Failed the theory exam? Don't panic!

Lesson Type
Last updated: 27 Sep 2019

We can all remember, or are still experiencing, exams and those terrifying words: ‘turn over your papers’. They strike fear into hearts. To pass any exam you have to know your stuff, and the only way to do that is to get your head down and study. That applies to the theory test as much as any other exam.


When it comes to learning to drive, some people find that they can get all the practical things right and feel confident during their driving lessons, but they have problems with the theory element. Being able to control a car properly is essential but imagine the mayhem on the roads if no one knew the theory!

Do your homework thoroughly to prepare for the exam so that you don’t just freeze up or make a stream of errors. If you’ve failed, what do you need to know to help you get through it successfully in the future?

What the rules say

The good news is that you can take the theory test as many times as you like. You can book another test as soon as you discover that you’ve failed, but you will have to wait three days before taking it again. This is something most candidates find helpful, as it gives them time to think about what went wrong, to do more studying and to psych themselves up for another attempt.

If you think that dyslexia or another disability could have affected how you performed in the test, make sure you raise this before booking another one. You may be able to get assistance to work around your difficulties.

Dealing with exam fears

If you think that the pressure of taking the exam is making it harder, there are things you can do. If you have this problem don’t bottle it up, talking about it to a friend can make it much easier to deal with.

Taking practice tests – which you can do online – can help to make it less intimidating. As most people get more nervous when their blood sugar is low, you may also find that it helps to eat a carbohydrate rich meal – containing cereal, bread, pasta or rice – about an hour before the test starts.

Studying for the exam

The most positive thing you can do to prepare for a second attempt is to try to work out why you failed and work on improving those specific areas.

Unfortunately the system doesn’t give any feedback on why you have failed, you will just receive a print out with the good or bad news. More reading is necessary but will only help if the information is sinking in, so make sure you study at times of day when you’re feeling fully alert.

Getting a friend to ask you random questions from the books can help get you in the habit of retrieving the facts you’ve learned quickly. Or you can download our free theory app, which comes with hazard perception questions too, to hone your knowledge.

Make sure you don’t leave studying until the night before the test. This can actually make it harder to remember key facts. Try to have a relaxing evening and a good night’s sleep.

You can do it!

If, despite your best efforts, you fail again, don’t despair. It’s likely that you’re far from the worst candidate around. Only half of those who take the test on any one occasion are successful in passing it, and one lady in London has failed it an incredible 110 times! See, there is hope for you yet. Some people still manage to pass after 30 or 40 attempts, so it is worth persevering – just make sure you’re fully prepared and you’ll breeze it.