Applying for Admission in a University in Brazil

What is the vestibular exam? And why is it different to apply for admissions in a university in Brazil compared to other universities in the world? Let’s find out!

University admissions in Brazil: the SISU System

The National Universities System is known as SISU Seleção Unified System by the Ministry of Education. Used by the public higher education institutions in order to provide employment opportunities for candidates who have taken the ENEM (Exame Nacional do Ensino Medio.)

You will need to register on the SISU website at the start of the selection process.

This is held twice a year, at the beginning of the semester, using the ENEM registration number and your password. Once registered, the system will let you know of additional documents or admission requirements that you’d need to fulfill before you can apply to the university of your choice in Brazil.

Brazilian university entrance exam and selection criteria

Later you can specify your options between vacancies offered by institutions or something else.

You can change your options during the registration period, but you have to make your final decision before the end of that period. The system then automatically selects the best candidates for each course according to their overall ENEM evaluation score!

Universities that have not joined SISU like the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), and Federal University (UFRGS) have their own independent entrance exam. This exam is usually their own version of the vestibular exam and is in conjunction with the National ENEM.

Everything about university admissions and application in Brazil

Early career choice decision

Contrary to what goes in American colleges, you do not choose the courses freely and then later determine your career path. You have to choose the job you want to pursue like being a lawyer, economist, doctor, engineer, teacher. Even before applying. The university will decide which courses you will need and when.

Bachelor’s degrees in Brazil

There are about three types of Bachelor’s degrees:

Bachelor’s (bacharelado) degree

It takes about 4 and 6 years, and it allows you to become a professional in a specific area like being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, economist, etc.

Licentiate (licenciatura) degree

It takes between 3 and 4 years and allows you to become a teacher in a specific subject topic like mathematics, English, biology.

Technology degree

It can take between 2 and 3 years. Also, this degree is done a bit faster due to its design to provide knowledge in a particular trade like agriculture, or tourism management.

Admissions to post-graduate studies in a university in Brazil

For post-graduate studies in a Brazilian university, you need to undertake entrance examinations. These exams depend on the study subject as well as the institution you apply to. Along with the results of these exams, other requirements include:

  • A research application
  • A letter stating your reasons for applying
  • recommendation letter from a professor
  • ID photos
  • records of your previous qualifications.

Academic credit system

There’s a huge number of rating systems, unlike in the United States. Every Brazilian university has its own rating system, and there is no single credit system. (It can be a % system, 0 to 10 or A to E system).

You can’t collect credits for each course and transfer them to other universities. Although transfers are possible, the process is not that simple!

The Vestibular Exam in Brazil

Candidates must take an open public test called vestibular. This test is somewhat similar to the SAT or ACT test, although there are important differences between them.

Brazilian universities have a limited number just like the U.S. but the main difference in the selection process is that your vestibular degree is the only factor that takes into account.

Recently, few Brazilian universities have begun accepting students according to their high school performance. As a result of the Ministry of Education – this new design has a new entry exam known as ENEM (National Secondary Exam).

The ENEM is now accredited by most public universities. Students would have to take both the ENEM and vestibular exams. Heads up!

Portuguese language proficiency test

Admissions in university in Brazil may need foreigners to pass the Celpe-Bras proficiency test. The (CELPE-Bras) Certificate of Competence in the Portuguese Language for Foreigners is the only test with recognition by the Brazilian Ministry of Education as a second language.

Finally, this exam can be taken in Brazil or in other countries with the support of the Brazilian Ministry of International Relations (MRE). Examinations take place twice a year (April and October).

Online registrations may take place in one of the following months: February, March, August, or September.


Now that you’re good to go about applying for admission in a university in Brazil, the next thing is to know about how to get a student visa in Brazil.

Here’s our report containing the top 10 tips for studying and living in Brazil.

About Sam

Sam is an editor in chief at Aljawaz, with a decade-plus experience in improving and advising students travelling progams in Asia, North America and EU. Views are his own.

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