Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

PLAR stands for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. PLAR assesses the skill level of candidates who do not have recognized accredited education. To pass the national exams, candidates should have the same knowledge and skills as recent graduates.

The PLAR process includes a skills assessment and bridging modules; those who need additional training are assigned courses that focus on the skills they need to improve.

Accredited Programs vs PLAR

In accredited Canadian optical programs, students learn the skills outlined in the National Competencies for Canadian Opticians. Graduates from these programs are eligible to sit the National Exams. 

Internationally trained applicants and those with optical experience may have some of the required skills, even without an accredited program. A full education program may not be necessary for these applicants; they can focus on improving specific skills. Through PLAR, applicants take a skills assessment called the “Competency Gap Analysis (CGA).” If the assessment shows any areas needing improvement, candidates must complete “bridging” courses for those skills. By targeting these areas specifically, bridging courses ensure PLAR applicants have the same knowledge as recent graduates.

PLAR candidates must complete all parts of the PLAR process before they can write the National Optical Sciences Exam(s).

The National Exams

Taking the National Optical Sciences Exam(s) is the next step after completing either the PLAR process or an accredited program. Both accredited program graduates and PLAR candidates must pass the National Optical Sciences Exam(s) to register with their provincial regulatory boards. Every province (excluding Quebec) uses the National Exam(s) as the practical skills test to prove competence. There are two separate exams, one for eyeglasses and one for contact lenses; some provinces require registrants to pass both exams, whereas others only require the eyeglass exam.