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Internationally Educated Nurses Competency Assessment Program

The Internationally Educated Nurses Competency Assessment Program (IENCAP) is a standardized evaluation of the knowledge, skill and judgment for internationally educated nurses (IENs) seeking to become RNs in Ontario.

Touchstone Institute created the IENCAP in collaboration with the College. It has been in use since March 2013.

In January 2016, the IENCAP was revised to:

  • align with revised entry-to-practice competencies for RNs
  • expand the multiple-choice questionnaire
  • evaluate each competency using either the multiple-choice questionnaire or the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
  • develop an IENCAP Outcome Report for applicants that specifically outlines their results

The IENCAP now consists of two parts:

  • a written, multiple-choice exam with up to 97 questions (2.5 hours)
  • an OSCE consisting of 12 stations (13 minutes each)

Both parts take place on the same day over five-and-a-half to six hours at Touchstone’s offices in Toronto.

"Touchstone provides information about what to expect when you take the IENCAP. You will need to access Touchstone's online portal to create an account and register or cancel your assessment date. For more information about navigating Touchstone's online portal, read their Application Portal User Guide."

Why write the IENCAP?

The IENCAP is a tool that professional bodies around the world use to assess an applicant’s nursing education, experience and competencies. It provides a clearer picture of an applicant’s nursing competencies than a strictly paper-based assessment.

The College assesses the credentials of all internationally educated applicants to determine if their nursing program, additional education and/or nursing practice (if any) is equivalent to the education of an approved Canadian university baccalaureate degree nursing program.

Applicants whose nursing education and practice do not meet the College’s nursing education requirement will be asked to take the IENCAP. The IENCAP evaluates nursing knowledge, skill and judgment using a multiple-choice exam, interviews, and an OSCE that takes place in a setting similar to real-life clinical situations in Ontario.

The IENCAP can also identify gaps in applicants’ nursing competencies, which will have to be addressed with additional education.

What information does the IENCAP cover?

The IENCAP draws on all areas of nursing knowledge, skill and judgment, including:

  • safe, competent and ethical nursing care for clients
  • professional conduct including behaviours, values and beliefs, in line with standards for nursing practice and ethics
  • self-regulation, including:
    • advocacy on behalf of clients and the public
    • safe practice and quality practice settings
    • ongoing competence
  • health care services and continuing quality improvement
  • effective communication with clients, members of the health care team, the public and others
  • public protection
  • collaborating with clients, members of the heath care team, policy-makers, stakeholders and others
  • nursing knowledge from the sciences, humanities, research, ethics, spirituality, relational practice, critical inquiry and primary health care principles
  • clinical skills and clinical decision-making
  • nursing care in relation to assessment, planning, implementation of care and evaluation
  • developing therapeutic, caring and culturally safe relationships with clients and heath care team members

The IENCAP may also include clinical content from:

  • ambulatory care
  • community/public health
  • complex continuing care
  • emergency care
  • geriatrics
  • intensive/critical care
  • medical
  • mental health
  • obstetrics
  • paediatric and adolescent health
  • palliative care
  • rehabilitation
  • surgical

The IENCAP is based on Entry-to-Practice Competencies for Registered Nurses, which describes all the competencies a practising Canadian nurse is expected to possess.

Qualifying for the IENCAP

To qualify for the IENCAP, you must:

  • be a current applicant to the College
  • request registration as an RN in the General Class
  • provide evidence of completing a nursing education program that prepared you to practise as an RN

If the College finds competency gaps (after assessing your nursing education and any experience) and the College determines you are eligible, you will be given the option to take the IENCAP.

You do not have to complete the IENCAP if you:


  • demonstrate the equivalent of such a program through an assessment of your initial nursing program, any additional education and any nursing experience.

What about RPN and NP applicants?

If you are applying to become an RPN or NP, and the College finds gaps in your nursing education and experience, you will be asked to complete a Competency Assessment Supplement before you can write the registration exam.

The IENCAP process

Here’s how the IENCAP process works:

  • You apply to register as an RN with the College. 
  • The College reviews your information to decide if your nursing education prepared you to practise as an RN and if you meet the nursing education requirement.
  • If you meet the education requirement, you can proceed with your application and register to write the RN registration exam.
  • If you do not meet the education requirement based on an assessment of your nursing education and any experience, and you qualify to write the IENCAP (see above), you will be offered a chance to take the IENCAP. The College will send your name and email contact information to Touchstone Institute. It is important to update the College with any changes to your contact information, including your email address.
  • Touchstone will contact you by email with instructions about registering for an upcoming session. Touchstone charges an evaluation fee that is separate from the College’s application fee.
  • You complete the IENCAP at Touchstone’s offices in Toronto.
  • About eight weeks after your IENCAP evaluation, the College will receive your results. It will review those results together with your application to determine if you have met the nursing education requirement.
  • If you meet the requirement, the College will send you a letter confirming you are eligible to write the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) registration exam (if you have not already passed the NCLEX).
  • If you do not meet the requirement, you will be asked to complete additional education to address any remaining competency gaps before proceeding with your application.

Before you apply to take the IENCAP

  • Instead of, or before, completing the IENCAP, you can choose to complete additional nursing education to address the competency gaps the College identified. Once you have completed the additional education, ask your school to send an official transcript to the College. Transcripts must arrive in a sealed envelope with the school’s official letterhead, seal or stamp.
  • The College must be satisfied that your additional education has provided you with education equivalent to that of a Canadian baccalaureate degree nursing program and meets the competency gaps. The College may ask you for more information, such as official copies of course descriptions or outlines. If your additional education meets the gaps, the College will advise you in writing of the next steps. If it does not, you will still be required to complete the Touchstone evaluation.
  • If you don’t agree with the College’s decision to refer you to the IENCAP, you can request that your application is reviewed by the College’s Registration Committee. If you exercise this right, you must provide evidence of how your nursing education and any experience address the competency gaps the College identified during its assessment.
  • The IENCAP is available in English only. If you apply to the College in French and would like to complete an alternative nursing education equivalency assessment in French, contact the College in writing. Please note that there is a fee for this evaluation option.
  • There can be a wait time for IENCAP test sessions. Contact Touchstone Institute for upcoming IENCAP dates and availability.
  • Touchstone evaluations take place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you need a travel visa, contact Touchstone to request a Letter of Participation after you have registered for an exam date. Further details can be found on the Touchstone website.


Page last reviewed January 14, 2020