The IRSE Professional Exam

Thinking of taking the exam in 2020? Please take part in a short survey to help us plan and if you are planning to take modules 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and/or 7 do ensure that you have applied to become a member of the IRSE by 14 February 2020.

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 must already be members of the Institution and all applications to sit the examination must be made by 30 June of that year.

Results for the exam papers sat on Saturday 5th October 2019 will be available in the new 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. Exam candidates have access to exam support resources, available through the members’ area of the 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.

How to apply for the exam

Before applying, you must gain endorsement from a Sponsor (an IRSE Fellow or Member) who is familiar with your abilities and experience and considers you capable of passing your selected Exam modules, further details in the Exam Application Guidance document in the Exam Support Materials area. Once you have received written authority from the IRSE, you may complete the Online Application Form. Under no circumstances will applications be accepted without appropriate endorsement. If you have not registered to gain access to the members’ area already, click here

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
  • 30 June - deadline for online application and payment for exam module(s)
  • First Saturday in October - exam day for all candidates

Note that October 2020 will be the last opportunity to sit the exam in it's 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 will be available.