Enem vs. Vestibular

The vestibular is one of the selection methods utilized by institutions of higher education in Brazil. The Enem, on the other hand, is the High School National Exam (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio), which was created by the Ministry of Education to evaluate the knowledge of students who either are finishing high school or who have just finished. The Enem started out merely as a way for the government to rank high schools nationally based on which school had the overall brightest students, but its purpose in recent years was expanded to act as an alternative to the vestibular. The reason for the expansion was to level the playing field for lower-income students who couldn’t afford both the price of the expensive vestibular prep courses, called cursinhos, as well as the cost of taking the actual test (one for each university the student applies to). The vestibular registration costs generally range from R$70-90 each, which can easily add up to R$500-R$1000 per student, depending on how many universities they are applying for. The ‘cursinho’ costs anywhere from R$60-R$300 or more. The Enem, however, costs on average about R$40, though I’m unsure if there are prep courses for it.

From what I can gather, both require the answering of questions (multiple choice and short answer) and essays (called redação in Portuguese). More specifically, the Enem is composed of an essay and “180 multiple-choice questions, equally divided into four areas of knowledge: languages; human sciences; natural sciences and mathematics. Due to the size of the test, it is applied in two consecutive days” (Wikipedia), one lasting for 4 hours and 30 minutes, and the other lasting for 5 hours and 30 minutes. As for the vestibular, “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 around 80 multiple choice questions, including subjects such as Portuguese Language, Portuguese and Brazilian Literature, Math, History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Foreign Language. The best scoring candidates from the multiple-choice stage proceed to the second stage, which contains write-in questions about subjects related to the candidate’s major (Wikipedia)”. More on some other differences later on.

In recent years, institutions have used the Enem score in substitution of the vestibular, thus, if a candidate has a certain score on the Enem, his or her acceptance (into a specific university) is practically guaranteed – it only depends on the availability of the vacancies and on the other candidate’s scores. As a compliment to the Enem, the federal government last year created the SiSu – System of Unified Selection (Sistema de Seleção Unificado), which is exactly that, a new system of selection. Using the score from the Enem, one can apply for a vacancy at any one of 59 federal universities. So, depending on where a student intends to study, the Enem is fundamental.

As I’ve neither taken the Enem nor the vestibular, I can only relay information via second parties (sites that specialize in such tests and opinions of those who have taken them). One student summed the differences up by saying the vestibular is a test of knowledge you “should” have (or can attain), while the Enem is about testing to see what knowledge you have (attained). In other words, the vestibular is about memorization while the Enem is about using your logic and about interpreting texts. While in Brazil, I saw a list of the kinds of subjects students study when preparing for the vestibular and let me just say it’s no walk in the park.

Problems w/ the Enem

In 2009, the Enem was somehow made available on the black market, which made the MEC (Ministry of Education) push the test forward two months from October to December so they could redo the test. A few months ago, detailed personal information on students who took the exam in previous years was leaked on the Internet. Then, this month the actual template used for the test contained errors and thus it was suspended again.

Thanks to Fábio for suggesting the topic.

Related Info

Affirmative action in Brazilian universities

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17 thoughts on “Enem vs. Vestibular

  1. I’m preparing for entrance test for a master’s at Unicamp or USP. It’s a little more subjective. While a person does need a certain standard to enter. There is a little less competition because you already finished college.

    If you make a network within your area of professors who know you or will mentor you can have a good chance a getting in without being the best. But there needs to be reasons of why a lower score happened. And in some Master’s programs you don’t need to take any tests (but very hard to find). I probably can’t score as high as someone who is a native Portuguese speaker.

    But since I am not native that is a factor. Probably being a public school student could be another factor. I do have to achieve a three on the Celpe-Bras. Celpe-Bras is an extremely hard Portuguese test. You are expected to know more than many Brazilians actually know about Portuguese. A three is considered intermediate, but is far above an intermediate standard of an English student.

    I think it would be interesting to give high school students in Brazil the Celpe-Bras to see their scores.

  2. you’re welcome, buddy, but I have to make a few corrections. The price of the vestibular registration is not a big problem, because if your family have a low income you can show some documents and do the vestibular free of charge.
    Fuvest is one type of vestibular. Only in USP and a few others from São Paulo. Most universities have their own entrance exam.
    Based on the student’s score on Enem, they get a scholarship at private universities. That allowed the access at universities of many people who couldn’t afford it before. That became a problem because there is one part of the population who are not happy with some many poors getting a higher education. They’ve been trying to dicredit the test with the support of the media. It’s been covering the problems that ENEM has been facing like it was something new. The traditional vestibular has always had problems but the media never made a big issue out of this.

    You are right about the differences between Vestibular. It’s more conservative, memorization etc. The Enem is a better alternative in my point of view. The student has to analize and compare more.

  3. “In other words, the vestibular is about memorization while the Enem is about using your logic and about interpreting texts.”

    This is absolute BOGUS. If that were the case, you’d expect ENEM to be sort of a IQ test, right? If the Vestibular Examination (which queries students about the regular high school curriculum, in an intelligent and selective manner, might I add) is considered “elitist” by the PT lunatics, what would they say about the institution of IQ tests to enter college? They’d accuse the Universities of outright racism. ENEM is actually a crappy, totally misguided “test” (created by leftists) that tries desperately to find questions to which “the poors” could find answers (without studying). ENEM does not compare in any way to the Vestibular. Communists are destroying the very few things that actually work in Brazil, such as the Universities, because they need to destroy anything that encorauges meritocracy.

    • As I said in my post, I’m going off of information that actual students of the tests have given. Judging by your comment, you must have taken both tests to hold such an opinion. If not, then you are going on your feelings rather than firsthand knowledge. Nothing particularly wrong with expressing how you feel as long as it’s clear that this is the case here.

  4. “It’s been covering the problems that ENEM has been facing like it was something new. The traditional vestibular has always had problems but the media never made a big issue out of this.”

    This is just more smokescreen and nonsense. The examination of the essays within the Vestibular, for example, is highly controlled and agreed, beforehand, to fixed standards to avoid discrepancies. Now how the heck could this POSSIBLY be done nationwide?! ENEM is a joke not only because of its content, but also because of its procedures. We need to BAN this nonsense, now. The Brazilian Vestilar is perhaps the most qualified College Entrance Examination, worldwide. We have to keep the good things going and change the bad ones!

  5. Mr difo, I shouldn’t waste my time replying to such stupid comments, but I couldn’t help it. Before going around offending people, you should double check your sources or better still, get yourself informed. First of all, the ENEM wasn’t created by leftist. It was created in 1998 in the Fernando Henrique administration.
    ENEM is not an IQ test. You should know that IQ tests are not taken into consideration when testing someone’s ability. The ENEM tests student’s ability to express critical thinking. The Vestibular is an outdated tests that praises memorization. Period!
    You are angry because you’re probably from some rich family and can’t handle that the ENEM has been able to get students from lower classes into universities. It hurts to see a president who cares about the large underprivileged population of this country, doesn’t it?

  6. “Before going around offending people, you should double check your sources or better still, get yourself informed. First of all, the ENEM wasn’t created by leftist. It was created in 1998 in the Fernando Henrique administration.”

    ENEM was created in 1998 as a way to evaluate brazilian high schools. It was never meant to be used as college entrance examination. To use it as a “vestibular” is solely the idea of demented communists. And who on earth told you that Fernando Henrique is not a leftist? Surely it must have been your PT comrades. Gramscian tactics at work: pretend that the “moderate” left is the “right”, so that no space for a real “right” is left in the political spectrum. In the last election we ONLY had leftist candidates. Even communist magazines like “Carta Capital” admitted this.

    “ENEM is not an IQ test. You should know that IQ tests are not taken into consideration when testing someone’s ability.”

    I’m not even going to ask whatever the heck you meant to say here.

    “The ENEM tests student’s ability to express critical thinking. The Vestibular is an outdated tests that praises memorization. Period!”

    I shouldn’t even bother with this one but here are some examples of ENEM questions:

    http://www.c7s.com.br/gabaritosEnem2010/azul_120.pdf
    http://www.c7s.com.br/gabaritosEnem2010/azul_140.pdf

    Admittance to the best schools in the country depend on questions such as this. The Vestibular is an outdated tests that praises memorization. Period! No further comment.

    “You are angry because you’re probably from some rich family and can’t handle that the ENEM has been able to get students from lower classes into universities.”

    I’m angry because I don’t want our bridges, our buildings, our airplanes to fall apart in this country… surely you do realize that the mental apparatus needed to understand the technical foundations that keep these stuff functioning go beyond counting medals? Or no? And no, ENEM has not helped students from lower classes into universities. Rich kids still know their volleyball rules better. You are just dumbing down the whole of it. ENEM is nothing but a stallinistic aberration, used to control, to “unify” and to spread propaganda.

  7. Pingback: BIOLOGIA AULA 17 — SISTEMA RESPIRATÓRIO HUMANO ANATOMIA E FISIOLOGIA Parte 1

  8. This might be a dumb question, but I’ll ask it anyway. If you took the ENEM test, does that mean you just got out of high school? And how many times can you take the test?

    • Hi,

      Not a dumb question, though I don’t know how many times you can take it, I do understand that you can take the ENEM while finishing high school and just after you’ve finished it.

      • Thanks for your reply! By the way, I like your blog. It makes me know more about Brazil. It’s quite interesting.

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