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.

Procedural Details

In the case of an appeal of a credential assessment decision by the College, the following steps will be followed:

  1. 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.
  2. The appeal is scheduled.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Language Assessment

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, 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:

  1. Ocular Health / TPA
  2. Refraction / Binocular Vision / Physiological Optics
  3. Dispensing / Contact Lenses/ Ophthalmic Optics
  4. 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 prerequisite 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 prerequisite 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 prerequisites:

Prerequisites 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 prerequisites, 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. Prerequisites 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 prerequisite 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.