Vestibular Exam Structure

Several Brazilian universities follow the FUVEST (University of São Paulo's entry exam) pattern, which is divided into two stages or "phases". The first stage consists of 90 multiple choice questions, including subjects such as Portuguese Language, Portuguese Literature and Brazilian Literature; Math, History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Foreign Language. The answers are marked on an answer card, and they are graded afterwards by an automated optical reader. Each graduation course has its own minimum score.

The best scoring candidates from the multiple-choice stage proceed to the second stage, which contains write-in questions about the same subjects. The first day consists of 10 written questions about Portuguese language, and a student-written essay about whichever subject they provide. The second day's test has 16 questions about the other subjects from the first phase, considering those are all in the High School curriculum.

The third day, usually known as 'specific subjects day', examines the students in the particular area they are applying to, consisting of 12 questions. For instance, Medical school tests include questions of Biology, Chemistry and Physics (or Geography for the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto). Law School students would be tested on History, Geography and Mathematics. The exams are graded by a board of professors and candidates for each major are then classified in descending order according to their overall score in the two stages of the Vestibular. The top scorers up to the maximum number of vacancies for each field of study are allowed to enroll in their intended majors and begin college.

In other universities, the Vestibular may include only one single-stage exam where the scores for each subject tested are adjusted by weights depending on the student's major of choice. For example, PUC (one of the most prestigious private universities in Brazil) has a Vestibular consisting of 45 multiple choice questions, one written question about Chemistry and Biology, one about Maths and Physics, and another about History and Geography, in addition to a student-written essay on a provided theme. All of that is done in one single day. Another example is Mackenzie, considered one of the best private universities in the country: its Vestibular consists of 60 multiple choice questions and a student-written essay.

In some military engineering colleges such as ITA and IME, the Vestibular includes exams in Math, Physics, Chemistry, Portuguese and English only. Those exams are mostly write-in and demand more from the students when compared to ordinary vestibular exams of the same subjects by other universities, being heavily influenced by mathematics competitions questions. In the other hand, colleges with a humanities focused curriculum, such as ESPM, only include Portuguese, English, History, Geography, Math and culture. This is done in order to let the student focus on the subjects of the college's interest while preparing for the exams.

University candidates must choose their majors by the time they sign in for the vestibular, and they cannot change their choice except through a very bureaucratic process of internal transfers within the university. Some exceptions exist, such as Engineering in some universities, where the engineering major is chosen only after a three or four semester period. Language studies is another exception: you sign up for Languages, and choose your focus later on, which could be Portuguese and English, Portuguese and French, Portuguese and Italian, amongst many others.
Throughout the last decades, there has always been a gap between the few vacancies offered and the overwhelmingly high and growing demand for high quality and tuition-free public universities. The competition goes as far as having more than 100 candidates per vacancy for the most sought-after careers, such as medicine.