Tips On Passing Your Theory Test
An introduction to the UK driving theory test
The theory test is an essential part of learning to drive. You must pass a test consisting of two sections - a multiple choice test and a hazard perception test - before you can take the practical test and get your full car driving licence. You take both parts of the theory test at the same time, and have to pass both.
The multiple choice test. This is based on the rules of the road, set by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
For any tests from 14 April 2020 and after, the multiple choice part of the test will be slightly different. Before then, you read a case study and answer five questions. From 14 April 2020, you will watch one video clip and answer three questions about it. You can watch the video as many times as you need to. It's designed to make the test more accessible, as you'll be shown the case study, rather than having to read about it.
Everything else about the test is the same, including the style of questions and the pass mark. You can still study the same materials. The hazard perception test isn't changing. For more details about the April 2020 changes, check out the GOV.uk site.
The hazard perception test. Designed to test your ability to observe hazards, this part of the test consists of video clips of driving experiences on the road. They are all filmed from the position of the driver, and you're required to identify any potential hazards which develop by clicking as soon as you see them.
Theory test help
It's natural to get nervous about taking a test. But preparation is key. In 2018-19, the overall pass rate for driving theory tests was 47.3%. Make sure you're among those passing by knowing what the test entails, and how you can prepare.
How long is the theory test?
You take the multiple choice test first, and can have a practice session if you'd like to get used to the system. That lasts 15 minutes, and then you have an additional 57 minutes to complete the actual test. You can flag any questions you aren't sure about, and review them later on. You must complete all questions before moving onto the hazard perception. you're allowed a three-minute break before the second half of the test.
Before you take the hazard perception test, you can watch a short video which explains how it works. This won't take any time away from the actual test, which lasts about 20 minutes.
You'll be shown 14 video clips, all filmed from the vantage of the driving seat. Each clip lasts around 60 seconds, and 13 of them contain one developing hazard. One clip will have two developing hazards. You'll need to click the mouse as soon as you see a developing hazard. To show you the system has registered your click, a red flag appears along the bottom of the screen. This refreshes each time a new video clip starts.
How many questions are there in the theory test?
You'll get 50 questions in the multiple choice part of the theory test. You'll be shown 14 video clips during the hazard perception test.
Pass mark for the theory test
For the 50 questions you'll answer during the multiple choice test, you need to get at least 43 correct to pass.
For the hazard perception test, there's a total of 75 points available. To pass, you need to get at least 44 points. Each hazard is worth a total of five points - the earlier you spot the hazard and click, the higher you score.
You won't lose points if you click at the wrong time, but if you just click continuously in the hope of getting points, you'll get no points for that clip. You can't review your answers either.
You need to pass both the multiple choice test and hazard perception test to pass.
What to take to the theory test
On the day of your test, you need to take your UK photocard driving licence with you. If you only have a paper licence, take a valid passport too. If you have a licence from Northern Ireland, bring both the photocard and paper licence.
If you forget any of these essentials, you won't be able to take the test and you won't get your money back.
It's also worth noting you won't be able to take any personal belongings into the test with you. There are lockers available to store things.
How to revise for the theory test
Everyone wants to pass the theory test first time. The best way of doing that is to revise. The internet is full of tips and tricks, but whatever you do, it will take a bit of time to learn. In fact, the DVSA says you should complete at least 20 hours of revision to prepare yourself for both parts of the test.
Revising for the multiple-choice part
All the information you need to revise for this part of the test is available out there. It's based on three books: The Highway Code, Know your traffic signs, and Driving - The Essential Skills. You can buy these books online, in shops or use online materials. Here's what they focus on:
- The Highway Code. Described as essential reading, all drivers are supposed to follow the rules of this code, with the aim of maximising safety on UK roads. If you don't, you're actually committing a criminal offence and could be fined, get penalty points or even be disqualified from driving.
- Know your traffic signs. Every driver needs to know what all the traffic signs mean. After all, signs are designed to instruct and control the behaviour of all road users. Signs can either give orders, warn or give information.
- Driving - the essential skills. Designed to help people learn, this book has got everything you need to learn about safe driving skills (and riding skills for motorcyclists). This includes case studies and example questions for revision, with official DVSA explanations.
The questions aren't designed to catch you out, rather they will test your knowledge of driving essentials - after all, it's all information you'll need to know to drive safely. This could include what you should do if a certain situation happened, how to react to other driver's behaviour or what certain road signs mean you must do.
Once you've revised for a bit, you might feel ready to take a practice theory test. They won't be the same questions you'll get in the real test, but it's based on the same stuff you should have learnt and is a great way of checking your knowledge.
Here are some example questions from the GOV.uk mock test:
- You're travelling along a motorway and feel tired. Where should you stop to rest?
- On the hard shoulder
- At the nearest service area
- On a slip road
- On the central reservation
- You wish to turn right ahead. Why should you take up the correct position in good time?
- To allow other drivers to pull out in front of you
- To give a better view into the road you're joining
- To help other road users know what you intend to do
- To allow drivers to pass you on the right
Revising for the hazard perception part
The hazard perception test is probably the one people worry about more. First things first, you need to know what you're looking for. Potential hazards could involve other cars, road users or poor road conditions. Everyone needs to be aware of these when driving.
But if that potential hazard becomes something that requires you to take action, it's referred to as a developing hazard. It's your ability to spot these that's tested on the hazard perception test. Common developing hazards could include:
Anyone approaching a zebra crossing
Different road users, such as cyclists or horse riders
Other vehicles pulling out, perhaps forgetting to signal
Parked cars restricting traffic
Traffic joining a dual carriageway
Children leaving school
To revise, you should be looking to improve how you look for clues, how to scan the surroundings and plan how you'd react accordingly. Of course, you can study the types of hazard that may come up, but the best thing to do is to practice with video clips. There are plenty of free tests available online, including the GOV.uk's own.
Theory test tips
Before the test
Use the official materials. To familiarise yourself with the correct wordings and terms used throughout the test, use the recommended materials. After all, it's what the tests are based on, so it's the best place to learn.
Avoid distractions during revision. You really need to dedicate some time to proper revision - and that means no distractions. Use your time wisely.
Use your driving lessons. What better time to test your ability to spot hazards than when you're driving yourself? During your tests, you'll be getting real life practice, along with feedback from a qualified professional.
During the test
Take advantage of the breaks available. There's the opportunity for a three-minute break between the two parts of the test - take that chance for a breather.
Read the questions carefully. It's easy to make stupid mistakes if you don't carefully read what the question is asking you for. We've all been there.
Check your answers. During the multiple choice part, you have the option to skip and return to questions, as well as check them all at the end. If you've got time, do this.
How to book your theory test
Once you feel ready, it's easy to book your theory test online, but you might have to book a couple of weeks in advance. Tests for cars and motorcycles cost £23. There are around 160 test centres nationwide, and they'll ask you to select the one closest to you. Theory tests are taken at a different place to where you will take your practical test, so make sure you check the address on the day.
Before you book, make sure you've got your UK driving licence number (found on the licence), email address and a credit or debit card to hand. These are all needed to book your theory test online. If you don't have an email, don't worry, you just need to call the DVSA theory test booking support on 0300 200 1122.
Most people are excited to start driving, but make sure you do things properly. You must have a provisional driving licence when you're learning. You also need this provisional driving licence to take the theory test. You can only take the test from the day of your 17th birthday and after. As such, there's a recommended timeline of learning to drive, as outlined by GOV.uk:
- Check you're allowed to drive
- Get a provisional licence
- Have driving lessons and practice
- Prepare for your theory test
- Book and take your theory test
- Book and take your driving test
It's worth noting you can take the theory test a year earlier - from your 16th birthday and onwards - if you get the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).