Knowledge Base

Learning To Drive

The Theory Test

The theory test was introduced in 2001. By law, before applying for a learner permit, candidates must complete and pass a test of their general road safety knowledge and motoring legislation. It applies to anyone applying for a first learner permit in any vehicle category.
The test is designed to check knowledge of topics such as:

  • Rules of the Road
  • Risk perception
  • Eco-driving
  • Hazard awareness
  • Good driving behaviour

The test is computer-based but is designed for those who have little or no experience of using computers as well as those who do.
You will have a chance to take a practice session on the day before starting on the actual test. If you have special needs please contact the Driver Theory Service and explain your requirements.
The format of the test is based on multiple choice questions, where candidates are required to answer correctly 35 out of 40 questions in order to obtain a pass certificate.
The complete list of test questions is published in the Official Driver Theory Test Book and CD-Rom. These are available to purchase online at and in book shops nationwide.

To Book a test call:
1890 606 106 (English language)
1890 606 806 (Irish language)
1890 616 216 (text phone – for the hearing-impaired)

The Learner Permit

A learner permit is a licence issued to learner drivers. It enables them to learn to drive and to apply for a driving test at the same time. A learner permit is issued to enable the permit holder to learn to drive and is not valid in Northern Ireland or in any other country outside of Ireland.

All holders of a learner permit must:

  • Hold a licence for the category of vehicle you are driving and comply with the conditions attached to that licence when driving
  • Beby a person who holds a full driving licence in the same category for a continuous period of two years.

From the 6th December 2010 all new first time learner permit holders for motorcycles are required to undertake mandatory initial basic training (IBT) with an approved driving instructor (ADI).

From the 4th April 2011 all new first time learner permit holders for cars will be required to undertake mandatory essential driver training (EDT) with an approved driving instructor (ADI).

Other requirements:

There are legal restrictions on what types of vehicle you can drive at what age. For example, you have to be 16 to ride a moped, 17 to drive a standard car, 18 to drive a truck and and 21 to drive a bus

L Plates
All learner permit holders, with the exception of those who hold learner permits in category W(work vehicles/land tractors), must display ‘L’ plates while they are driving.
The letter L should be at least 15cm high and appear as red on a white background, in clearly visible vertical positions to the front and rear of the vehicle.

All learner permit holders, with the exception of those who hold a learner permit in category A1 (Motorcycles), A (Motorcycle, no greater than 125cc), or M (Mopeds), must be accompanied by a qualified driver at all times while driving. A qualified driver is one who holds a full licence for a continuous period of two years in respect of the vehicle category being driven by the learner permit holder.

A motorcyclist applying for a first-time learner permit is restricted to riding motorcycles with an engine power output not more than 25kW or with a power/weight ratio not more than 0.16 kW/kg. Such restriction applies for the duration of all learner permits and for the first two years after taking out a full driving licence in category A.
Vehicles in categories A, A1 and M (motorcycles and mopeds) cannot carry a passenger and are required at all times to display ‘L’ plates front and rear on a yellow fluorescent tabard.

You cannot sit a driving test within six months of your permit coming into force, although you may apply for a test within this period. The code 991 will be printed on your license opposite the vehicle category in the column headed ‘restrictions/information.’

Essential Driver Training (EDT)

From the 4th April 2011 all new first time learner permit holders for cars will be required to undertake mandatory essential driver training (EDT) with an approved driving instructor (ADI).
The course is made up of of 12 individual one hour driving lessons. The learner driver will be able to take the lessons at any point during the learning process and can practice with an accompanying driver during the time while taking lessons. Evidence of completing the lessons will be signed off and stamped in a learner’s logbook by the Approved Driving Instructor. The logbook showing completion of the lessons may have to be presented before taking a driving test.
If possible you should also have a Sponsor, an experienced driver (many learner drivers choose a family member) who will supervise your driving practice outside of lessons, and will also track your progress in your logbook.

Initial Basic Training (IBT)

From the 6th December 2010 all new first time learner permit holders for motorbikes are required to undertake mandatory initial basic training (IBT) with an approved driving instructor (ADI).
The course is comprised of 16 hours training which is broken up into four modules. Once this course of lessons is complete the learner permit holder is issued with a certificate of satisfactory completion which must be kept with their learner permit. Motorcycle riders must complete the programme before driving unsupervised on the road while a learner.

The Driving Test

Driver testing in Ireland is carried out directly by the Road Safety Authority to a standard that complies with the EU Directive on Driving Licences.
To do the test, you must have held a valid learner permit for at least six months on the day of the test (in the case of a first time learner permit holders, the code 991 will be printed under the restrictions/information section on your learner permit opposite the vehicle category) . This only applies to cars, motorcyclists and works vehicles. You must also have the use of a suitable vehicle. Also mandatory car lessons may apply to you; see information on Initial Basic Training (IBT) for Motorcyclists and Essential Driver Training (EDT) for car drivers.



  • Study the Rules of the Road Booklet
  • Use the services of an
  • Practise driving on all types of road and in all types of traffic situations, including driving at night
  • Build up your driving experience and confidence before applying for your test


  • Unnecessarily obstruct traffic or annoy other road users
  • Practise on driving test routes for the most part; congestion on these routes causes inconvenience to residents and test applicants alike

Appointments for driving tests are organised on a first-come-first-served basis approximately one month in advance of your test. This will indicate the time, date and venue for the test together with conditions which must be met. Please read this notice carefully as it may help avoid problems on the day of the test.

Day of the test:

You should be present in the test centre before the appointed time of your test. If you are late, the test cannot be conducted and the fee will be forfeit.

The driver tester will check your learner permit to establish that it is:

  • Yours and not someone else’s
  • Current
  • For the correct category of vehicle
  • For your EDT booklet, if applicable

You will be asked to read and sign a statement confirming that:

  • The vehicle insurance cover is in place and adequate.


The driving test for cars lasts half-an-hour to 40 minutes and includes:

  • Questions on the Rules of the Road (including identifying road signs)
  • Demonstrating hand signals
  • Reversing round a corner
  • A U-turn in the road
  • A hill start
  • Driving approximately five miles in a variety of road and traffic conditions

Your driving will be assessed in the following situations:

  • Moving off
  • Driving in traffic
  • Stopping Reversing around a corner
  • Turning about, to face in the opposite direction
  • Starting on a hill

Parking Aspects of your driving assessed will include:

  • Road positioning
  • Overtaking and passing
  • Anticipation and observation
  • Use of mirrors and signals
  • Progress Speed
  • Compliance with traffic lights, road signs and markings
  • Use of the vehicle controls (accelerator, clutch, gears, brakes and steering)
  • Use of secondary controls such as wipers, de-misters, etc

Safety Issues

Car Safety Checks

Before starting your on road drive you will be asked to carry out some safety checks.

Q1. Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.
A1. Identify dipstick/oil level indicator, describe how you would check the oil level against the min/max markers.

Q2. Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level.
A2. Identify high/ low level markings on header tank where fitted or radiator filler cap, and describe how to top up to correct level.

Q3. Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level.
A3. Identify reservoir and check level.

Q4. Open the bonnet, identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and tell me how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.
A4. Identify reservoir, check level against high / low markings.

Q5. Tell me how you would check that the brake lights are working on this car.
A5. Operate brake pedal, make use of any reflections in windows, garage doors etc, or ask someone to help.

Q6. Tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.
A6. Brakes should not feel spongy or slack. Brakes should be tested as you move off. Vehicle should not pull to one side.

Q7. Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.
A7. Tyre pressures are in manufacturers manual, use a reliable pressure gauge, check tyre pressures when cold, (Once a week) don’t forget spare and remember to refit dust caps.

Q8. Tell me how you would check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and their general condition is safe to use on the road.
A8. No cuts or bulges, 1.6mm of tread depth across the central 3/4 of the breadth of the tyre and around the entyre circumference.

Q9. Show me / explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
A9. If the steering becomes heavy the system may not be working properly. Before starting a journey two checks can be made. With the wheel turned slightly, maintained while the engine is started, you notice a slight movement in the wheel as the system begins to operate. Alternatively turning the steering wheel just after moving off will give an instant indication the power steering is functioning ok.

Q10. Show me how you would check that the headlights and tail lights are working.
A10. Turn on ignition (if necessary), operate switch for lights, and walk round the vehicle.

Q11. Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.
A11. Apply indicators or hazard warning lights and check all indicators.

Q12. Show me how you would check that the horn is working (off road only).
A12. Turn on ignition (if necessary).Operate horn.

Q13. Show me how you would check the parking brake for excessive wear.
A13. Demonstrate by applying the handbrake and when it is fully applied it secures itself, and is not at the end of the working travel.

Motorcycle Safety Checks

P.O.W.D.E.R. Petrol Oil Water Damage Electrics Rubber

Petrol – make sure you have enough fuel for the journey. Does your motorbike have a reserve tank switch or just a warning light? Can you turn the fuel tap to reserve while on the move, without taking your eyes off the road? Do you know where the tap is?

Oil – How do you check the oil level on your motorbike? Most dry sump motorcycles require you to check the oil when the engine is hot, while most wet sump machines should have their oil level checked with the engine cold.

Which type is yours? The owner’s handbook will tell you how to perform this check correctly. Is your motorbike a two stroke or a four stroke? Of course you know that on a two stroke machine the two stroke oil should be checked every time you fill up with petrol. On a four-stroke motorcycle the procedure for checking the oil level varies – dipstick or sight glass? Engine – hot or cold? If you are not sure what type your motorcycle is, you had better find out otherwise you may be looking at a major repair bill for engine seizure and/or crash damage.

Water – How do you check the coolant level? Where is the filler cap? Of course you know that to open the radiator cap when the engine is hot is inviting the risk of serious scalding. Is your motorbike water or air cooled?

Damage – Check the bike for signs of obvious damage. Are the extremities of the motorcycle scuffed, such as indicators, bar-end weights and levers? Are the light lenses or mirrors cracked or broken? Are there any noticeable buckles in the rims? Any drips or pools under the bike? Check for damage to the tyre walls and rim. Your machine could have been knocked over while unattended or it could have been borrowed during the day without your knowledge.

Electrics – Are you sure all your lights and signals are clean and working? Finding out the horn doesn’t work just when you need it is no use. Is your faulty brake light inviting a rear end shunt? Do you know where the fuses are and can you replace them?

Rubber – Your tyres form a contact patch with the road no bigger than the palm of your hand and are thus an essential component of motorcycle safety. Too much air in your tyres reduces grip by making the tyre stand proud of the road surface. Too little air promotes instability because it allows the side walls of the tyres to flex.

Do you know what your tyre pressures are and the legal minimum tread depth?

Remember, if you are going to pull a nail out of one of your tyres, do it outside a Motorcycle shop that is open and fixes punctures!

Finally, you must ensure the maintenance schedule for your machine is adhered to. If you cannot do it yourself get a professional to do it or show you how. For instance, a badly maintained chain may snap or jump off and cause you to crash. Could you spot one?

Driving in Adverse Weather Conditions

Tips for Driving in Snow
Snow can make driving extremely dangerous. Before you even get into your car make sure to clean all the snow off your windscreen, windows, mirrors and all lights
Use dipped headlights to give yourself better visibility. If you can’t see the road ahead clearly enough to drive safely, pull over to a safe place until the snow fall eases. Climbing and descending hills in snow requires special care. Climb hills in the highest possible gear, as lower engine revs will reduce the chance of losing traction and spinning your wheels. Descend hills very slowly; putting your vehicle into a low gear, before the descent.
If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the accelerator, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Remember keep your distance.

Tips for Driving in Rain
Wet or slippery conditions make it difficult to stop so drive slower and keep your distance, use the “4 second rule” as your braking distance is doubled. Turn your headlights on even in light rain.
Not only do they help you to see the road, but also they will help other drivers to see you. And avoid driving over puddles as they may be hiding a nasty pothole. Brake before bends and corners; they are more difficult to negotiate safely on wet roads so slow down.

Tips for Driving in Fog
When driving in foggy conditions your visibility can be significantly reduced, so slow down Remember to keep your distance and be patient. Make sure to turn on dipped headlights, whether it is day or night as full beams will only be reflected back off the fog and impair your visibility even more. Use rear fog lamps when necessary but do not forget to turn them off as soon as viability improves.
Turn on your wipers and defroster to remove any moisture from the windshield. And open your window slightly so that you can hear the traffic you cannot see, especially at junctions.

General Information


The RSA works to improve road safety in Ireland by:

  • Developing and implementing information and education campaigns to increase awareness of road safety and promote safer driving
  • Improving vehicle standards
  • Establishing and monitoring a standard for driver instruction
  • Overseeing the system of driver licensing and undertaking certain enforcement activities
  • Working with stakeholders to ensure a co-ordinated response and ensure our collective resources are used wisely and efficiently
  • Undertaking accident and road safety research in order to develop measures and recommendations to improve road safety
  • Advising the Minister for Transport on road safety policy
  • Producing road safety strategy documents and monitoring their implementation
Approved Driving Instructors (ADI)

Since 30th April 2009, driving instruction in Ireland has been a regulated industry. The regulations cover standard of instruction, examinations to be passed as well as penalties for breaches of the law.

To work as a driving instructor in Ireland, an instructor must be on the RSA’s Register of Approved Driving Instructors (ADI) and display an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) permit. To become registered and get an ADI full permit, each instructor is assessed by the RSA to ensure they have the necessary:

  • Knowledge of rules of the road and road safety
  • Driving ability
  • Ability to teach a learner driver

For your protection, ADIs also undergo Garda vetting.
What this means for you, as a learner driver, is better, more consistent standards and therefore better instruction.

Glossary of Motoring Terms

Active suspension

A computer-based suspension system that is capable of dynamically changing springs, shocks and other components in accordance with road disturbances and handling loads. Many newer vehicles are equipped with such systems.

Anti lock brakes (ABS)

A factory installed computer and hydraulic system that can adjust brake pressure at individual wheels and prevent the problems of brake lockup. The system is an advantage for untrained drivers, but takes away some control possible by a skilled driver.


The dynamic relationship between the load on individual wheels and their ability to turn, brake or apply power. This relationship is greatly influenced by vehicle design (i.e., motor placement, transmission placement, sway bars, etc.).

Bedding in brakes

The process of stopping a vehicle repeatedly until brake fade occurs. This eliminates lower temperature composites in the brake lining, and raises the lining’s operating temperature.

Brake fade

Overheating the brake pads results in a hard brake pedal with very little braking effect, overheating the brake fluid results in no brake pedal resistance or brake effect.

Brake lockup

When one or more wheels are not rotating, but skidding.

Braking point

The designated point at which you begin to apply the brakes, usually associated with some visual cue in advance of a curve or obstacle.

Braking threshold

The maximum amount of brake force that can be generated and not stop the tyres from rotating.

Front wheel drive (Handling Effects Of)

With driving wheels at the front or at all wheels, weight and traction are still transferred in the exact same manner. Since front wheel drive cars lack the heavy rear drive axle, they are forward weight biased. To keep the light rear end from skidding, front wheel drive cars are often designed to have a great tendency to understeer. Front wheel drive cars have a traction advantage on slippery surfaces because weight is always on the steering and driving wheels.


A loss of traction in the rear tyres while cornering.

Pumping the brakes

A technique characterized by rapid hard applications and complete or partial lifts of the brake pedal.

Progressive braking

A braking technique in which the initial pressure of the braking event is light but continues to increase until the end of the stop (i.e., braking in a corner).


A condition in which the force applied to two or more tyres is beyond their traction capabilities in which they lose directional response (i.e., locked tyres, spinning tyres, sliding).


An uncontrolled slide or skid in which the vehicle rotates the direction in which it is pointed.


The pressure you try to achieve when you initiate a braking event.

Technical Driving

The master plan of driving that provides maximum control and minimal risk, allowing safe high speed operation.


The amount of grip a tyre can provide under given conditions. The more weight a tyre has upon it, the more traction it provides. It is a function of both the coefficient of friction between tyre and road and the weight on the tyre.


A loss of traction in the front tyres while cornering.

Vehicle dynamics

The specific laws of physics that determine what a vehicle does while in motion and how it responds to certain inputs.

Vehicle Categories

Vehicle Test Categories

There are four categories of theory test (see table below). Each test category corresponds to a driver-licence or learner-permit category. If you take a test listed in the first column, you are covered for all the licences or learner permits in the corresponding column.

 Theory test certificate  Driver licence or learner-permit category
 B and W  Covers cars, land tractors and work vehicles B, EB and W
 A and M  Covers motorcycles and mopeds A, A1 and M
 C  Covers vans and trucks over 3,500kg C1, C, EC and EC1
 D  Minibuses and buses D, D1, Ed and ED1

If you are applying for your first learner permit you must:

  • Include a theory test certificate for the relevant category along with your learner-permit application, unless the certificate has already been submitted
  • Present the certificate within two years of the date of issue (date of passing the test)

Note: You will be regarded as an applicant for a first learner permit in respect of a particular vehicle category if you have not held such a licence in the preceding five years.