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Tips & advice

How to pass your driving theory test

Practice makes perfect in the driving theory test, so get up to speed before you book your test online

Theory test

So you're eager to pass your driving test. Your lessons are booked and you're getting experience behind the wheel, but one major hurdle you must overcome before taking your practical test is the theory test.

While the original theory test was a pencil and paper affair, the current exam is done via a touchscreen with multiple choice answers. You can book a theory test online, as long as you already have your provisional licence, although there's no point in booking the test unless you're confident that you can score the 86 per cent required to pass.

That's just the score you need on the multiple-choice Q&A section. After that, you've still got to pass the hazard perception test, which features 14 video clips that require you to click on hazards as soon as they appear on screen.

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However, with enough practice under your belt, and our comprehensive guide to help you pass your driving theory test first time around, the theory exam shouldn’t be as daunting as it might sound.

So read on for a full explanation of the driving theory test itself, what you need to do to pass first time, and what happens next once you've aced it! There’s also a separate guide on the hazard perception test, too.

What is the driving theory test?

The UK driving theory test is the second step towards gaining your full driving licence, after you've applied for and received your provisional licence. You must be 17 years of age before you can take the test, although if you qualify for the Personal Independence Payment, then you can start from your 16th birthday. 

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The theory test must be passed before you can book a practical test, and it aims to test your knowledge of the Highway Code and driving in the UK. The questions are based on official Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) guides: The Official Highway Code, Know Your Traffic Signs and The Official DVSA Guide To Driving.

Around the Internet, and you'll find plenty of mock theory tests, including officially sanctioned Government tests. The majority of these are free, and will be useful to get used to how the test is structured and what to expect. 

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To take a theory test, you must book in advance at an approved driving theory test centre. At the end of the test, you will receive your results and, if you pass, a certificate, which is valid for two years. If you do not pass your practical driving test within two years of passing your theory test, then you will have to retake the theory test.

How to book a theory test?

A theory test can be booked by logging onto the Government’s online booking service (https://www.gov.uk/book-theory-test). In order to confirm booking you will need three things:

  • A valid provisional driving license number
  • A credit or debit card to pay the fee required
  • An email address. If you don’t have one you will have to book your test by phone. 

To book a theory test by phone you can call the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency on 0300 200 1122.

Your pass certificate lasts for two years. During that time you must take your driving test, otherwise you’ll have to pass the theory test again.

How much is a theory test?

Taking your theory test will cost £23. Unlike a driving test, the price is fixed and does not change if it is taken on an evening, weekend or bank holiday. If you fail your theory test you can rebook at the same price. 

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If you're taking a motorcycle test, then the fee is the same, while the three tests for lorry and bus drivers to gain their Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) are £26 for the theory test, £11 for the hazard perception test and £23 for the case studies section.

At the test centre, you will need your provisional photocard driving licence with you. If you have a paper licence, you need to have your signed driving licence and a valid passport in order to take the test. If, for some reason, you don't have these, either update your licence to a photocard licence or get a passport. If not, you won't be able to take your test!

In terms of pass rates, the driving theory test currently sits at a disappointing 50.7 per cent, a figure that’s decreased consistently in recent years.

Driving theory test: how it works and how to pass

To pass the driving theory test, you will need to pass the multiple-choice question section and hazard perception test in one go.

For the multiple-choice section, you will be required to answer 50 questions in 57 minutes. These are selected at random from a bank of nearly 1,000 questions – so you could be asked anything! To pass, a minimum score of 43 out of 50 is required. You will receive your score at the end of your test and a certificate if you have passed.

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If you have a Safe Road User Award, an ‘abridged’ theory test can be taken. This costs less at £19 and requires the candidate to pass 30 out of 35 questions correctly. The hazard perception part is the same as the standard theory test.

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While most questions are multiple choice, some come in the form of a case study, whereby you will be given a particular situation and then required to answer five questions following it. These will focus on real-life situations that a driver could come across when driving.

How to pass your theory test: official DVSA video

Driving theory test: sample questions

Here are three example questions that represent what you can expect to find in the UK driving theory test, taken from an official online theory test practice:

1) You get a puncture on the motorway. You manage to get your vehicle onto the hard shoulder. You should:

a) Only change the wheel if you have a passenger to help you, b) Change the wheel yourself immediately, c) Try to wave down another vehicle for help, d) Use the emergency telephone and call for assistance

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2) You want to reverse into a side road. You are not sure that the area behind your car is clear. What should you do?

a) Check the mirrors only, b) Carry on, assuming it is clear, c) Look through the rear window only, d) Get out and check

3) You wish to park facing downhill. Which TWO of the following should you do?

a) Put the handbrake on firmly, b) Park close to the bumper of another car, c) Turn the steering wheel away from the kerb, d) Park with two wheels on the kerb, e) Turn the steering wheel towards the kerb

In the test you will be asked to select an answer. In some cases (as above) you will be required to select more than one answer, which will be indicated to you clearly and in capitals. You can skip questions you’re unsure of and come back to them once you’ve answered the rest.

Driving theory test: our five top tips 

  1. Take a practice test before the real thing – there are plenty online
  2. Remember both parts of your driving licence – you’ll have to do the test another time and pay for it again
  3. Be mindful of time limits – this applies to both multiple choice and hazard perception sections
  4. Know what kinds of question you may be asked – question styles and responses can vary
  5. READ the questions more than once – you don’t want to misunderstand what's being asked and lose marks 

Driving theory test: what happens next?

Following the multiple choice section of the driving theory test is the hazard perception test. In short, it aims to test a driver’s ability to be aware of dangers and potential risks whilst driving. You are allowed a three-minute break in between these two, or you can just go straight on to the hazard perception test.

Once you've passed the theory test, you're only a practical driving test away from a lifetime on the road...

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