To help deal with its backlog of theory tests, the Republic of Ireland is planning to introduce online theory tests for car and motorcycle learners.

While already available to those learning to drive buses and trucks as well as for Certificates of Professional Competency and the Approved Driving Instructor exam, the country’s Road Safety Authority (RSA) aims to make the online theory test available to many more within months.

Reducing theory test backlogs

With 65,000 now waiting for a theory test because of the delay caused by the pandemic, the authority believes online testing is the ideal way to reduce the waiting list more quickly. And it’s here that the UK could perhaps benefit too as it currently has a backlog of 380,000 theory tests.

Going online with theory tests could offer the benefit of reducing queuing as well as add another layer of protection for both learners and staff as we emerge from Covid’s second wave.

Online theory tests: Getting the right set up

But how do online theory tests actually work in practice? The RSA uses the ProProctor Online Testing system, which enables you to choose where, when and how to test, and offers a reliable, convenient and secure testing process.

Here’s what you need to qualify for an online theory test in the first place:

  1. A PC desktop computer or laptop with Windows 8 or above installed. Alas, phones, tablets/iPads and Apple Macs can’t be used.
  2. A webcam and microphone so you can be monitored before and during the test.
  3. The right internet speed with a minimum of 5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload.
  4. The Windows version of the Google Chrome browser; no other browser types are currently supported.
  5. A pass in the theory test’s System Readiness Check that double checks your computer is compatible with the software and can run the test.
  6. A read-thru of the instruction manual before downloading the software on to your computer once you have your theory test appointment.

Online theory tests: How they work on the big day

This is where it gets a little more complicated but compared to the stress of turning up to the theory test centre and following all the Covid and security rules, online testing perhaps remains the least stressful of the two options.

Here’s what you need to do:

Your testing location
  • This must be indoors (i.e., walled), properly lit and with zero background noise or disruptions.
  • You must be alone at all times before and during the test; if not, the test will be cancelled immediately.
  • There must be no pens, papers, electronic devices or other paraphernalia on your desk or table nor any posters or other papers on your walls.
The testing process
  • Once signed in, show your ID to your webcam as well as your eligibility as listed on your booking page (where applicable).
  • Show your workstation and surrounding area.
  • Raise your trouser legs above your ankles, empty and turn out all pockets and raise shirt sleeves above your wrists.
  • If you are wearing eyeglasses, remove them for visual inspection to ensure they don’t contain a recording device.
  • Remove large jewellery items prior to and throughout the duration of the exam.
  • Pull your hair back to ensure nothing is attached to your ear – such as a bluetooth earpiece – to show you are not receiving any illicit help during the test.
  • If you get disconnected due to poor internet or laptop failure, etc., you will be allowed to restart your test a maximum of three times. More than that and your exam will be cancelled and your test fee lost.

Time to move theory tests online?

While the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency here has introduced new processes to reduce the the theory test backlog – such as extending opening hours as well as opening additional temporary theory test centres – going online could help streamline the testing process now and in the long term.

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