Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals
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  1. Licensing
  2. Membership & Registration
  3. Qualifications & CPD
  4. Publications & Resources
  5. Get Involved
  6. News
  7. About

Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (Module A)

Exam support resources - Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (Module A)

The Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals qualification covers all aspects of railway control engineering at a foundation level.

This is a stand-alone qualification as well as being the mandatory pre-qualifier for all wishing to sit the Advanced Diploma In Railway Control Engineering in the future.

The Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals is suitable for a much wider group of people working on or around railway control and communications systems than the full IRSE professional exam. Junior signalling and telecoms engineers, rail operations personnel, project managers, project planners, software developers and managers of contractors and sub-contractors will demonstrate a broad knowledge of railway control and communications systems engineering by passing this module.


Changes to the syllabus and reading list for the Certificate (module A) exam - effective from the October 2023

The following changes have been agreed by Education & Professional Development Committee and these pages have been updated accordingly:

  • governance has been removed from the syllabus
  • "back to basics" articles from recent issues of IRSE News have been added to the reading list
  • articles covering governance, human factors and secondary systems have been removed from the reading list - there is some content relating to these subjects elsewhere
  • there are new versions of articles in the reading list covering dependability, metros, system management and interfaces and interactions (minor changes)
  • some of the historical and UK-specific content of the "back to basics" article on train protection has been withdrawn from the essential reading list and questions will not be set on the withdrawn content



Feedback from the IRSE Younger Members' Section Exam Review on 20 March 2024:

  • For Certificate candidates
    • Revise the areas you don't know about
    • Don't think about the question too deeply
    • If you are stuck, move onto the next question(s), and if you have time come back to that question(s)
  • For Modules B, C and D
    • Read the question
    • Answer the question, not just what you know about the subject
    • State your assumptions at the beginning of each of your answers
    • Practice handwriting answers, if that is how you are going to answer
    • Some answers have been too brief - note the number of marks for each part of the question, and note the use of words in the question such as 'describe', 'explain' and 'discuss'

The video of the session will be available on the IRSE study Vimeo channel soon - https://vimeo.com/showcase/study and the slide deck is available here - October 2023 exam review (March 2024)



The syllabus for the Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (module A) is available in the reading list.

Questions will cover all 10 learning objectives:

  1. Operations: how a railway is operated to provide a safe and reliable service
  2. Technical principles: railway control and communications philosophy and high level principles
  3. Safety principles: safety engineering principles as applicable to a railway
  4. Technical functions: the basic concepts of railway signalling and control systems
  5. Applications: the functionality and potential limitations of various types of signalling, telecommunications and control equipment
  6. Lifecycle: the basic concepts of system lifecycle
  7. Maintenance: how maintenance, inspection and testing keep the railway safe and reliable
  8. Integrity: the basic concepts of design of fail-safe hardware and high-integrity software
  9. No longer in syllabus but some content transferred to learning objective 6 - Governance
  10. Technical interfaces: the interfaces and interactions between railway control and communications and related systems within the railway and stakeholders
  11. External interfaces: the role of railway control and communications in functions other than the control of train movement
Closed book exams

All IRSE exams are closed book, which means that candidates should not have anything open in their exam environment which could assist them in their exam. This includes, but is not limited to, having social media and other apps / programmes open on their computer, having study guides and information open and communicating with other candidates.

All exam candidates will be monitored by remote invigilation software and answers for modules B, C and D will be reviewed by anti-plagiarism software.

Latest exam paper

Previous exam papers for the Certificate are not published. 

Candidates, however, are given access to an online practice paper when they have applied to sit the module.

Sample questions and answers are available, see our reading list page and watch the IRSE Younger Member study sessions on our dedicated Vimeo page https://vimeo.com/showcase/study

Reading list and support materials - updated April 2023

All documents within the essential reading list are available on our reading list page, available to IRSE members and non-members.

Other support materials for the Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (Module A) are in the document library below.

Many study videos are also available on IRSE's Vimeo channel via https://vimeo.com/showcase/study.


There are no prerequisites to sit the Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (module A). IRSE members and non-members are encouraged to study for, and to sit, the module.

How and when to book

The Certificate can be sat twice a year, in March (bookings normally open in the January) and early October (bookings normally open in the May / June).

The next exam is on Saturday 23 March and bookings are now closed.

Location of exam

Education and Development Committee have agreed that there will be no exam centres, with all exam candidates sitting the exam at a suitable location for them. Candidates will need a computer or laptop and a reliable internet connection which can access the exam website and software. Candidates will be given access to practice sessions to ensure that this works for them (see terms and conditions in document library below).

Candidates are reminded that all IRSE exams are closed book exams and that they will be monitored by remote invigilation software.