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  1. Licensing
  2. Membership
  3. Qualifications & Careers
  4. Publications & Resources
  5. Get Involved
  6. News

The IRSE Professional Exam

The application process for 2020 is now open.The final closing date for all applications, including payment, is 30 June 2020.

Coronavirus update: Following a special meeting of  the IRSE Education & Professional Development Committee  on 19 May where all available information and guidance was reviewed, the decision was taken to proceed with current plans for the IRSE professional examination  in October 2020. 

The professional exam will take place in designated centres across the world on Saturday 3 October where strict adherence to local social distancing procedures will be observed. 

If a regional restriction is still in place as the examination date nears, regrettably the exam will have to be cancelled at short notice only at that location.

Please see IRSE's dedicated coronavirus page for other information.

You will be able to sit EITHER module A OR up to four of modules 1-7 (see exam changes page and exam arrangements presentation for more details). 

Study sessions and videos available

The IRSE Younger Members have put together a series of study sessions for those who are intending to sit the exam this year:

Videos of these events are available on in our dedicated IRSE Exam Study resources area on Vimeo.

The IRSE Professional Exam provides one of the main routes to corporate membership of the Institution and can provide additional qualifications for professional registration

It is designed to test candidates' knowledge of railway signal and telecommunications principles and practices and is modular in nature, allowing students to answer questions that are relevant to their particular subject specialism and experience. The examination is held in a number of centres around the world, generally on the first Saturday in October. Applicants for modules 1-7 of the current exam format and modules B-D of the new format must already be members of the Institution and all applications to sit the examination must be made by 30 June of that year.

Currently there are seven exam modules and to gain the full IRSE Exam, it is necessary to achieve a Pass in four of them. Module 1 is compulsory and you choose a further three modules to suit your experience and specialism.  There is no time limit for completing the exam, so you do not have to sit all four in any one year.

  • Module 1: Safety of Railway Signalling and Communications
  • Module 2: Signalling the layout 
  • Module 3: Signalling principles
  • Module 4: Communications principles
  • Module 5: Signalling and Control Equipment, Applications Engineering
  • Module 6: Communications Equipment, Applications Engineering
  • Module 7: Systems, Management and Engineering

The exam syllabus provides a description of the topics covered in each of the modules and indicates the breadth and the depth of knowledge required. IRSE members have access to exam support resources for Modules 1-7, available through the members’ area of the website.  All members and non-members have access to the Module A exam support resources available on this website. Some members may be able to gain exemption from some or all of the exam modules, please read the exam equivalence guidance document if you are interested in this.

The exam regulations ensure that all candidates are given the same opportunities and that the examinations are conducted in a fair manner, we advise that you read these regulations before applying to take the exam.  

Awards are available to candidates who achieve outstanding marks in the exam.

The exam is changing

IRSE Council has given the go-ahead for the first changes to the structure of the IRSE professional examination in 25 years.

The most significant change is the creation of a new module "fundamentals of railway control engineering" which covers all aspects of railway control engineering at a foundation level which will be a stand alone qualification called "certificate in railway control engineering fundamentals".

For the "full" exam, there will be four mandatory modules as listed below.  Passing all four (or an agreed combination of existing and new modules) will lead you to be awarded an "advanced diploma in railway control engineering:

  • Fundamentals of railway control systems (module A) 
  • Railway safety and systems engineering (module B)
  • Principles of railway control and communication systems (module C)
  • Applications of railway control and communications (module D)

For more details including syllabuses and example questions for each module, please see the exam changes page.

When should I take the exam?

It is important to apply to sit any module(s) of the exam only when you are prepared so please take the time to read the information for candidates and other documents on this page.

What are the key dates?

For each year, the key dates for all potential candidates and their sponsors are as follows:

  • Mid-February - deadline for submission of membership forms for those wishing to sit the exam in this year
  • 30 April - deadline for submission of signed Sponsorship Declaration Form (SDF)
  • 31 May - deadline for submission of second Sponsorship Declaration Form (SDF) if required  FOR 2020 ONLY - this has been extended to 14 June
  • 30 June - deadline for online application and payment for all exam module(s) to be sat
  • First Saturday in October - exam day for all candidates

Note that October 2020 will be the last opportunity to sit the exam in its current format (modules 1-7) and also will be the first opportunity to sit 'fundamentals of railway control engineering' (module A).  From October 2021, only the new format exam (modules A-D) will be available.