Your guide to passing the driving theory test
Less than half of theory tests were passed in 2017-18.
This comprehensive Theory Test Guide are here to fix that.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- A breakdown of the 2019 theory test
- Booking your theory test
- On the day of your theory test
- Top tips for the theory test
- Results and what to do next
A breakdown of the 2020 theory test
The theory test examines you on the rules of the road and the skills you’ll need as a qualified driver. It’s split into two halves: first a multiple choice exam and then a hazard perception test.
The multiple choice questions
In the multiple choice section, you must answer 50 questions in 57 minutes. There is no time limit on individual questions. You need at least 43 correct answers to pass this section. The questions will be drawn from the information in three books, which are essential reading:
Each question will appear with a set of possible answers, and up to 5 questions will be drawn from a case study designed to reflect a real-life driving situation.
The topics that could come up include:
- Vehicle safety
- Hazard awareness
- Vulnerable road users
- Other types of vehicle
- Road conditions and vehicle handling
- Motorway driving
- Essential documents
- Incidents, accidents and emergencies
- Vehicle loading
This is not an exhaustive list and no two theory tests are the same. Each test draws its questions from a bank of questions held by the DVSA, all devised around the books mentioned.
The hazard perception test
In the hazard perception test, you will be played 14 video clips of everyday road scenes. Click when you spot the start of a developing hazard. You’ll score up to 5 points based on the speed of your timing. You need to score at least 44 out of 75 to pass. If you click continuously or in a pattern you will score 0 for the clip. Each clip will only be shown once.
A developing hazard is anything that could force you to perform an action like breaking or steering while driving. The DVSA provides a good example:
“A car is parked at the side of the road and isn’t doing anything. It wouldn’t cause you to take action, so it’s not a developing hazard.
When you get closer, the car’s right-hand indicator starts to flash and it starts to move away. You’d need to slow down, so it’s now a developing hazard."
One clip will feature two developing hazards, and the rest will have just one.
Booking your theory test
When to book
Take a couple of mock tests to get an idea of whether you’re ready to book your theory test. If you’re passing them all with flying colours, it’s time to book. If you’re still failing tests, it’s worth holding off from booking until you’re confident of passing, as each attempt at the theory test costs £23.
For 95% of people, the waiting time for a theory test is two weeks or under. However, it can occasionally be longer at some test centres, so bear that in mind when you’re thinking of booking.
How to book
To book your theory test, visit GOV.UK or call 0300 200 1122.
You’ll need your driving licence number to hand which you can find on line 5 of your provisional driving photocard licence, and you’ll need to pay £23 when you book.
If you have reading difficulties, a disability, or a health condition then there are various levels of support that can be arranged for your theory test, providing you notify the DVSA when you book. You can find out more at GOV.UK.
If you wish to change or cancel a booking you must provide the DVSA with 3 clear working days’ notice or you will be charged.
If you’re not sure where your nearest theory test centre is, check the DVSA’s database.
On the day of your theory test
What to bring
All you need to bring is your provisional licence. You do not need to bring your booking reference with you.
When to arrive
You’re expected to arrive 15 minutes before the start of your test. If you arrive late you will not be permitted to take the exam and your fee will not be reimbursed. Plan your journey accordingly and make sure you know where your test centre is, so you can arrive in ample time.
Once you’ve arrived
When you arrive at the test centre, register with the administrator by presenting them with your provisional driving licence. They will check your details and confirm your test.
You will be asked to put personal items such as bags, phones, watches or headphones into a locker as these items cannot be brought into the exam.
When it’s time to take your test you will be escorted to the exam room and shown to your computer. Dividers will block out the other candidates around you, and like school examinations, silence is required.
Top tips for the theory test
Like with any exam, before you begin the theory test it's important to try to relax. Being overly stressed or nervous can hinder your performance.
2. Do the practice questions
Once you’re at the computer, you will have the option to take five practice questions before beginning the multiple choice exam. These are a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with the computer and relax into the exam, so we suggest you don’t skip them.
3. Flag difficult questions and come back to them later
If you can’t answer a question during the multiple choice section, use the flag feature to mark it and come back to it at the end of your test. With 50 questions in 57 minutes, you have 68 seconds per question, so you don’t want to waste time on a question you can’t answer.
4. Use the process of elimination
If you really don’t know the answer to one of the multiple choice questions, use a process of elimination to remove any answer options you know are wrong. Reducing the number of possible answers may help you spot the right one, and at the very least will improve your chances of a correct guess.
5. Take the three-minute break
After completing the multiple choice section, there’s the option of a three-minute break before beginning the hazard perception test. We’d recommend taking it to relax and refocus.
6. Use the hazard perception practice clip
You will be given a practice opportunity before beginning the hazard perception test. It’s optional, but we'd recommend completing it to get you in the flow for the questions to come.
Top tips for the hazard perception
- Click as soon as you spot a developing hazard
- Don’t click continuously or in a pattern
- Don’t forget that one clip will feature two developing hazards
Results and what to do next
You will receive your results in the test centre after your test. Sometimes this is immediately, but if the test centre is busy there could be a short wait.
If you pass
Congratulations! You will receive a letter with your pass certificate number, which you’ll need to book your practical driving test.
Your theory test ‘pass’ is valid for two years. If you don’t pass your practical test during this time, you will need to resit the theory test and pass it again before you can take the practical driving test.
If you fail
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will receive a letter showing the areas where you didn’t score enough points. You’ll have to wait a minimum of three working days before you can retake your theory test. However, some test centres are quite busy so you may have to wait a little longer.
Before you retake your test, make sure to use your results breakdown to brush up on the areas that let you down.
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