At DiRAC, we believe one of our most important responsibilities is to offer our community comprehensive training. We have a responsibility to make sure that our HPC resources are used as efficiently as possible and we have an even greater duty of care to make sure you are well trained in advanced IT techniques and are confident in using them.

Essentials Level Training Overview

The DiRAC Essentials Level Training (formerly the Driving Licence), is a basic introduction to the principles of HPC and the tools needed to work on an HPC system. Once you have completed the course you will be able to do more science of higher impact (and we hope you will have more fun as well!). And if we have a well-trained cohort we can invest in much more powerful equipment that is much closer to the bleeding edge and so allow you to generate the new high impact results that will let you and your group to be seen as leaders in your field.

It will also make you much more employable. Real programming and IT skills are making a big comeback both in Academia and Industry. We need to equip you with these skills to improve your career progression. In short, we are trying to create a virtuous circle that will benefit both you, your science and your group’s scientific reputation.

Essentials Level Content

The Essentials Training assumes a familiarity with desktop computers, but no programming, Linux or HPC experience is required. For our users who have a small amount of existing knowledge from undergraduate experience the material is intended to refresh prior knowledge and in some cases, fill in any gaps.  We have seven generic modules and a final module 8 which covers efficiently compiling and running a job on each of our four DiRAC Resources.

The training material for all our modules is presented as a list of links to external sources. There is a vast amount of training material available on the internet, some of which is useful, some of which not so much (!) so we’ve gathered together in one place the links we think will be most helpful to you as you start to use HPC. We have tried to cover the material in both text and video format so there is some overlap, but after working through the modules you will know the Essentials of how to work with, and get the best out of, our HPC systems.

Accessing the Training

We ask all our users to register for an account to get access to our training portfolio. You will also have the option during registration to sign up for direct email alerts for appropriate courses and other training opportunities.

Before you sign up for a Training Account, please take a look at our Data Privacy Policy.

To sign-up for a Training Account, Register Here. If you are a DiRAC User with a SAFE account, we encourage you to use the same username when you register for your Training account.

Once you have registered you can Access the Training Course Content here or through the link in the drop-down ‘Essentials Training’ Menu at the top of the page. 

Essentials Level Test Round: 2021/22

The 2021/22 test round opened on the 17th November 2021 and closed on the 28th February.

The Essentials Level training culminates in a short on-line test – the training material provided covers all aspects of HPC competency that are included in the test.

The Essentials Level Test is mandatory for those who are studying for advanced degrees, such as M.Sc. and Ph.D., and those employed as Post-Doctoral Research Assistants/Associates who have less than two years HPC experience.

The test is graded as follows: 

  • Pass: 70% – the examinee completed the exam successfully
  • Conditional pass: 60-69% – the examinee did not complete the entire exam successfully, but it is believed they are capable of doing so.  They will have three months to re-take the exam and pass.
  • No pass: 59% and below – the examinee was clearly unable to complete the exam on their own. They will be offered additional help by the Director.

Once you have registered you can Access the Test here or from the link in the drop-down ‘Essentials Training’ Menu at the top of the page. 

If you have not taken/passed the test by the deadline we will contact you and your supervisor to discuss your case.  At this point, we will be able to arrange further assistance for you so you can pass the test and continue to use DiRAC resources in your research. Failure to take this test may result in you account on all DiRAC facilities being suspended.


Following the test we will ask you to complete a small number of multiple-choice questions designed to assess how useful you found the training and offer you the option to give us feedback and suggestions. If you took the training we encourage you to take the survey so we can improve the content for future generations.  The survey only takes a couple of minutes to complete.

Data Privacy

We use the information from the survey to help us better understand the needs of our user community and to identify areas where we can improve and more closely target our training offering to those needs. Our aim is to continually develop and innovate DiRAC’s training offering as those needs evolve.

The information you give will not be shared with anyone outside our small training team and we will never share your personal contact information with any external organisation. Your responses to the  survey are fully anonymised before any analysis is undertaken.

Before you apply for a Training Account or take the Essentials Level Test, please take a look at our full Data Privacy Policy.

Categories: Level 0 training