01. What are Canadian optometric regulatory Authorities?
Health care in Canada is a provincial responsibility, not federal. As such, health professions including optometry are self-regulating under provincial law. Each provincial legislature has provided for an organization of the profession for self-governance. Responsibilities include setting standards for practicing in the province including standards for obtaining a license or certificate of registration to practice. All provinces require, among other things, that applicants demonstrate reasonable competence in the practice of optometry prior the issuing of a license or certificate of registration.
02. What is the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry (CSAO)?
The CSAO was the tool used by Canadian provincial optometric regulatory authorities to assess competence in the practice of optometry. Effective with the October 2011 administration, the Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry (CACO) will replace the CSAO as the standard by which competence is verified in optometrists seeking authorization to practise in Members’ jurisdictions.
Reasonable professional competence is understood to be a combination of knowledge, skill, and judgement as determined by the profession. Successful completion of such an assessment of competence provides assurance that a candidate has the necessary minimum professional competence to practice optometry independently in accordance with professional standards of practice. The CSAO assessed competence by sampling a candidate's knowledge, skills, and judgement within a specified range found in the Guide to the CSAO in accordance with the Table of Specifications.
05. How is the standard for competence established?
The establishment of the professional standard of competence expected of candidates is a continuous process involving consensus groups of practicing optometrists. Each year, CEO brings together and solicits input from numerous optometrists from all regions in updating the standards for competence and the assessment tool. No single individual or elite group makes these determinations, but instead the entire profession is involved by representation. For more information, please also refer to Research & Publications
06. Why do I need to take the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry?
Passing the CSAO is an essential qualification for applicants for a license or certificate to practice optometry in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Provincial optometric regulatory authorities in Canada recognize the CSAO qualification indefinitely. Optometrists who have successfully completed the CSAO may take up practice in other provinces by only meeting other provincial requirements. In this way, optometrists who obtain the CSAO qualification improve their options in moving to practice in different provinces of Canada with a minimum of regulatory limitations.
Passing the CSAO is not the only requirement to obtain a license or certificate of registration to practice optometry in a particular province. While CEO provides reports about a candidate's' competence to provincial regulatory authorities, it does not make decisions about issuing a license to practice. Individual regulatory bodies make their own determination about the acceptability of a particular candidate for licensure or registration.
Applicants to a particular province or territory should check with the individual provincial or territorial regulatory authority to ascertain ALL of the requirements of that jurisdiction for the issuance of a license or certificate of registration to practice optometry in that jurisdiction.
07. Who may apply for the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry?
For CSAO eligibility qualifications, please refer to the CSAO Eligibility Page
08. How do I become a candidate for the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry?
To learn more about the CSAO application process, please refer to CSAO Applying Page.
09. When and where is the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry being held?
To learn when and where the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry is being scheduled, please refer to CSAO Schedule Page
10. When is the application deadline?
The current CSAO application deadline can be found on the CSAO Schedule Page.
11. How do I obtain a copy of "Guide to the CSAO"?
For a Guide to the CSAO, please refer to the CSAO Structure Page.
12. What's involved in taking the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry?
The CSAO is comprised of seven components:
- Optometric Knowledge
- Ocular Therapeutics
- Skills in the techniques determining patient history, refraction, and accommodation
- Skills in the techniques determining oculomotor and sensory functions
- Skills in the techniques determining ocular and systemic health and disease
- Skills in the techniques of applying ophthalmic appliances
- Judgment in the application of optometric care
CEO analyzes and scores a candidate’s performance on each of the seven components. For more information on the nature of the Assessment and the performance score indices, please refer to the Guide to the CSAO found on the CSAO Structure Page.
Individual provinces and territories may require an examination in ethics and jurisprudence as part of their requirements for the issuance of a license or certificate to practice optometry. These examinations are not part of the CSAO but are sometimes administered immediately before or after the CSAO at the same place as the CSAO. When scheduling flights or making accommodation reservations for the CSAO, ensure that you are aware of the times of these examinations.
13. How much does the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry cost?
The current CSAO Fee structure can be found on the CSAO Fees Page.
14. Do your examination fees qualify as eligible tuition fees for Income Tax purposes?
The Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry (CSAO) is a national entry-to-practice examination for those eligible ODs applying for optometric licensure within Canada. The registration fees for this assessment are, therefore, not considered tuition fees, but may qualify as a tax-deductible expense.
15. What happens if I fail the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry?
Please refer to the CSAO Assessment/Reassessment Policy for more information.
16. How do I get a license to practice optometry in Canada?
CEO receives many inquiries about how to get a license to practice optometry in Canada. The answer is that one can get a license to practice in a province or territory of Canada, but there is no one Canadian license.
Each provincial regulator sets out its own entry-to-practice requirements. These requirements vary slightly from province to province to territory. You are best advised to contact the regulator(s) of the province(s) or territories(s) where you wish to practice to find out their particular entry-to-practice requirements. Among other requirements, most provincial or territorial regulators expect the demonstration of practice competence by way of the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry (CSAO) prior to the issuance of a license to practice
Links to provincial regulators with websites can be made by clicking here.
17. Do I need to register with a provincial regulator before taking the CSAO?
Not any longer. This was the requirement in 2006 and earlier, but the process has been changed. Please see the CSAO Applying page for more information.
18. I obtained my optometry education outside of North America. May I take the CSAO and practice in Canada?
You must obtain a license or certificate of registration to practice in a province or territory of Canada. Part of the requirements set by provincial and territorial regulators is passing the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry (CSAO). Internationally trained optometrists are eligible to take the CSAO if they enrolled in or have successfully completed the International Optometric Bridging Program of the University of Waterloo or a bridging program specified by l’Ordre des Optométristes du Québec.
19. How long do the CSAO Results remain valid should I choose not to practice in Canada immediately?
CSAO results are issued in relation to the date of administration of the examinations. CEO advises you to contact the regulator in the province(s) or territory(ies) in which you intend to practice for further information about their particular eligibility requirements for a license or certificate of registration.
20. I am a French speaking candidate. During the exam, can I have access to both French & English exam booklets?
No, question booklets are provided only in the language that you request on your registration form. Questions are authored in either French or English, and subsequently translated. Translation has proven to been accurate and effective and has not been a factor in any candidate’s results.
21. How much time do I have for each Clinical Skills Session?
Each Clinical Skills session provides 45 minutes to complete. For more information please refer to the CSAO Procedures page.
22. Is it necessary to perform the clinical skills assessment in the order that is provided on the candidate clinical record form?
You are required to perform the procedures in the precise order that they appear on the Candidate Clinical Record. Variations from this may result in inaccurate scoring.
23. How detailed should the questioning be for the case history?
Your case history should be detailed enough to elicit the information identified on the Candidate Clinical Record Form. Please see csao structure skills 1
24. In the Ocular Therapeutics section, will both generic and trade names be provided?
Yes, a generic name is provided along with an example of one common trademark name.
25. Am I able to use my own goniolens and BIO?
Yes, you can bring your own; but any equipment brought in, will be subject to inspection and approval by the assessor in the interest of the safety of the subject involved. As well, the target data will be taken using the equipment provided/specified. Any inter-instrument variances are not the responsibility of CEO.
26. Do you have any travel information - particularly accommodations while in Waterloo or Montreal?
In Waterloo, there are a number of hotels in the area - one website that you can refer to is http://www.kitchener-waterloohotels.worldweb.com The hotel that is probably closest to the University of Waterloo is the Waterloo Inn. Another thought is http://www.bbcanada.com/ontario/southwestern_ontario for links to local Bed & Breakfast accommodations. To find out where you are going in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, http://www.grt.ca/web/transit.nsf/fmFrontPage? provides a link to their transit system and, according to the School of Optometry's website, the building is located on the North Campus at approximately 200 Columbia Street West. But further location details and directions can be found at http://www.optometry.uwaterloo.ca/contactus.html
In Montreal, all of the assessment testing is done at the University of Montreal and is generally located within the School of Optometry at 3744 rue Jean Brillant or in other adjacent campus buildings very close by. The University of Montreal is quite centrally located within the city and is, therefore, quite easily accessed via the Metro subway system. Just to give you an idea of the location, a search on rue Jean Brillant using www.mapquest.ca will produce a detailed map. According to http://www.montreal.com/tourism/general.html#Around, the STM (Société des transports de Montréal) has a great subway/transit system. As you will notice on the subway map (http://www.stm.info/English/metro/a-mapmet.htm), the University is one of the stops. http://www.montrealhotels.worldweb.com/index.html offers a good resource for hotels with addresses and phone numbers so that you can find accommodation close to the University and, perhaps, on the subway route (the hotel websites often ‘advertise’ that they are within x kilometers from the School) and there are certainly plenty of hotels within a reasonable distance from the school. If you are flying to Montreal, http://www.admtl.com/admmaintext.jsp?siteVersion=2&idbin=218000 provides travel information to/from the airport, however, there are always cabs available, and certainly independent shuttle services (http://directory.service.com/m/montreal.airport.shuttle.service.com.htm), and possibly hotel shuttle service, depending on where you decide to stay.
Frequently Asked Questions