Persons that wish to study at a Brazilian higher education institution are required to take an entrance exam (so called “Vestibular”). The exam in question tries to measure the knowledge acquired during elementary and high school education on subjects like Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry. To this end the exam generally consists of two stages: In stage 1 the applicant is required to answer multiple-choice questions on general subjects. If a candidate passes this first stage, he/she will then be presented a series of open-ended questions on specific subject matters. The latter will depend on the type of studies an applicant wishes to pursue (e.g. someone wishing to pursue engineering studies, will be required to answer questions on subjects such as Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry).
The entrance exam is the most important criterion for selection of candidates for tertiary studies at both public and private higher education institutions. However the process is much more competitive at public institutions, as these are free of charge and hence draw more potential applicants.
The entrance exam is set by specifically designed committees at the different higher education institutions, and will therefore vary from one institution to the next. Currently over 2.665 Brazilian institutions have established entrance exams.