services' (WES) website for the available appeal mechanism associated with the authentication of their credentials by WES.
NEW! Internationally educated graduates are required to successfully complete an English proficiency test. However, an applicant may be exempted from the English language proficiency test if the international optometry-related degree was completed in English.
Internationally educated graduates must achieve the minimum score indicated for any one of the following tests:
- Canadian Language Benchmark Placement Test – no individual score lower than 8.0. Information about this test can be found at Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks.
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic – minimum overall average of 7.5 with no individual score lower than 7.0. Information about the IELTS Academic can be found at their website.
- CanTest – minimum overall average of 4.5 with no individual score lower than 4.0. Information about the CanTest standardized English proficiency test can be found at their site at the University of Ottawa.
WES Credential Authentication
All internationally educated graduates who are applicants for pre-registration must have their credentials authenticated by World Education Services (WES) prior to consideration by the College’s Credential Assessment Committee. Applicants are responsible to pay the WES fee to WES directly. Applicants are required to proceed with the College’s credential assessment through WES if their credential assessment was not completed by the IOBP by March 1, 2013. You need to apply directly to World Education Services (WES).
Click here if you are an internationally educated graduate1 and would like to have your credentials authenticated. Make sure you choose the “WES ICAP” type of evaluation. This is the type of evaluation required by the College.
Assessment of Credentials by the Credential Assessment Committee (CAC)
Applicants are required to provide to the College of Optometrists of Ontario detailed optometry-related course descriptions indicating the course length in hours/days/weeks. Ideally, these course descriptions should be translated by the educational institution and sent directly to the College of Optometrists of Ontario. If this is not possible, please provide a notarized copy or certified translation of the course descriptions. Applicants may be required to provide additional information as it relates to their employment history.
If you are not able to obtain the required documentation for reasons beyond your control, you may contact Ms. Cassia Hudgins at (416) 962-4071, ext. 38, or by email at CHudgins@collegeoptom.on.ca, to explore what alternative documentation may be acceptable. Click here for a list.
Credential Assessment Process
Once the College has received the required course descriptions and the pre-registration prerequisites have been met, the applicant’s credentials are then scheduled for review by the Credential Assessment Committee (CAC) at the Committee’s next scheduled meeting which may take place any time between one to a few weeks away depending on the number of applicant credentials on the meeting agenda and the availability of the CAC members. The CAC, which meets approximately quarterly, determines if the degree(s) meets the established minimum standards of optometric education to be considered an optometrist in Ontario by comparing the courses that the applicant completed to the courses associated with the degree in optometry awarded by the School of Optometry and Vision Science of the University of Waterloo. Once the CAC renders a recommendation regarding an applicant’s credentials, the recommendation is referred to a panel of the Registration Committee for a decision. The meeting of the Registration Committee is typically scheduled within a week or two of the CAC meeting to minimize any delay in getting back to applicants.
Principles of Assessing an International Optometry-Related Degree
1. The International Optometric Graduate’s (IOG) degree and specific courses are compared to an optometry degree from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science.
2. Courses are grouped into the following categories:
- Ocular Health / TPA
- Refraction / Binocular Vision / Physiological Optics
- Dispensing / Contact Lenses/ Ophthalmic Optics
- Clinical Skills & Judgment
3. All educational hours of the IOG’s degree are matched by description and content to the above categories. Where an IOG course does not exactly match a course offered by Waterloo, the hours are distributed to Waterloo courses of similar content. In the event that an IOG course exceeds the hours offered at Waterloo, a portion of this excess may be allocated to other Waterloo courses of similar description.
4. The IOG degree must contain a sufficiently similar number of hours in each of the defined categories.
Based on information that an applicant provides on the Pre-Registration Form, the Committee may factor in any relevant work experience into the paper review of the applicant’s credentials. If you are submitting international work experience to be used as credit in the credential assessment process, the work experience can be factored into the paper review of your credentials as long as the work experience a) can be independently verified, and b) can be translated in terms of units of time, for example, hours, days, or weeks, without duplicating the credit already given to you for educational hours.
The Committee will make a recommendation to the Registration Committee of the relevant province regarding a candidate’s eligibility to proceed to the Prior Learning Assessment examination. Applicants will be notified by the relevant provincial College of the status of their application.
Work Experience Requirement
Candidates must have successfully completed either:
1. Three complete academic years of full-time2 undergraduate university study prior to entering an optometry school and a four-year optometry degree3
2. Four-year optometry degree3 followed by three years of optometric work experience outside Canada
International applicants who choose to pursue undergraduate studies after September 1, 2014 must be enrolled in a science program.
A combination of undergraduate study and work experience could satisfy the pre-registration requirement. For example, an applicant would meet the work experience pre-requisite if he/she completed two years of undergraduate study prior to entering an optometry school and one or more years of work experience outside Canada. An optometry degree of less than four years may also satisfy the pre-registration requirement if combined with additional study.
In addition to satisfying the pre-requisite for undergraduate studies or work experience, the credit given for work experience follows the same principles of assessing an international optometric degree. If an applicant submits international work experience to be used as credit in the credential assessment process, the work experience can be factored into the paper review of the credentials as long as the work experience a) can be independently verified, and b) can be translated in terms of units of time, for example, hours, days, or weeks, without duplicating the credit already given to you for educational hours offered by the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science. The credit given for work experience follows the same principles of assessing an international optometric degree.
The following is the rationale for the pre-requisites:
Pre-requisites are in place in fairness to both North American optometry graduates, as well as non-North American optometry graduates. An optometry degree earned in North America currently requires a minimum of seven years to obtain the Doctor of Optometry degree, including three years of specific mandatory biomedical pre-requisites, which “provide the base of knowledge that the Optometry program subsequently builds upon."
In contrast, non-North American optometric educational programs vary considerably in structure and content. In some countries, the scope of optometry is more narrow and with less emphasis on the diagnosis and treatment of ocular disease. Pre-requisites are thus generally not required, with the result that an international optometry program may start and end at a different educational level than the North American Doctor of Optometry program.
This pre-requisite coursework provides the necessary knowledge base to start optometry school at a higher level of learning, allowing adequate time to be spent in all aspects of modern North American optometry, especially ocular health. The additional knowledge base gained ensures that applicants have better success at passing the Canadian entry-to-practice examination and at meeting the competencies for safe, quality care. The alternative work experience requirement has been made available for fairness to international applicants who may have extensive work experience, but who do not have an undergraduate degree. Applicants who provide work experience may have gained optometry-related competencies during their work experience they did not otherwise gain through their academic training. These competencies are credited to these applicants upon verification of the nature and length of time spent gaining these competencies during their work experience. For example, international graduates who complete their optometry degrees in the United Kingdom do not gain competencies associated with ocular disease and therapeutics during their university education. However, they can get credited for these competencies through work experience at a hospital.
International Optometric Bridging Program
Applicants who have been identified by the Registration Committee of the relevant province to require further education or training, prior to registration, will be permitted to apply to the International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP). Currently, in order to write the Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry (CACO), all interested international applicants must successfully complete the bridging program at the IOBP.
To help international graduates meet the academic equivalency requirement for registration, the College of Optometrists with the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science developed the International Optometric Bridging Program. This includes Bridging One, a ten-week program, or Bridging Two, a 48-week structured academic and practical program. Click here for information regarding the bridging program.
(updated May 5, 2016)
The evaluating exam is a high-stakes exam administered by the Touchstone Institute (formerly CEHPEA) that will replace the prior learning assessment (PLA) exam currently being implemented jointly by the International Optometric Bridging Program (IOBP) and the Canadian Examiners in Optometry (CEO-ECO). Here is a flow chart illustrating the new pre-registration and registration process for international applicants.
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The last administration of the evaluating exam was in April 2016. Internationally educated applicants will only be able to be “referred” by the Registration Committee to apply to the evaluating exam based on successful assessment of their credentials and the number of times they attempted the PLA exam and met the eligibility criteria for either Bridging One or Two in the past. An Evaluating Exam Referral Form must be completed by the applicant (and if applicable, the second page of the form) and approved by the College.
Candidates’ performance on the evaluating examination will determine requirements and eligibility for bridging education and will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
The cost of the evaluating exam has been projected to be approximately $5,000. It may only be offered once in a year (January to December). The College had requested that the PLA exam remain available until February 2015.
PLEASE NOTE: International applicants who have been approved to apply to the IOBP to challenge the PLA exam may choose to wait for the evaluating exam to be implemented. Those applicants who have attempted the PLA exam only once in the past, and whose PLA results are still valid for three years following their first attempt, may attempt the evaluating exam. If a candidate’s PLA score is no longer valid (but the candidate is eligible for bridging education) and the evaluating exam assessment is in place then, candidates would be permitted to pay for and attempt the (entire) evaluating exam twice. For those applicants who attempt the evaluating exam, exam results will be valid for three years following their first exam attempt.
Evaluating Examination Rules & Guidelines
Application and eligibility
Applying to the Evaluating Examination (EE)
- Applicants must complete an Evaluating Exam Referral Form, which is subject to the College’s approval before they can be referred to the Touchstone Institute (formerly CEHPEA) to pay for and attempt the evaluating exam (EE). Send your completed form to our Administrative Assistant, Ms. Cassia Hudgins. For PLA exam candidates, the second page of the above form is required to be completed by the IOBP and sent separately to the College. If approved to attempt the EE, applicants will be assigned an EE referral number by the College before they are able to complete registration for the EE on Touchstone Institute’s website.
- Candidates will be able to pay to register for the EE by either Visa or MasterCard. They will be required to upload recent passport style photos during the registration process and complete questions including candidate authorization and declaration.
Please note: Unless specified otherwise in writing, Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)/EE exam attempts or re-attempts must involve the entire exam (not just exam sections).
- Those applicants who have attempted the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) only once in the past, and whose PLA results are still valid three years following their first attempt, may attempt the evaluating exam only once.
- If three years have passed since a PLA exam candidate’s first attempt which made the candidate eligible to apply for either Bridging One or Two but was unable to enter due to space limitations, he/she would be able to challenge the evaluating exam at his/her expense.
- If a candidate’s PLA score is no longer valid which would have made the candidate eligible to apply to Bridging One or Two and the evaluating exam assessment is in place, the candidate would be permitted to attempt the (entire) evaluating exam twice.
- If after two attempts, a candidate was unable to meet the eligibility criteria for either Bridging One or Two, he/she would not be permitted any more PLA or evaluating exam attempts. However, the candidate can apply for advanced standing or a full optometry degree at an ACOE school.
- In cases other than the one described above, only two evaluating exam attempts are permitted. Evaluating exam results are valid for three years following the first attempt.
Documentation to submit
After being assigned a Referral Number from the College, applicants for the EE must complete an Application Form available on Touchstone Institute’s (formerly CEHPEA) website and provide the documentation indicated with the completed Form.
April 2016 Evaluating Exam (updated Feb. 11, 2016)
Touchstone Institute‘s Cancellation and Refund Policy
Candidates will be entitled to a refund minus a $1000 administration fee if they notify Touchstone Institute by email no later than March 25, 2016.
- Candidates who cancel before March 26, 2016 will be entitled to a refund of their examination fee, minus a $1000 administration fee.
- Refunds can only be made to the original credit card account used for registration.
- Candidates who do not withdraw before March 26, 2016 or who do not show up on exam day will not be entitled to a refund.
Applying to Re-Attempt the Evaluating Exam
For re-attempting the EE, candidates must use the process described above and respond to the relevant questions on the Application Form.
Accommodation requests by candidates with special needs are handled on a case-by-case. For candidates with special needs, they are required to complete the Accommodation Request Form. Documentation from a health professional unrelated to the candidate needs to be submitted directly to the College by the health professional in order to verify the special needs circumstances and accommodation being requested indicated on the Form.
Exemption from the Evaluating Exam (EE)
- Graduates from optometry schools accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE), are exempt from the Evaluating Exam.
The College began exploring the development of an evaluating exam in 2011 to enable international applicants to bypass bridging based on a high performance on the exam. The Touchstone Institute (formerly CEHPEA) responded in 2013 to an invitation by the College for proposals for the development, implementation, and administration of an evaluating exam. The exam will include both a multiple choice component, and a clinical performance component.
Following the approval of the College Council for the College to fund the development, implementation, and administration of the exam, the College accordingly engaged the Touchstone Institute in January 2014. The following outline illustrates the evaluating exam development process:
- Creating a blueprint
- Developing the exam content
- Developing a registration system
Below are the timelines for the development and implementation of the evaluating exam:
||Question-writing workshops for both multiple-choice question examination and performance objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)
||Spring and Summer 2014
||Early November 2014
||Implementation of evaluating exam
||By June 30, 2015
Work has begun on the development of the evaluating exam, with the Touchstone Institute convening a blueprinting workshop in February 2014 followed by a question-writing workshop for a multiple-choice question examination and objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) attended by a number of academic and practising optometrists. The evaluating exam development and implementation is proceeding on schedule.
Additional information will be posted on the College website when it becomes available.
For more information regarding the above process, please contact Ms. Hanan K. Jibry, Assistant Registrar, College of Optometrists of Ontario.
1 A pre-registration applicant must meet the minimum standards of optometric education to be considered an optometrist in Ontario, in order to move forward in the pre-registration process such as being able to apply to challenge the prior learning assessment (PLA) exam.
2 Full-time means five courses per four-month term or semester with two terms per year.
3 For the purpose of this application, the following is accepted as equivalent to a four-year optometry degree: a three-year optometry degree followed by a pre-registration year/period and successful completion of the final assessment. This pre-registration year/period must be endorsed by the country in which you obtained your degree.