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How to pass your theory test

Last updated: 11/03/2022 | Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

So you’re a learner driver and are looking to get on the road! Nice one.

Getting behind the wheel is both exciting and scary - you may already be looking for cheap car insurance for your new motor. But before you do that – and before you can even book your practical driving test – you’ll need to know the theory to safely apply those practical skills.

This guide will explain what’s involved in the driving theory test, and what you can do to best prepare yourself for a pass.

In This Guide:

What is the driving theory test?

In time, the mechanical side of driving vehicles becomes more natural and automatic – it’s muscle memory. Yet your brain never stops working to ensure you do it safely. This is what the theory test is for. It’s an intensive exam, and knowing what to expect is the first step to ensuring success.

Your theory test entails understanding traffic signs, being able to detect hazards and being familiar with the Highway Code. It also assesses your comprehension of maintaining a vehicle that’s safe to drive.

In a nutshell, it makes certain that you keep yourself and others safe on the road, and ensures you comply with legal obligations. If you are looking for more information, you can find out even more about the ins and outs of the theory test here.

What’s involved in a theory test?

It’s a two-part test taken on a computer, made up of multiple choice questions and an interactive assessment to test your hazard perception.

  1. Multiple choice questions test the theory – that’s the Highway Code and the rules of the road. We’ll talk more in depth about the format later.
  2. Hazard perception assesses your ability to take react to any hazards when driving a vehicle and take appropriate action. A hazard is anything that can cause harm to you or others.

In this component you’ll be shown 14 one-minute video clips which include at least 1 potential, developing or actual hazard, and you’ll need to identify them. These could be, to name but a few:

  • Someone getting out of a parked car
  • A cyclist close to your vehicle
  • A large vehicle blocking your view
  • A sudden break from a vehicle in front
  • A pedestrian crossing the road

How many marks do you need to pass the theory test?

The multiple choice component is marked out of 50, and you’ll need to answer at least 43 questions correctly in order to pass. You can return to questions if you’re unsure, but bear in mind you have only 57 minutes to answer them all.

For each hazard perception video you’re shown, you’re given a time limit to identify the potential hazard and the faster you respond, the more points you get (up to a maximum of 5). You do this by clicking on the hazard with your computer mouse. 75 points are on offer for 15 hazards, and you’ll need a score of at least 44 to pass this bit.

How do I take a driving theory test?

To take your theory test, you must be at least 17 years old and have lived in England, Scotland or Wales for at least 185 days of the past year. 

Once you’ve received your provisional licence and got clued up on all the theory, you’ll need to book a test, which costs £23. You can book online, but the test must be taken at an official DVSA Theory Test Centre. You must take your licence with you to the centre.

How to prepare for your driving test – top tips

So, you’ve paid the fee and made your booking. You now want to ensure you’re prepared as can be so you can be one step closer to getting your wheels on the road!

The more work you put in, the more likely you’ll pass, so recognise that passing the driving theory test takes a commitment to learning.

Heed our top tips for getting that pass rate:

Revise and practice

  • Grab yourself a copy of the DVLA Handbook: Your all-in-one guide to what you’re tested from the Highway Code to vehicle safety. Ask friends or family to test you on questions. If books are less your thing, then there are a range of theory test apps available to download too.
  • On the road: When travelling as a passenger in a vehicle, look out for hazards. Check in with your driver to see if you’re right, and if they spotted it too!
  • Practice makes perfect: There are heaps of mock tests online for both the multiple choice and hazard perception components, so spend time practising, practising and then practising some more.

On the day

  • Don’t be rushed: Ensure you know when your appointment is and leave plenty of time to settle and mentally prepare when you arrive.
  • Check you’ve got your provisional licence: Without it, you can’t take your test.
  • Use the practice time: You’ll get 15 minutes before your exam starts to become familiar with how the computer works. Have a play around and raise any issues with a representative ahead of time.
  • Triple check your answers: The multiple choice component allows you to flag and return to any questions you’re unsure of, so work through the ones you’re confident on and don’t be afraid to revisit them later.
  • Take advantage of the break: It’s only 3 minutes, but take a breather after your multiple choice test to grab some water, look away from the screen and refocus (do some affirmations if that helps!).
  • Stay calm: Everyone who drives a vehicle has gone through this too and has all had the same worries.

What happens if you fail the theory test?

We know how devastating it is to not get the result you want – especially if you’re feeling pressure to pass. But take it as a learning experience. Remember, around half of people don’t pass their theory test the first time – and that’s okay! The test is designed to ensure you can become a safe and proficient driver, so even if you fail, you’ll be more prepared for the next one.

Unfortunately, even if you’re a whizz with the practical side of things, you’ll need to book your test and pay the fee again before you can take your actual driving test. This’ll need to be at least three days after your initial test. So be calm, focused and get clued up – you’ve got this!

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