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How to pass your driving theory test: five tips

April 18, 2023 by

Our handy guide has everything you need to know about the driving theory test

Once you have applied for your provisional licence, a driving theory and practical driving test will need to be completed before you can receive your full driving licence. To many, the driving theory portion seems like a major speed bump on the way to getting their full driving licence.

It’s a very important component, though, as it’s designed to help you become a safe driver by making you recognise potential hazards and become familiar with the rules of the road.

Knowing what to expect and carrying out the right preparations will turn that driving theory speed bump into a Sunday cruise. Let us show you how.

What is the driving theory test?

The driving theory test is designed to get you familiarised with the rules of the road and to be able to identify and avoid potentially hazardous situations.
The test itself is composed of a multiple-choice theory portion and a hazard perception section. It can be booked once you have your provisional driving licence.

How does the multiple-choice test work?

This portion of the test comprises 50 questions each with four possible answers. The test needs to be completed within 57 minutes. You will need to get 43 answers correct (86%) to pass. You can take a break of up to 3 minutes before commencing with the hazard perception test.

Factors to keep in mind:

  • You can flag questions and return to them later
  • You can go back and change answers
  • You get a chance to do a few practice questions on the day to familiarise yourself with the screens
  • Three of the questions are about a short video. The video can be rewatched as many times as you want

These are the types of questions that you can expect:

How can you use your vehicle’s engine to control your speed?

  • By changing to a lower gear (This is the correct answer)
  • By selecting reverse gear
  • By changing to a higher gear
  • By selecting neutral

You’re in a built-up area at night and the road is well lit. Why should you use dipped headlights?

  • So that you can see further along the road
  • So that you can go at a much faster speed
  • So that you can switch to main beam quickly
  • So that you can be easily seen by others (this is the correct answer)

You take some cough medicine given to you by a friend. What should you do before driving your car?

  • Ask your friend if taking the medicine affected their driving
  • Drink some strong coffee one hour before driving
  • Check the label to see if the medicine will affect your driving (this is the correct answer)
  • Drive a short distance to see if the medicine is affecting your driving

There are several free online mock driver theory multiple-choice tests you can do to practice. The DVSA’s mock test is a good place to start.

How does the hazard perception test work?

This part of the test requires you to watch 14 videos where you will need to identify developing hazards by clicking on the appropriate area. You will see vehicles parked in precarious areas, cars driving too quickly as they approach a stop street or vehicles merging ahead of you requiring preventative action. You will need to get a score of 44 out of 75 to pass; our in-depth guide to the hazard perception test has more details.

Factors to keep in mind:

  • Identifying the hazard immediately will net you five points, the longer you take the fewer points you get
  • Clicking in the wrong place won’t lose you points
  • Clicking continuously or in a pattern will not score you any points
  • The test lasts 20 minutes – you cannot go back and redo any of the videos
  • One clip has two hazards that need to be identified, the rest have one

You can watch this video released by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) which goes into more detail about what to expect during this portion of the test. There are various free online mock hazard perception tests you can do to practice. Start with this one offered by the DVSA.

How many marks do I need to pass my driving theory test?

You will need to get 86% of the answers correct in the multiple-choice test, this means a score of 43 out of 50.

The pass rate for the hazard perception test is 44 out of 75. There are 14 videos with 15 hazards to identify. Getting all of them correct but only clicking on the hazard after a couple of seconds can still net you a total of 45 points.

5 driving theory test tips

Preparation prevents perilously poor performance, as the old adage goes, so to give you the best chances of passing your theory test, here are some handy hints.

1. Take a few mock tests.

Being familiar with the style and format of the theory test will give you a great advantage come the day of the exam, and make it seem less of an alien ordeal. There are a number of free mock tests available online, but we’d advise you starting with the resources available via Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s Safer Driving For Life website, which includes mock multiple choice questions, as well as mock hazard perception assessments.

2. Timing is important

You have one hour and 20 minutes to take the theory test, of which 57 minutes are reserved for the multiple-choice questions, and 20 minutes for the hazard-perception section, with an optional three-minute break in between. Bear these timings in mind when taking your mock tests, noting if you spend more time on questions from any one particular area. If you do, this is probably where you should be directing your test revision.

3. Bring theory into practice

The theory test is clearly a classroom-based assessment, but it’s designed to broaden your understanding of driving and the rules of the road. Try asking/reminding yourself of sections of the theory test during your driving lessons, discussing stopping distances, for example, with your instructor.

  • Take a few mock tests to become familiar with the format and style of questions
  • Don’t forget about the time limits set for the tests
  • Practice what you are learning while out on the road

4. Know the Code

The Highway Code is a vitally important document for novice drivers. It details both the rules of the road that have to be obeyed (indicated by the words ‘you must’ or ‘must not’, as well as advisory notes that will steer you towards courteous driving (indicated by the words ‘you should’ or ‘should not’). The Highway Code is available for free to read online, or can be purchased inexpensively in hard copy if you’d like to give your eyes a break from screentime.

5. Read the signs

There are scores of different road signs in the UK, and while some are obvious (EG ’30’ in a red circle = 30mph speed limit) others, such as the clearway sign, can’t necessarily be worked out with intuition, and must be learnt. The Department for Transport’s guide to road signs is a handy resource you may with to consult. The DVSA also has a free test to help you revise road signs.

Driving theory test FAQs

What should I do on the day of my driving theory test?

The last thing you want is to arrive at the test centre in a flustered state. Leave plenty of time to get there and make the most of the pre-test practice time – it can help get you familiarised with the system and goes a long way to calming you down before the actual test begins.

Take your UK photocard provisional driving licence to your test, you will need your passport if you only have a paper licence. If you do not have a passport you will need to apply for a photocard licence before booking your test. If you do not have your licence with you on the day you will not be allowed to take the test and will not get your money back.

You will need to keep all your personal belongings in a locker during the test, so only take the essentials with you on the day.

When should I book my driving theory test?

You should book your driving theory test well in advance to give you time to prepare. It is a good idea to take some driving lessons and become familiar with a variety of driving conditions and situations before sitting your theory test.There is a lot of information to absorb, and it takes time to identify road hazards with ease. Take your time and avoid feeling flustered and overwhelmed on the day of the test.

How much does the driving theory test cost?

The driving theory test costs £23. This price is fixed regardless of the day you take the test and is also the same for re-sits. You will need your UK driving licence number, an email address and a credit or debit card to book a test online.

What happens if I fail my driving theory test?

Failing your driving theory test will certainly be disappointing, but you are able to retake it as many times as you need, and the price remains at £23. Don’t feel too despondent, the average pass rate in the UK between 2015 and 2019 has been 48.6%. That means that most people do not pass the first time.

How long does the driving theory test last?

The driving theory test can take up to a maximum of 1 hour and 20 minutes. It is made up of two portions.

The multiple-choice section takes up to 57 minutes (you may finish earlier), and you are given a 3-minute break before commencing with the hazard perception section. The hazard perception section takes 20 minutes to complete.

How do I book my driving theory test?

You can book your driving theory test online here. You will need your UK driving licence number, an email address and a credit or debit card. The fee is £23.

Do I need to pass my driving theory test to take my practical driving test?

Yes. You cannot do the practical driving test until you have passed the theory portion. The driving theory test pass certificate is valid for two years, so you should take your practical driving test within this period to avoid having to retake the theory test.

What should I take to my driving theory test?

You will need your UK photocard provisional driving licence. If you only have a paper licence then you will also need your passport.
If you do not have a passport, then you will need to apply for a photocard licence before you can take your driving theory test.

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