Driving theory test

It's never too early to start studying for your driving theory test, but with so much information available it can be hard to know where to begin.

Here, we explain the ins and outs of a driving theory test and offer some handy revision tips to help you prepare for the big day.

The test

To become a fully qualified driver, not only must you prove you're safe behind the wheel, but also that you know the rules of the road. The theory test assesses whether you're competent at driving to the Highway Code, reading road signs and spotting potential hazards, and you need to pass to be able to take your practical test.

There are two parts to the theory test: multiple choice and hazard perception. Tests are carried out on a computer at a dedicated test centre and you've got to pass both parts in order to pass the test. If you fail one section but pass the other, you'll have to re-take the entire test again.

Part 1. Multiple choice

The first section of the test is multiple choice. You've got 57 minutes to answer 50 questions, and you need to get 43 or more correct answers to pass. Some of the questions require multiple answers.

You'll have just over a minute to answer each question, so take your time and don't rush. Read each question a couple of times before answering, and flag any you aren't sure about. It's really important to re-read every question and your answer before moving to the next one.

Once you've completed the multiple choice section, you'll be given the option to take a quick break before the second part of the test.

Part 2. Hazard perception

For the hazard perception section, you'll be shown 14 short video clips which feature 'everyday' road scenes. Using your mouse, you'll be required to click whenever you spot a potential hazard developing — a hazard being anything that would make you stop, change direction or alter your speed. You can score up to five points for each clip and the earlier you spot the hazard, the more points you'll get. You need a minimum of 44 marks out of a possible 75 to pass this section of the test.

There are two important things to bear in mind when taking the hazard perception test. The first is that one of the clips will have two developing hazards instead of just one, so be on your guard. Secondly, clicking erratically in the hope that you'll 'spot' the hazard nice and early won't work and you'll most likely be disqualified from the question and score no points.

Revision resources and tips

Unfortunately, there's not a book out there which contains all possible questions and their answers. That's because the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) want you to fully understand the subjects, and not just memorise a set of questions and answers! Nevertheless, there's a wealth of resources available containing all the information you need to pass your theory test, such as:

  • The Highway Code — Before sitting your theory test, you need to learn the Highway Code. You can access the latest edition for free via the UK Government website. If you buy a printed copy, be sure that it's an official version from the DSA or Department for Transport (DfT).
  • Traffic signs — As part of your theory test, you'll need to identify what different traffic signs mean. Again, all the information you need can be found on the gov.uk website. You can also download a PDF file or buy a copy of the book.
  • Safe Driving for Life — This website offers a complete range of official DSA theory test books for all types of vehicle. This website also offers a free practice theory test for drivers. There's no hazard perception test, though the Official DVSA Guide to Hazard Perception DVD can help you prepare.

These useful resources will give you a good understanding of driving theory. Here are some other things to bear in mind whilst revising:

  • You don't need to have your head in a book to be revising for your theory test. Say what road signs mean as you pass them, look out for hazards, and ask your instructor to quiz you on the Highway Code.
  • Remember, practice makes perfect! Keep testing yourself on what you've learned by taking multiple mock tests.
  • Don't cram in loads of studying the night before the big day, as you won't retain the information. Instead, make sure you get an early night so you wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go. You might have butterflies in your stomach, but it's important to eat a hearty, healthy breakfast before you set off.
  • Sitting a theory test can be a nerve-wracking experience. On the day, make sure you leave your home nice and early as you don't want the worry of being late making you more stressed. Make sure you take your provisional licence with you as you'll need to show it when you arrive at the test centre.

If you fail your test, don't feel too disheartened. According to the latest theory test data from the Government, between April 2014 and March 2015 the national pass rate was 49.6%, meaning more people fail than pass. You'll receive feedback on the questions you answered incorrectly which will allow you to identify areas for improvement. You have to wait a minimum of three working days to take the test again.

If you pass your test, great! You'll receive a certificate as proof and will be able to book your practical test. Your theory certificate lasts for two years, so you'll need to pass your driving test within that timeframe or you'll need to re-sit the theory test.

To give yourself the best chance of passing your practical test first time and avoiding sitting the theory test again, see our list of practical driving test tips.

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