The International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) represents and serves professional associations of ophthalmologists throughout the world. One of its objectives is to promote excellence in eye care worldwide by encouraging individuals to acquire and maintain the highest standard of knowledge for the practice of Ophthalmology. The International Basic Science Examination, Theoretical Optics & Refraction and the Clinical Sciences Examinations are part of that initiative.

The examinations are tests of knowledge to a very high international standard in Theoretical Optics & Refraction, Basic Science as applied to Ophthalmology and Clinical Sciences in Ophthalmology. The standards are equivalent to those set by such bodies as the Royal Colleges or the American Academy of Ophthalmology.