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Driving Theory Test Explained - Money Expert

The theory test quizzes you on your knowledge of the highway code, traffic signs, driving skills and safety and your ability to detect hazards on the road.

Last updated: 05/06/2024 | Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

The driving theory test is a common concern amongst learner drivers, so if you find yourself with lots of questions leading up to it, know that you’re not alone. While it might be daunting to have to study for a test in addition to taking practical driving lessons, spending some time understanding exactly what your driving theory test will be like should help you to be more confident.

In this guide, we’ll answer some of your driving theory test questions and cover associated costs, the duration of the test and what types of questions you can expect to see on it. Hopefully this will leave you feeling a lot more prepared and ready to move further along in your driving journey.

In This Guide:

What is a Driving Theory Test?

A driving theory test is a computer-based assessment that makes up part of the requirements for obtaining a UK driving licence. The purpose of the driving theory test is to make sure you have a solid understanding of the rules of the road, know how to drive safely and are aware of laws that all drivers must adhere to. You can expect the test to quiz you on your knowledge of the highway code, traffic signs, driving skills and safety, as well as your ability to detect hazards on the road.

What does the theory test involve?

The theory test for cars and motorcycles consists of two parts: a series of multiple-choice questions and a hazard perception test. Both sections are completed on a computer at an official DVSA Theory Test centre.

Multiple choice section

In the multiple-choice section, you'll be asked questions about what to do in specific driving situations, how to handle accidents on the road, what certain road signs mean, and about driving regulations and laws, including surrounding car insurance and MOT.

Hazard perception

In the hazard perception test for cars and motorcycles, you’ll be shown 14 one-minute video clips. The clips feature everyday road scenes, filmed from the perspective of a driver. In each scene, you have to identify at least one and up to two developing hazards. Developing hazards are something that would cause you to take action on the road, such as changing speed or direction. 

These hazards could include cars entering traffic from an adjoining road, a car ahead stopping suddenly, a parked car with an indicator flashing, pedestrians crossing the road, or a cyclist entering the driver’s lane while manoeuvring around a stopped vehicle. You’ll receive up to five points for identifying each hazard, with the most points given the quicker you spot one and click your mouse or touch the screen. 

How Long Does a Theory Test Last?

A driving theory test typically lasts around 1 hour and 20 minutes, but many people finish it sooner in around an hour. For the multiple-choice questions, you’ll have a maximum of 57 minutes, meaning the remaining time is spent on the hazard perception test, which will be between 15-20 minutes. You will also be allowed to have a 3-minute break after you’ve finished the multiple-choice questions if you’d like.

How Many Questions Are There in a Driving Theory Test?

You will be given 50 multiple-choice questions on your driving theory test and 14 hazard perception videos that will have a varying number of hazards to spot.

What Is the Pass Mark for a Driving Theory Test?

Out of the 50 multiple-choice questions, you will need 86% to pass, or 43 correct answers. For the hazard perception test, you will need 44 marks out of the total 75, which is just over 58%. You must pass both sections of your driving theory test to pass overall.

Do I Need to Take the Driving Theory Test?

Yes, to obtain a UK driving licence you must pass the theory test. This is the case if you’re trying to obtain a licence for a car, motorcycle, lorry or bus, with individual theory tests for the different licence types.

Passing your theory test isn't enough to get you on the road alone, though. You also need to pass your practical driving test before you can go out driving by yourself.

How Long Is the Driving Theory Test Valid For?

Once you have your theory test pass certificate in hand, it lasts for two years, during which time you must pass the practical test or you’ll have to sit the theory exam again.

How Old Do I Need to Be to Take a Driving Theory Test?

You need to be at least 17 years old to take your driving theory test. However, if you want to start studying ahead of your 17th birthday, you can apply for your provisional licence three months before.

How Much Does a Driving Theory Test Cost?

A driving theory test costs £23. The fee is the same no matter when you take the test. This is separate from the £62 fee for the practical driving test (or £75 for evenings, weekends and bank holidays).

How Do I Book My Driving Theory Test?

If you’re in England, Scotland or Wales, you can book your theory test through the government’s website.

In addition to being 17 years old, you must have lived in England, Scotland or Wales for at least 185 days in the last 12 months before the day you take your theory test.

When you book online, you’ll be required to enter your UK driving licence number, email address, and credit or debit card (to pay the £23 fee).

There is a separate service to book your theory test in Northern Ireland.

What Should I Bring to My Driving Theory Test?

You will need to bring your photocard driving licence (provisional driving licence) to your theory test. If you’re in Northern Ireland, you’ll also need your licence’s paper counterpart. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of the email that confirms your test booking.

Keep in mind that any personal belongings you bring with you will have to be stored in a locker, including your mobile phone. Don’t keep any revision materials on you, as the test centre staff will check that you don’t have anything that could allow you to cheat on the test.

How Do I Pass my Driving Theory Test First Time?

You may think the theory test is intuitive, but in 2018-19 just 47.4% of learner drivers passed the test. This means most learners have to take the test at least twice. 

To get your licence as quickly as possible and to limit your expenses, you’ll want to pass on your first time. Here are our best tips on how to pass your theory test:

  • Study: the best material to study from is the Official DVSA Theory Test handbook. It includes materials on which the test is based, example questions and helpful tips. Your theory test will include a random selection of questions from a bank of 1,000, so you need to have a good grasp of the material. Some driving instructors suggest you spend at least 20 hours revising for the theory test, but this will depend on how quickly you grasp new information.
  • Take mock tests: You’ll find example questions in the theory test handbook. You can find other mock tests for free online and use these to test your knowledge and preparation for the test.
  • Practise for the hazard perception test: You can also find example hazard perception videos online and practise with them too.
  • Use the practice time: When you get to the test centre, you’ll have up to 15 minutes before the test begins to familiarise yourself with the touch screen and layout of the questions. Take this time and if something doesn’t work right, raise it with staff.
  • Flag difficult questions: You have 57 minutes to answer the 50 multiple-choice questions. If one stumps you, you can hit the flag button. This allows you to answer other questions and return to this one later.
  • Use the break: You get a three-minute break between the two sections of the test. Use this to take a deep breath, stand up stretch and refocus for the hazard perception test.

What Happens Once I Pass My Driving Theory Test?

You receive your results at the testing centre shortly after you’ve finished both sections. If you’ve passed, you’ll receive a letter with your pass certificate number. You’ll need this number when you book your practical test, so keep it safe. You will then have two years to pass your practical driving test before your theory test expires and you need to retake it.

Can I Retake My Driving Theory Test If I Fail?

Yes, you can retake your driving theory test if you don’t pass the first time, but you’ll need to wait a minimum of three working days before you can try again. There’s no limit to the number of times you can retake the theory test, but you will need to pay the fee each time you attempt it.

Passing your driving theory test can take a lot of hard work and preparation, but it’s important to remember that you’re more than capable. Spend as much time as you need practising, reach out to friends and family for support, and try to stay calm on the day of the test.


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