theory test Guide

Preparing for your theory test

Being ready for your driving test is no mean feat. Your driving instructor thinks you’re ready for your licence, and it’s time to put that to the test. To make sure you don't fail any answers through nerves or a lack of preparation, here's everything you need to know about passing.

theory test study

The driving test in the UK is split into 2 parts: the theory test and the practical test.

What is a theory test?

It tests you on the rules of the road before you take the practical driving test. The theory test is divided into 2 parts - multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test.

The test is set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in England, Wales and Scotland, and by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland.

All provisional licence holders need to pass the theory test before booking a practical test. This is also the case if you're applying for a different category of licence, such as a bus or lorry licence.

Do I need to take the theory test?

Yes. If you’re a learner driver, you'll need to take the theory test before you take your practical driving test. If you don't pass your practical within 2 years, you'll need to re-take your theory test.

You'll also need to take your theory test again if you’re upgrading an existing licence to drive something else, such as a motorbike.

In light of coronavirus, can I take my theory test?

It's possible to take driving theory tests again in England, Wales and Scotland. There may be some restrictions, and you'll have to follow government guidance in the test centre to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Find out the latest theory test guidance here, or here if you live in Northern Ireland.

When can I do my theory test?

You can take the theory test at any time after you turn 17 (or 16 if you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance).

How do I book my driving theory test?

You’ll need your provisional licence to hand, and a credit or debit card to pay for the test. You can book a theory test online here, or apply here if you live in Northern Ireland.

If you don’t have an email address, you’ll need to book over the phone. Call 0300 200 1122 Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm; or - if you live in Northern Ireland - call 0345 600 6700 Monday to Friday, 8am to 12pm.

It’s possible to reschedule a theory test, as long as you give 3 working days’ notice, and you won’t be charged. Be mindful of Sundays and bank holidays though.

How much does a theory test cost?

A theory test will only put you back £23, and unlike the practical driving test, which is more expensive on evenings, weekends and bank holidays, the price is always the same.

There are separate rates if you’re learning to drive in a different vehicle. And it'll cost more if you’re taking an extended test for disqualified drivers. You can see the driving test costs for all vehicles here, or the fees in Northern Ireland here.

Preparing for your theory test

The best way to prepare is to study - either with dedicated study guides or by taking a practice test online. The DVSA recommends a minimum of 20 hours revision to fully prepare you for your theory test.

What happens in the multiple choice test?

In the multiple choice part, you’ll be tested on your knowledge of driving theory and the Highway Code. The test will cater for the type of vehicle you’re applying for a licence for. So if you’re taking the test for a motorcycle, some of the questions will be specific to motorbikes.

The test is 57 minutes long; you’ll get a little over a minute to answer each of the 50 multiple choice questions, so you have time to carefully read each question before choosing your answer.

You’ll need a minimum of 43 correct answers to pass.

The best kind of preparation for this part of the theory test is studying the Highway Code. Not only will it include all you need to know about road signs, markings and the rules of the road to be a safe driver, it’s the source material for the questions used in the test.

What can I expect from the hazard perception test?

A short tutorial video will explain this part of the test, which is computer-based. The objective is to test your awareness of potential hazards while driving.

You’ll then be shown a series of 14 videos - each roughly a minute long - depicting everyday driving scenarios. You'll have to identify the developing hazard - something that would cause the driver to take action, such as brake or change direction. This could be related to other vehicles, pedestrians or road conditions. One of the videos will have 2 developing hazards to identify.

The earlier you spot a hazard, the higher you’ll score. In both the car and motorcycle test, there are 15 scorable hazards, and you can earn up to 5 points for each. There won't be a chance to review your answers - you just get one shot at each. To pass, you need to score at least 44 of a possible 75.

If you fail either the multiple choice or hazard perception, you’ll have to re-book and take both parts of the theory test again.

What do I need to take to my theory test?

You must arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of your test, and you'll need to take your provisional driving licence. Your test can be cancelled (and not refunded) if you don't bring this with you.

What special requirements are catered for?

The DVSA and DVA cater for a range of special requirements, including reading difficulties, hearing difficulties, or specific educational needs. Be sure to get in touch and let them know your requirements ahead of your theory test.

How do I get my theory test results?

After you’ve finished, you’ll be given a printout of your theory test result at the test centre. If you pass you’ll receive your pass certificate number, which you'll need when you book your practical test. You can also get your pass certificate number on GOV.UK.

If you don’t pass, you can retake the test but you’ll need to wait at least 3 working days.

How long is the theory pass certificate valid for?

Your theory pass certificate is valid for 2 years. Don’t let it expire though - if you don’t pass your practical test during this time, you’ll have to retake and pass the theory test again.

What happens if I fail my theory test?

It won't be the news you’re hoping for but if you don't pass your theory test you’ll have the chance to take it again after 3 working days - with no limits on how many attempts you can take. You’ll get a letter at the test centre showing which parts of the test you answered incorrectly, so you can fill in your knowledge gaps.

Your driving instructor will offer as much support as they can to help you pass the theory test, so study hard, stay cool, calm and collected, and you’ll be on your way to being road ready in no time.