Learning to drive

An overview of the theory test and how it works

Before you can take your practical driving test you’ll need to pass your theory test. This consists of two sections; a series of multiple choice questions and a hazard perception session, on a PC. More than half of the candidates who take their theory test don’t make the grade. Try to make sure you’re not one of them, but if you are don’t worry, there is no limit on how many times you can take a theory test. Just keep in mind that it costs £23 each time. And remember, the waiting time for the theory test could be a few weeks.

You’ll need to pass both the multiple choice and hazard perception parts of the test at the same session to pass your theory test.

What do I need to know about the theory test?

How old do you need to be to take a theory test?

As long as you have a provisional licence you can book a theory test. So the minimum would be 17 years old, unless you receive mobility benefit which can be at 16.

Can I take my theory test before starting driving lessons?

Yes, you can. However, having some driving lessons under your belt will stand you in good stead for the hazard perception and help build your knowledge around the Highway Code elements like road signs.

That being said, you don’t want to leave the theory test until it’s late in your journey as even if you pass first time, there could be a lengthy wait for a practical test.

 

How many times can you take the theory test?

There is no limit to how many times you can take the theory test, just watch those costs. Also if you’re learning to drive already, any delay could mean you need more lessons to keep up to test standard as you approach the practical test. If you fail the theory test, you can book another slot from the next day, but you’ll have to wait at least three working days before you can actually take the test.

How long is the theory test pass valid for?

Your pass is valid for two years, during which time you’ll need to pass your practical test or you will need to take the theory exam again.

How quickly can you take your practical test after you pass your theory test?

Most test centres have a waiting list for practical tests, so you’re realistically looking at 4-6 weeks. However, this can be much longer during peak times in busy areas. You can also keep an eye out for cancellations, but the most important thing is to work with your driving instructor to make sure you book the practical test when you are ready for it.

How many times can you click on the hazard perception test?

There’s an urban legend about how often you should click on each hazard perception clip. We’ve all heard stories of someone clicking every x seconds, but random clicking won’t see you pass.

Our advice is to grab some study materials and work through some practice runs. Driving lessons are also perfect practice as the hazard perception test is essentially a recreation of a real-world driving situation.

 

Multiple choice questions

The first part of the theory test consists of a series of multiple-choice questions, which you’ll have to answer on a computer monitor. This may be touchscreen but you’ll still have the option of using a mouse to select your answers if you’re more comfortable with this more conventional technology.

Before the test starts, you’ll be given on-screen instructions explaining how it works and what to expect. After the instructions, you’ll be able to work through a practice test for up to 15 minutes (although you can skip this if you prefer), to get used to the system, before you start the real thing.

This will consist of 50 questions which you’ll have to answer in no more than 57 minutes; there’s an on-screen clock so you know how much time is left.

All the questions are multiple-choice, and they vary between straight text, text with graphics of road signs and text with photographs of road and driving scenarios.

By touching the screen or clicking the mouse, you can choose one or more answers from the options shown. Most will ask you to choose one option from a choice of four, but some will ask for two, three or four correct answers from a choice of up to six options.

You’ll have to answer every question, but if you’re not sure of an answer and want to return to a question later, you can remind yourself by using a flag system. When you’ve got to the end of the questions, you can go back to any flagged or incomplete questions, or review the whole test. If you’ve got enough time, it’s always worth checking your answers before you submit them.

To pass this part of the theory test you’ll have to get at least 43 answers correct out of the 50 that you’ve answered– but you won’t be given your multiple choice score until you’ve also completed the hazard perception part of the test. Once the multiple choice session is out of the way you’ll be offered a three-minute break before you start the hazard perception part of the test– but you can plough straight on if you prefer.

To prepare yourself as thoroughly as possible for your test, you’ll need to stock up on some theory test aids.