A guide to the theory test

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When I was learning, a lot of people told me I didn’t need to revise for my driving theory test. But for me, preparation was essential.

I’d been driving for a while before I took my theory test so my knowledge of road signs, markings and hazard perception was OK.

I found my driving instructor only briefly spoke about the theory test, but it was mostly up to me to get the information myself.

When it came to booking the theory test, I had the usual bout of nerves but I felt prepared. This is a whistle stop guide to test, what you will encounter and the best materials to use for theory test practice.

Preparation

The government recommends the following books when considering revision materials

  • The Highway Code
  • Know your traffic signs
  • Driving - the essential skills

The test questions are based on these books and can be purchased from most high street shops or online and are very useful to read through for learning your theory.

If you find it difficult to learn in a traditional revision style, you can purchase DVD-ROMS for both the theory test and the hazard perception test from the DVSA website. These DVDs include different theory modules and mock tests.

I preferred this way of learning as the DVDs come with a similar layout to the actual tests, so you become familiar with the format. Being tested after each module helped too, as I found the information stuck with me.

Hazard Perception Test

Before sitting my test I believed the hazard perception section was going to be the easiest part of the theory test. I was quite wrong. Before the test there’s an instructional video on how the test works and then 14 video clips are shown featuring everyday driving scenarios. Your task is to identify developing hazards as soon as you can.  

A developing hazard is something that would require you to take action, like changing direction or speed. For example, if you’re driving and you see a car speeding towards a junction, this might cause you to brake suddenly.

One that can be quite tricky is a parked car at the side of the road; if it remained like this it wouldn’t be a problem, however, if it begins to indicate and moves away you would need to adjust your speed. Every clip has one developing hazard, but one clip will have two.

To score points on your hazard perception, you need to click the mouse as soon as you see the hazard developing. So, using the examples above, as soon as you noticed the car speeding towards the junction you would need to click your mouse.

In the case of the parked car, you would click as soon as you noticed the indicator flashing. If you click the hazard as soon as it develops then you score five points, this decreases the later you notice it. The pass mark for the hazard perception test is 44, so make sure you get plenty of practice in!

Things to remember

  • Don’t just frantically click like a crazed woodpecker
  • Don’t click in a pattern

The computer knows all, and will score you zero if it senses any of this sort of thing. Unfortunately, you only have one chance at each of these questions, so get as much practice in as you can before test day.

The Theory Test

The theory test is made up of multiple choice questions which appear on the computer screen and you have to select the correct answer. Before you start you’ll be given instructions on how the test works as well as some practice questions to settle you in.

You have 57 minutes to answer 50 questions, that’s about 1 minute and 14 seconds per question, if we’re getting really precise.

Sometimes questions can be presented in a case study style – this is a short story containing a real scenario that you may encounter while you are driving, like this one:

“You decide to visit a friend who lives about 20 miles away. The journey will take you on various roads including country lanes and A-roads. You’ve been before so you think you know the way. You also have your mobile phone with you so you can ring for directions if you get lost. During the journey you go the wrong way and need to turn around. Later on you decide to ring your friend to make sure you are still travelling in the right direction.”

You will then receive five multiple choice questions based around this scenario.

One of the good things about the theory test is you can change your answers. My technique was to answer the questions I instantly knew, and then come back to the more difficult questions at the end when I knew I had time to finish them.

You can also flag questions, making it easier to find the questions you wanted to come back to. The pass mark for the multiple choice section of the test is 43, so this element is really useful especially for checking your answers.

Preparing for your theory test

There are loads of resources available online for every sort of learner - from books to DVD-ROMS and even apps for your phone.

Websites like the DVSA's have useful guides and can tell you exactly what you need and how to book your theory test. I would recommend leaving plenty of time to check out all of these resources before applying, that way you’re completely prepared and stand a great chance of passing your theory! 

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