THE SUBSTANTIAL EQUIVALENCY ASSESSMENT SYSTEM (SEAS) FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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1 Q1: What is SEAS? THE SUBSTANTIAL EQUIVALENCY ASSESSMENT SYSTEM (SEAS) FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS A: SEAS is a new assessment process to determine the extent to which an internationally- educated occupational therapist's (IEOT s) educational qualifications and competencies are substantially equivalent to those of a Canadian- educated occupational therapist. Once fully implemented in 2015, it will be the first step for all IEOTs 1 in the Canadian registration process. SEAS is a multi- stage assessment approach that: examines the education that IEOTs originally completed allows IEOTs to demonstrate what they know and can do, and ensures IEOTs are familiar with the Canadian legislation, ethics and standards of practice that comprise the framework for occupational therapy practice in Canada. SEAS has four main components: Review of the Academic Credential Assessment (ACA) Profession- specific Credential Assessment (PSCA) Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test (JKAT) Competency Assessment As part of SEAS, all internationally- educated occupational therapists will also be required to demonstrate a minimum level of language proficiency, based on a standard to which all ACOTRO members have agreed upon. Q2: What does Substantially Equivalent Mean for the SEAS process? A: ACOTRO recognizes that no two educational programmes are the same. Substantially equivalent means that an applicant s qualifications and competence must be equivalent, but not identical too, in all essential respects to that of a Canadian- educated occupational therapist. IEOTs are not required to demonstrate a higher standard than the established standards for Canadian occupational therapy education or practice, and there may be differences in how an individual IEOT applicant demonstrates substantial equivalence to the Canadian standard. SEAS looks at competencies and qualifications to determine if the substantial equivalency requirement has been met. 1 The exception will be IEOT applicants wishing to register in Quebec, who will be required to complete that province's assessment process. 1

2 Q3: What is an IEOT? A: An IEOT, or an internationally- educated occupational therapist, refers to anyone who has completed their occupational therapy education from an institution outside of Canada. That includes Canadians who have been educated abroad. SEAS applies to all IEOTs regardless of where they were born and raised. Q4: How does SEAS enhance public protection? A: The new model ensures that all registered OTs demonstrate the minimum level of competencies for safe and ethical practice in Canada. Q5: How is SEAS different from the former IEOT assessment process? A: Prior to the SEAS, there were significant differences in the way Canadian regulators assessed IEOT applications. Regulators used different language proficiency standards and a variety of external agencies to assess academic credentials. There was also no Canadian educational benchmark for occupational therapists against which to assess an IEOT s education and competencies. Finally, assessments were largely based on a review of documentation and did not examine an IEOT s competencies. SEAS, however, offers an objective and consistent approach, using a number of new assessment tools that have been rigorously developed and pilot- tested. It also includes an in- person competency assessment that allows IEOTs to demonstrate what they know and can do. SEAS has four main components: Review of the Academic Credential Assessment (ACA) Profession- Specific Credential Assessment (PSCA) Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test (JKAT) Competency Assessment As part of SEAS, all IEOTs will also be required to demonstrate a minimum level of language proficiency, based on a standard to which all ACOTRO members have agreed upon. Q6. Can you explain the new process? A: The substantial equivalency model includes both qualification recognition and competency verification activities. Qualification recognition focuses on an Academic Credential Assessment (ACA) and a curriculum review or Profession- Specific Credential Assessment (PSCA); these both examine the education documents and transcripts provided by IEOTs. Competency verification focuses on 2

3 occupational therapy knowledge and jurisprudence, and includes an open- book jurisprudence exam as well as an in- person evaluation of competencies gained through education and previous professional practice experience. This multi- step process, some of which can be completed on- line, begins with an initial application to ACOTRO and applicants have up to one year to complete the process. Once all of the steps are completed, ACOTRO submits a Disposition Report to the provincial regulator in the province in which an applicant seeks to register. This report indicates whether or not the applicant has met the requirement for substantial equivalency. If the applicant has done so, he or she will then follow further steps outlined by the regulator in order to qualify to write the national certification exam and be registered. Q6: What is an Academic Credential Assessment (ACA) and how do I get one? A: ACOTRO asks all applicants to seek an Academic Credential Assessment from World Education Services (WES). WES is a service provider that authenticates official transcripts and other education documentation and determines whether the level of an applicant s education is substantially equivalent to a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree or a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree. Once applicants have received their report, they allow WES to provide it to ACOTRO as part of their initial application. Q7: Why do I have to use World Education Services (WES) for my Academic Credential Assessment? A: In an effort to ensure consistency in the evaluation process, and recognizing that credentialing services apply varied criteria to their assessment process, ACOTRO members agreed to use a single credential assessment provider. After a comparative analysis of the Canadian options, ACOTRO chose WES as its service provider. Q8: What is a Profession- Specific Credential Assessment? A: The PSCA is a tool that allows ACOTRO to look closely at an applicant s curriculum and field work to determine how closely they are related to those completed by Canadian- educated occupational therapists. The PSCA assessment tool is based on a new Canadian Education Occupational Therapist Benchmark that ACOTRO developed in collaboration with all 14 Canadian universities offering occupational therapy programs. Q9: What is the Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test? A: The JKAT is an open- book, multiple- choice exam that applicants may take up to three times. The JKAT focuses on the standards of practice and ethics expected of occupational therapists practicing in Canada. 3

4 Q10: What is the Competency Assessment? A: The Competency Assessment is comprised of a day- long in- person interview that allows the applicant to demonstrate competencies they have learned through their education and field work. During the interview, the applicant is given various scenarios to consider and asked to respond to a series of questions based on those scenarios. Q11: May I attend the Competency Assessment virtually through my computer? A: No. The Competency Assessment is an in- person interview taken at a location determined by ACOTRO and not more than 500 km from an applicant s place of residence. All assessments will be held in Canada. Q12: Which criteria must be met in order to determine substantial equivalency? A: An IEOT is deemed to have met the substantial equivalency requirement when all of the following criteria are met: 1. The applicant s ACA report confirms the applicant s education level is substantially equivalent to a Bachelor of Science degree or Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. 2. The applicant has completed a minimum of 1,000 hours of field work as part of the educational program. 3. The applicant s Profession- Specific Credential Assessment (PSCA) score is at or above a specific agreed- upon score (currently 73 points). 4. The applicant s Competency Assessment score is at or above a specific agreed- upon score (currently 81 points). 5. The applicant has received a pass score on the Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test (JKAT). 6. The applicant has met the language proficiency requirement. Q13: When substantial equivalency is not met, are applicants given opportunities to upgrade? A: Substantial equivalency will be deemed not to have been met if the applicant cannot meet one or more of the criteria above. Based on the specific gaps identified through the various assessments, applicants may receive recommendations for gap- filling such as academic upgrading. Substantial equivalency may be deemed to have been met upon review and confirmation that the required or recommended upgrading has been successfully completed. 4

5 Q14: When gaps in competencies or qualifications are identified will applicants be provided with information about where to go to fill those gaps? A: Where possible, ACOTRO will identify the preparatory and bridging or gap- filling education options that already exist in Canada. Over the next two years, ACOTRO will be working with other educational and regulatory partners to identify and develop a range of on- line gap- filling options specifically aimed at IEOTs. Q15: How many times can I write the JKAT? A: Applicants are allowed three attempts. Q16: What happens if I fail the JKAT on my third attempt? A: You will be considered to have a gap in one or more essential competencies; upgrading or gap- filling options may be recommended. Q17: Can those who don t meet the substantial equivalency criteria ask for a reconsideration of the decision? A: Decisions will be made throughout the SEAS process as the applicant moves from assessment to assessment. The applicant may seek a reconsideration at each point. In general, reconsideration requests must be sent via ACOTRO to the SEAS Determination Committee. Only those who were not involved in the original decision- making process will be involved in the reconsideration. Once a reconsideration is completed, the decision is considered final. Applicants must fill in a Request for Reconsideration form within 30 days of receiving a decision. This request for reconsideration is subject to an administrative fee. Q18: How will I know if I ve met the substantial equivalency requirement? A: Upon completion of the substantial equivalency process and regardless of the outcome of that process, ACOTRO will provide applicants and the appropriate regulatory body with a Disposition Report within 30 days. The report indicates whether the substantial equivalency requirement has been met. Q19: I m a U.S. educated occupational therapist who wishes to practice in Canada. Given that English is already my first language, why am I required to formally demonstrate language proficiency? 5

6 A: Effective communication is one of the key essential competencies of practice in occupational therapy and is critical for the delivery of safe and effective, quality care. For these reasons all applicants must provide persuasive, objective evidence of language proficiency in English or French. In addition to standardized language proficiency tests (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS), applicants may also meet the requirement by providing evidence by alternative means, such as having completed their education in English. Q20: Are applicants who have completed their education in languages other than English or French allowed to complete SEAS in the language of their choice? A: No. All components of the assessment will be provided in one of Canada s two official languages English or French. As such, ACOTRO accepts documents only in English and French. If an original document being submitted exists in a language other than English or French, the applicant must provide a notarized English translation of the document, with the cost of translation and notarization to be borne by the applicant. ACOTRO will translate and cover all costs associated with the translation of any documents from French into English. Q21: How much will SEAS cost? A: ACOTRO estimates it will cost about $3,100 to complete all SEAS assessment components. This fee doesn t include the cost of the Academic Credential Assessment, which the applicant pays for directly, the cost of any language proficiency testing, the cost of electronic proctoring for the home- based Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test and any costs associated with travel or accommodation required to attend the Competency Assessment session. SEAS is built on a three- point, graduated fee structure that allows applicants to pay only as they progress successfully through the assessment process. The points of payment are: Upon initial application and submission of the WES Academic Credential Assessment Upon submitting the Profession- Specific Credential Assessment (PSCA) self- assessment form and documentation; and When registering for the Competency Assessment This graduated process - tied to the various stages of the assessment model - ensures that those unlikely to proceed after the initial review of their education program will not be required to pay the fee for the competency assessment. 6

7 Q22: Will SEAS accommodate applicants with disabilities? A: ACOTRO will provide appropriate accommodations, within reason and at no cost to the applicant, during the competency assessment session and Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test to individuals with a verified disability. The request for accommodation should be submitted at least 45 days before the confirmed assessment dates. All information will be kept strictly confidential by ACOTRO and used only for the purpose of determining appropriate accommodation. Q23: I m an IEOT currently going through the process to be registered to work in Canada. How will SEAS affect me? A: IEOTs who have applied to be registered prior to the launch of SEAS won t be impacted by the new process. Rather, you will continue through the original assessment process for the province to which you have applied to work. Any IEOT who applies for registration after the implementation of SEAS will automatically be directed through the new SEAS process. But please note: Internationally- educated occupational therapists who have applied for registration with a provincial regulatory organization prior to May 1, 2015, and whose applications are currently being processed by the college, will have one year within which to complete their registration process under the current system, and will not be required to be assessed through SEAS. Any current applicants who don t complete their registration within the one- year period must apply to ACOTRO to complete the new assessment process. Q24: How do I gain access to the national exam? A: Once you have met the substantial equivalency requirement, you and the provincial regulatory organization of your choice will receive a notice indicating that you are ready to access further qualifying exams, and to proceed with the provincial registration process. Once you begin the provincial registration process, the provincial regulatory organization will notify the CAOT the body that administers the exam on behalf of the provincial regulator of your eligibility to write the national exam. Q25: What if I ve already received a letter of eligibility to write the national exam from the CAOT? A: You might not be impacted by the new process. If you have received a letter of eligibility to write the National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination from CAOT, and apply, or have applied, for registration with a provincial regulatory organization prior to May 1, 2015, you will continue through the original assessment process as set out by the provincial regulator, and you will not be required to be assessed through SEAS. But please note: You have one year from the date of your registration application with the provincial regulator to complete your registration process under the current system. You will still be required to 7

8 be assessed through the new SEAS process if: You did not complete your registration process with a provincial regulator within the one- year period mentioned above You do not apply for registration with a provincial regulator before May 1, Applicants who fall into the category above that is, those who do not apply for registration with a provincial regulator before May 1, 2015, or complete their registration process within the one- year time frame specified are urged to apply as soon as possible to ACOTRO to complete the substantial equivalency assessment. Only after they have met the substantial equivalency requirement will they be directed to apply to the provincial regulator of their choice to continue the registration qualification process, which includes writing the national exam. The SEAS process will help determine readiness to write the national exam. Q26: Who can I speak with about SEAS? A: If you require more information about SEAS, please visit the ACOTRO website - acore.org or ACOTRO at 8

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