Studying in Canada: Admission Tips

It is common to hear North American parents complain about the complexity of the university search and admission process. Recent meetings with families in Istanbul reminded us that finding the right university is especially difficult for international students.

While many students in Turkey choose to focus on domestic and/or American institutions, a significant number consider universities in other parts of the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom and continental Europe. As a result, when developing application strategies, families need to be well versed in admission requirements and practices across a range of countries.

Given the popularity of American universities, I observed students in Istanbul feel the same pressure as American students to do Advanced Placement (AP) courses, to enroll in the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program, and to take standardized tests (e.g. SAT, ACT, etc.) more than once.

When applying to Canadian universities, students completing a national curriculum are generally not required to present AP courses or standardized tests to be considered for admission. Therefore, for some it was a surprise – and perhaps a relief – to learn the Lise Diplomasi on its own could serve as the basis for admission to Canadian universities. See requirements below.

The following are links to admission requirements for Turkish applicants to a selection of Canadian universities. For readers from other countries, the links will guide you to admission requirements for other national curricula.

As you can see, in the case of Turkey, the high school diploma is used as the basis of admission. International students who are completing a national curriculum should check each university’s admission requirements. In some cases, such as China, in addition to the high school diploma you may be required to provide university entrance exam results.


The following are our responses to recurring questions:


Do Canadian universities require AP courses?
In general, Canadian universities do not require AP courses. A quick review of the admission requirements for many of the more selective universities shows this. However, some of the more selective programs within universities (e.g. engineering) may recommend or even require students complete specific AP courses.

Should I take AP courses?
The answer depends on the student asking it. The admission strategy for students only applying to Canadian universities will differ from that of students also considering American universities. If you’re among the latter, you will need to take at least one to three AP courses as even less selective universities consider these a way of demonstrating readiness for university. As mentioned above, AP courses are not generally required by Canadian universities. The courses do, however, provide excellent preparation for university level coursework. In fact, most Canadian universities grant transfer credit for AP courses.


Do I need to take the SAT or ACT?
Canadian universities generally only require standardized test scores from students completing an American-patterned curriculum. Therefore, if you are in the United States or attend an international school offering a U.S. diploma, you will more than likely be required to submit SAT or ACT results. In some cases, subject test scores may also be required. Be sure to check the admission requirements for each of the universities on your application list.

If standardized tests scores are not required, will submitting my results help?
In most cases, no, it will not help; however, there is no harm in submitting these if you have strong scores.


What if I am doing both the IB Diploma Program and the Turkish diploma?
In Turkey, students concurrently complete the IB Diploma Program and the Turkish curriculum. In most cases, Canadian universities will consider both, and use the one that helps you most.

How do Canadian universities view the IB Diploma Program?
The IB Diploma Program is highly regarded among Canadian universities. In fact, students completing the diploma program are eligible of transfer credit for Higher Level courses. Be sure to check whether the universities on your list grant transfer credit for the courses you’re completing.


Do I need to take an English proficiency test?
In most cases, universities require students living in countries where English is not the acknowledged primary language, even if you are attending a school where English is the language of instruction. Some institutions accept International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, or O- and A-Level English courses in lieu of English proficiency tests. Check English proficiency requirements at each university on your list for details.

Should I take IELTS or TOEFL iBT?
We recommend you take practice tests to see which one suits you best. TOEFL iBT takes between 3 to 4 hours whereas IELTS may be completed in approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.

You may want to consider the following:

  1. In the reading section, TOEFL iBT is a multiple-choice-only reading section. IELTS has a range of short answer, true/false, summary and multiple choice questions.

  2. TOEFL iBT’s listening section will always be standard American English while IELTS presents different English variations.

  3. Each test has a different approach to the speaking section. TOEFL iBT requires a 20-minute conversation with a computer, which is recorded and assessed by an examiner at a later date. The IELTS speaking exam is slightly shorter (12 to 15 minutes) and is conducted with a real examiner.

  4. TOEFL iBT’s writing section is a 2-question exam that lasts approximately 50 minutes and is typed on a computer. IELTS has two different writing tests: Academic and General Training. To apply for universities/colleges, you need to complete the Academic test. IELTS features two tasks: a question interpreting a graph, table or a diagram, and a short 250-word essay as an argument or discussion.



Will my university studies in Canada be recognized by Turkey’s Council of Higher Education?
During our visits we heard a lot about a list of 500 approved universities, apparently the list increased to 1000 in the past year. From our reading of a statement by the Council of Higher Education International Relations Unit, it appears that all Universities Canada members are approved. Follow the links in the webpages below.

The following is taken from the International Relations Unit website:

“As Turkey, we recognize all foreign universities which are recognized by national authorities.”

The International Relations Unit encourages interested students to confirm the recognition status of higher education institutions by visiting:

National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union

NARIC is an initiative of the European Union responsible for providing information and opinion on academic, vocational and professional qualifications from across the world.

Since 2003, Turkey has been a member of European Network of Information Centres/National Academic Recognition Information Centres.

The following is a direct link to the NARIC/ENIC credential evaluator. First, click on the “for more information” link at the bottom of the page. Next, in the “Credential Evaluator” tab click on “more details.” On the right, you will see a column with country flags. Click on the Canadian flag and select “recognized higher education institutions.” Then, select whether you would like to see the information in English or French – our official languages. You will be taken to the “Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.” Finally, to confirm recognition, enter the name of the universities you’re considering.

VerveSmith helps students find universities and programs that match their aspirations, and to develop an admissions application strategy. To learn how we can help help, contact us.

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