IR & CB-IR theory courses

How are Instrument Rating theory courses structured?

Training for the Instrument Rating (IR) or Competency Based IR (CB-IR) is conducted in a similar manner.  Distance learning can progress at your own pace, using the printed manuals and the state-of-the-art computer program ATPdigital which have been designed to split the subjects across two modules; each module leads to a set of exams. Please note that you must pass all exams within 18 months of your first exam sitting.

You have a total of 6 sittings to pass all the exams and no more than 4 attempts at any one subject within those 6 sittings. On a non-approved course you may do all the exams in one sitting; if you are doing the full course (see ‘exemptions’ below) be aware that 7 subjects in one sitting is demanding.

Maths and Physics
Before you start the IR study, there is a module on Maths and Physics. This is a refresher for you if you have not studied these subjects for a while. The Maths and Physics module is conducted in the CBT only and there are no EASA or UK CAA exams associated with it.

Approved or non-approved training for your Instrument Rating?

The only difference between approved and non-approved courses for your instrument rating is that an approved course must contain an element of ‘classroom instruction’, which includes our online classes. You are required to log 16 hours of online tuition for the IR course and 8 hours for the CB-IR. This can be achieved by attending a number of our live webinars, or part of a BGS online revision week. The webinars and revision courses are delivered at ATPL level, so may include some content not relevant to the IR syllabus, but your course materials are IR-specific. By getting access to the live webinars you can attend the lessons that suit you in order to meet the online ground school requirement.

A more detailed explanation on the different Instrument Ratings can be found here.

IR (A or H) Approved Course     IR (A or H) Non-Approved Course    CB-IR Approved Course

Instrument Rating Theory Training

Instrument Rating Subjects

There are 7 subjects in a full IR or CB-IR although you may be exempt two or three subjects (see ‘exemptions’ below).

Module 1 contains:

  • Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation
  • Meteorology
  • Human Performance

Module 2 contains:

  • Radio Navigation
  • Flight Planning and Flight Monitoring
  • Air Law
  • Communications*

*  Prior to the introduction of the 2020 syllabus, the subject 090 Communications was examined in two separate exams: 091 VFR Communications and 092 IFR Communications, and IR candidates were required to sit only the latter. However, they are now combined in a single exam.


When you have completed each module you may attempt the examinations at a UK CAA or EASA Examination Centre depending on what licence you are looking to achieve. You must register with your chosen authority once you are ready to book the exams, fees are payable at the time of booking. You could sit your exams with any EASA Aviation Authority if you are aiming for an EASA licence.

We are a UK CAA  and an EASA (Austro Control) examination centre so, subject to availability, you could sit your exams at our examination centre.


If you have already been issued with a CPL, you are exempt from Meteorology, Human Performance and Communications*

If you are adding an IR to your ATPL(H), you are exempt from doing Instrumentation, Meteorology, Human Performance and Communications*.

*  Prior to the introduction of the 2020 exams, you would have been exempted only 091 VFR Communications.  EASA are clear that the exemption now applies to 090 Communications.  However, the UK CAA advice is ambiguous. We are seeking clarification of this point but, until we have an answer, if you hold a UK CPL or ATPL(H) and are seeking to add an IR to your rating, we recommend that you ask the CAA for advice.

How long will the Instrument Rating course take to complete?

Your IR theory course with Bristol Groundschool will usually take around four to six months to complete.

ATPdigtal records your progress with a series of short quizzes at the end of each lesson (which require 100% to pass), as well as larger progress tests to conclude each topic. ATPdigital automatically sends us the results and our instructors are available throughout the process to provide all the support you will need.

Visa Requirements for the Instrument Rating

If you are travelling to the UK from outside the EU, please note that Bristol Groundschool courses do not qualify for a student visa. You must therefore ensure that you can gain entry into the UK before applying for the course and exams. For further information on visas, please visit the UK Border Agency website.

IR Distance Learning Course Fees

To register for our IR distance learning courses, simply purchase online. You will have the option of paying for your course online by credit or debit card, by bank transfer, cheque or with a credit card on the telephone. You may pay online in GBP or your own currency; a conversion will be made at checkout. Payment by other methods must be made in GBP. The fees for the various options are calculated before checkout.

* Shipping charges will depend on your location

Once your registration has been processed, your learning materials will be immediately dispatched to your address by courier.

IR (A or H) Approved Course     IR (A or H) Non-Approved Course    CB-IR Approved Course