About the Driving Theory Test
In the UK, new drivers are obliged by law to take and pass the driving theory test before being allowed to sit the practical driving test. You can take driving lessons before passing your theory test, although you won’t be able book your practical test until you have a valid theory test certificate in your possession.
It is a good idea to prepare for your driving theory test as you gain experience behind the wheel. This will enable you to develop skills for your practical test whilst building on your theoretical knowledge. If you wish to pass both tests at the first time of asking, a sound understanding of driving is required.
The driving theory test is made up of two different sections, both of which have to be completed on the same day. The first part consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and the second is a video-based hazard perception test. You must pass both parts in order to pass the theory test. If you are unsuccessful, you will have to resit the test on another occasion.
Both tests are computer-based and must be carried out at a theory test centre. More information on both of these tests is outlined below.
The Examination Process
Multiple Choice Questions
The first part of the driving theory test consists of 50 multiple choice questions, five of which are based on case studies. Each question has four options to choose from, with only one of those being correct. You must select your answer by using the mouse to click your chosen option.
Before starting the driving theory test, you are given the opportunity to take a practice session lasting for approximately 15 minutes. This will help you get used to the navigation system and the format of the questions. Staff at the theory test centre will be on hand to offer assistance and advice if you have any problems.
The multiple-choice section is a timed test, with a limit of 57 minutes to answer all the questions. Each question appears on the screen one at a time, and you are allowed to return to any of the questions to check or change your answers. You need to score 43 out of 50 to pass the test.
The questions are knowledge-based and are randomly chosen from a bank of approximately 900 questions spanning 14 categories, covering all aspects of driving. These categories are:
- Hazard Awareness
- Incidents, Accidents and Emergencies
- Motorway Rules
- Other Types of Vehicle
- Road and Traffic Signs
- Rules of the Road
- Safety and Your Vehicle
- Safety Margins
- Vehicle Handling
- Vehicle Loading
- Vulnerable Road Users
See below for a basic screenshot of the layout that you will be presented with during the test:
In this particular example of a visual question, you need to click the image that you think is correct. Written questions will have four options, and you need to click the box next to the answer you think is right. If you change your mind, click the image or box again and choose another response.
Although you have a time limit for the multiple-choice test, you should read the questions carefully before selecting your answer. You should be aware that some questions may take longer to answer than others, but rest assured there are no ‘trick’ questions. If you try to navigate to the next question without having selected an answer, you will be notified before you can proceed.
The time remaining will be displayed on the screen, and you will be alerted when you have five minutes left until the end of the test. If you have special needs, extra time may be allowed, but you must notify the DVSA in advance.
Some questions may include a diagram or photograph; ensure you study the related question carefully if this is the case. Before looking at the available options, it may be a good idea to think of possible answers and, of course, if any of the available options match your original thought, you can select the answer with confidence.
Five of the 50 multiple-choice questions will be based on a case study. These questions will appear at the very end of the multiple-choice section of the driving theory test.
The case study is designed to test your ability to apply your theoretical knowledge and understanding of driving to a real-life situation.
This is done by creating a set of circumstances or a scenario that you may encounter while driving, followed by some questions relating to the incident, which assesses how you would react in each situation.
The sample case study below demonstrates how the case study questions may appear in your live test, so you’ll know what to expect.
As you can see, the case study question is displayed on the left-hand side of the screen and the multiple-choice question is displayed on the right-hand side.
A useful feature of the driving theory test is the option to flag any question that you are unsure of. This allows you to return to the question at a later stage, time permitting, and change your answer if necessary.
If you get to the end of the test before the time is up, you can use the Review option to check your answers. The illustration below shows what information will be displayed on the review screen, including how many questions you have answered and if you have flagged any questions for further consideration. If you are confident of your answers, you can finish the session before the time is up by pressing the End button.
Hazard Perception Test
After you have finished the multiple choice questions, there’s an optional break of up to three minutes before you begin the hazard perception section of the theory test, during which you can’t leave your seat. This part of the test involves watching a series of computer-generated image (CGI) video clips, during which you will be expected to identify a developing hazard. You can read more about the Hazard Perception Test here.
Upon completion of the driving theory test, you will be directed to leave the room where you can expect to receive your result within 10 minutes. You will be given a score for each section of the test (the multiple choice part and the hazard perception part) and a list of the categories where you may have answered a question incorrectly. Unfortunately, you won’t be informed of which questions you answered incorrectly, only the category that they relate to. If you fail either of the sections, you will have to retake the test on another occasion. Please note that the questions will be different next time you take your test.
Once you have passed your theory test, you will be given a certificate that you will need to present when taking your practical test, so keep this safe. The document is only valid for two years from the date of your driving theory test, so you must take your practical test within this timeframe. If you do not, you will have to take and pass both sections of the theory test again before being allowed to book your practical.
Booking Your Theory Test
You can book your theory test online or by telephone.
Online – To book online, go to www.gov.uk/book-theory-test and register your details. You will need:
- your DVLA or DVA driving licence number
- a credit or debit card to pay the fee
- an e-mail address to receive your booking confirmation
If you are in Northern Ireland, click here to book the test.
Once you have booked your test, you will receive an appointment e-mail on the same day confirming the date of your test and a booking reference number.
Telephone – To book by phone, you need to call 0300 200 1122 (0845 600 6700 for Northern Ireland), or if you’re a Welsh speaker, call 0300 200 1133. Phone lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.
If you have speech or hearing difficulties and use a minicom machine, call 0300 200 1166.
If you book over the telephone and do not have an email address, you will receive an appointment letter within ten days.
Cancelling The Test
If you need to cancel or postpone your driving theory test, you can do this online by visiting www.gov.uk/cancel-theory-test, or by contacting the DVSA by phone on 0300 200 1122. This must be carried out at least three working days before the date of your test or you risk losing your fee. Sundays and public holidays aren’t regarded as working days.
Short-notice cancellation is only permitted in the following circumstances:
- If you are ill or injured and have a medical certificate to support this
- If you have been affected by a bereavement
- If you are sitting school examinations.
Under these circumstances, you can rebook your test at no extra cost; refunds are not allowed.
Languages Other Than English
All UK driving theory test candidates must take their test in English or Welsh; voiceovers are not permitted in any other language. You’re not allowed to bring a translator with you under any circumstance.
In Wales and at theory test centres located on the Welsh borders, you can take your theory test with Welsh text on-screen. A voiceover can also be provided in Welsh on request.
Special Needs Arrangements
When you book your test, you must notify the DVSA if you have reading difficulties, a health condition or a disability. Every effort will be made to accommodate all candidates.
Reading difficulties: If you have reading difficulties or dyslexia, there is an English-language voiceover available on a headset to help you. If necessary, you can ask for up to twice the standard time limit to complete the multiple-choice questions section of the test.
You will be asked to confirm your difficulties by providing a letter from a suitable independent person who knows about your reading ability. This could be a teacher or employer. Advice can be obtained from the DVSA theory test enquiry line on 0300 200 1122.
Hearing difficulties: If you are deaf or have other hearing difficulties, the multiple-choice questions can be delivered in British Sign Language (BSL). An on-screen signer can also provide the introduction to the hazard perception test.
If requested at the time of booking, a BSL interpreter, lip speaker or signer can be provided. If you have any other difficulties or requirements, please call the theory test enquiry line for further guidance.
Physical disabilities: If you have a physical disability that would make it difficult for you to use a touch-screen system or a mouse button during the driving theory test, you need to advise the DVSA at the time of booking, as they may be able to make special arrangements for you to use a different method for completing your test.
Click here for more information about taking the driving theory test with a disability or health condition.
Taking the Theory Test
You will need to bring your photocard driving license with you to the theory test.
If your license is from Northern Ireland, you will have to bring your paper counterpart in addition to your photocard driving license. If you have an old-style paper driving licence, you must also bring a valid passport.
If you have lost your license, you must apply for a replacement, which could take up to 15 days to arrive. You may need to change the date of your theory test appointment if it doesn’t arrive in time.
Ensure you arrive at the test centre with time to spare as you may not be permitted to take your driving theory test if you arrive after the session has started.
Once you’re at the centre, the staff will check and your license and make sure you are taking the correct category of theory test.
Please note that you cannot take any personal items into the test room and will be expected to store mobile phones, watches, headphones and bags in a locker. There have been many instances of cheating at theory test centres in the past, so you may be asked by a member of staff if you’re carrying anything you shouldn’t be.