Getting on the road: Taking - and passing - your driver theory test

The driver theory test is just like any other exam - you must prepare.

Published on June 19, 2023

Note: This article was written as part of a commercial content partnership between and ISM.

Taking your driver theory test is the first step in the process of you getting your full driver's licence. You have to have passed the theory test before you apply for your learner's permit, so before you physically get on the road, you have to mentally wrestle with the rules of the road.

As with all aspects of learning how to drive, there's a process to go through. It starts with booking your theory test, but really you need to have started well before that, by studying and learning the rules of the road.

To do that, you're going to need revision material. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has a wealth of material to help you learn and know the rules of the road, so that's the best place to start.

The rules are available in book form for a start, which costs just €17.99. If you've got a computer that accepts one, you could buy a CD-ROM (remember those?) for €22.16 but probably the simpler choice these days is the driver learning app, which works on Apple and Android phones, and on most tablets and laptops too. This costs €14.99 from the Apple App or Google Play stores, and it's fully interactive, allowing you to take mock theory tests as you learn.

There's also an online 'training programme' designed to act like a virtual classroom, and which tries to get you to pass your test first time. It has variable pricing - a one-month online course costs €25, but the three-month (€28) and six-month (€45) prices are probably better value. Cramming all of the theory test in, in one month, is probably not going to teach you anything, even if you do pass.

That's not the only source - there are some very good third-party learning resources, such as ISM's free online mock test, which is a great way of practicing. This also works across all platforms, so it's easy to use.

As with any exam, you'll need to put the work in, and make sure you take plenty of mock theory tests as you go to ensure that you're retaining the information.

You can't take the actual test online, though - this has to be done in a controlled environment, at one of the 40 test centres around the country (you can find your nearest one here) and to get a testing slot you'll need to book. Be prepared for delays with this - although wait times have improved dramatically, the testing service is, like the rest of us, still getting over Covid and other problems.

Once you're booked, and you've revised, you'll need to bring with you an accepted form of photographic ID on the day of the test. This should be either a Public Services Card, a passport or passport card, a National Identity Card from EU/EEA Member States or Switzerland, or a current Ukrainian driver's licence.

You also need proof of address and residency, and be able to prove that you are a national of the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland or have leave to remain in Ireland.

The testing service does offer assistance for those with hearing or other issues, and language support, but make sure you ask for those backups ahead of time.

The theory test will cost €45 for a Category A or B licence and it's best to arrive around 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment at the test centre.

When you take the test, it's all done on screen, using either a mouse and keyboard or a touchscreen. You'll be given 40 questions (drawn at random) from the rules of the road and to score a pass you have to get 35 correct. It's all done through multiple choice, so if you get stuck a bit of common sense will often help you to find the right answer, and you have the ability to skip and come to back to some questions if the answer is buried deeper in your mind. There is a 45-minute time limit, though.

If you pass, you'll find out immediately and be given a certificate allowing you to go and apply for your learner's permit. If you fail, but believe that's not the correct result, you can appeal - speak to one of the staff at the test centre before you leave and pay the refundable €15 appeal fee. Your test will then be re-assessed, and you'll be given a corrected result within 5-10 working days.

If you do fail on the day, you can re-book a test, but you'll have to wait three days to take it again. Use the time to study...

Further reading

Getting on the road: an overview of the process
> Getting on the road: Taking - and passing - your driver theory test
Getting on the road: How to apply for your learner permit
Getting on the road: Your essential driver training
Getting on the road: Taking the driving test
Getting on the road: Now you've passed your test