A guide to the theory test

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A guide to the questions you'll face in your theory test and the hazard perception test. Find out how to revise for your theory test and what mark you'll need to pass

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Driving is a lot more complicated than just knowing which peddle to press. An integral part of learning how to drive is knowing how to be safe on the road, being aware of traffic signals, identifying approaching hazards and knowing how to deal with them.

This is where the theory test comes in. In the past, candidates were asked questions from the Highway Code during their practical test, however, since July 1996, there has been a formal theory test in place. But what is it, and how can you ensure that you pass?

What is the theory test?

The theory test is an examination which must be passed in order to be able to obtain a full driving licence. From the age of 17 you will be eligible to take a theory test, providing you hold a provisional licence. 

What does the theory test consist of?

There are two components to the theory test: a multiple-choice section and a hazard perception. Each part will test you on different skills, and the pass mark is:

Multiple choice: 43 out of 50 Hazard perception: 44 out of 75

How can I prepare for the theory test?

Multiple choice

You will have 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple-choice questions. Before the test begins, there will be a number of practice questions to get you settled.

Throughout the test, you’re able to flag any questions that you’re unsure of and you can come back to them at a later date.

The best way to revise for this part of the test is to buy a DVSA-approved resource, whether that be the book or the smartphone app. The only way to be fully prepared for the multiple-choice questions is by learning the material – guess-work isn’t good enough!

Some questions may be presented in the form of a case-study – this is a short story containing a real scenario that you may encounter while you are driving. For example: 

“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 be asked five multiple-choice questions based on this scenario.

Hazard perception

The hazard perception section includes 14 video clips which feature 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, such as a change of 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. Every clip has one developing hazard, but one clip will have two.

To score points, you will need to click the mouse as soon as you see the hazard developing. If you click as soon as it develops then you will score five points, but this decreases the later you notice it.

In the meantime, make sure you utilise the practice theory tests on the DVSA website, and check out our guide on common theory test mistakes and how to avoid them

Do I need to start driving lessons before I take a theory test?

It helps to have had some driving practice, but this is not essential. 

Where is my local theory test centre?

You can find the theory centre that is closest to you here.

What documents should I take for the theory test?

You will need to bring your UK photo card provisional licence along with you. Without this, you will not be able to sit the theory test and you will lose your money. 

Don’t worry about bringing along a pen or paper, as everything is done electronically. There will be lockers available at the test centre for you to store your personal belongings. 

Is the theory test hard? 

The theory test is only difficult if you're not ready. The hardest theory questions are the ones you don't prepare for, so read our tips to make sure you're ready.

  • Leave plenty of time before the test to revise. The theory test is not something you can wing, as there are some facts and the figures that you’ll need to know
  • Make the most of the free resources available online 
  • Be careful how you answer the hazard perception section – don’t click in a pattern, as the computer will pick up on this
  • Unfortunately, you only have one chance at each question, so think carefully before submitting your answer. If you’re unsure, flag the question and come back to it later

What happens if I fail my theory test?

If you fail your theory test first time, don’t panic. You can re-take the test as many times as you like, but you must have passed it in order to sit the practical part of the test. Click here to re-book your theory.

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