How driving theory test works (and how to pass it!)

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How the theory test works
How to book your theory test
Top tips
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The driving theory test is the first of two exams you'll need to take before you snag that driving licence. That's a fair bit to know - but don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you.

And because we’ve always got you covered, we’ve thrown in some top tips to help you nail your test on the day 👇

There are two driving exams

The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) theory test is the first of two tests that learner drivers need to pass to get a full GB driving licence.

It’s a two-part, computer-based exam, taken in person at an official test centre.

To take your theory test, you’ll need to be at least 17 years old and have your provisional driving licence.

How the theory test works

There are a few different types of theory test depending on whether you’re learning to drive a car, motorcycle, lorry, or coach.

But all UK theory tests have two sections.

Multiple choice

You’ll have 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple choice questions on the Highway Code, traffic signs, and essential driving skills.

You’ll need to score at least 43/50 to pass.

Hazard perception

You’ll be shown 14 interactive clips that show everyday road scenes. The aim is to click on any developing hazards.

A hazard is a road user or situation which might require you to slow down, stop, or change direction. So another car coming towards you counts as a developing hazard, but a parked car wouldn’t.

You’ll need to score at least 44/75 to pass.

Check out our guide on the hazard perception test if you want to learn a little more.

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How to book your theory test

If you’re learning to drive in Great Britain (England, Scotland, or Wales - not Northern Ireland), you can book a theory test on the GOV.UK website.

If you’re learning to drive in Northern Ireland, you can book your theory on the DVA website.

It costs £23, and you’ll need to know your provisional licence number.

You’ll also have the chance to ask for any assistance you might need. The DVSA may be able to provide extra support if you have a disability or condition that might make the test harder for you, or if you find it difficult to read.

On the day

First of all, it’s important that you arrive on time. If you’re more than 15 minutes late, you might not be able to take your test ⏰

So best to try and get there a few minutes early — and don’t forget to bring your provisional licence.

You can bring your phone with you, but you’ll be asked to turn it off and put it into a locker before the test.

Then you’ll go to your computer, and the test will start. The multiple choice section usually comes before the hazard perception test. You’ll have the chance to try out a couple of practice questions at the start of each section, and there’s a 3 minute break between the two tests.

You should be at the centre for about 90 minutes in total, and you’ll get your results as soon as the test is over.

If you pass your theory test

Congratulations! You’ll now be able to book your practical driving test online.

Psst… your theory test lasts for 2 years. If you don’t pass your practical test within that time, you’ll have to redo your theory.

If you fail your theory test

Hopefully you’ll pass on the first try. But if you fail your theory test, you certainly wouldn’t be alone — the pass rate is only around 50%. (Pss - we've got a separate guide you can read on the average theory test pass rate.)

You’ll be able to see your scores, and what sections you passed or failed. So you’ll know what areas to brush up on.

Try not to feel too down — dust yourself off, get back to the books, and try again. You got this!

The hazard perception test is an important part of the theory exam
The hazard perception test is an important part of the theory exam

Preparing for your theory test - Cuvva's top tips

Be prepared

This one’s obvious. The multiple choice section is based on three official DVSA books: “The Highway Code”, “Know your traffic signs", and “Driving — the essential skills”.

You can buy these books online. But there are also quite a few free resources and practice tests available on the internet.

Start your driving lessons first

This can be a matter of preference — some learners like to get their theory out of the way as soon as possible.

But getting on the road will help you get used to some of the rules of the road, and this should help for your theory — especially if you’re a visual learner.

(By the way - we've partnered with Otimo, a learner driver app that helps with everything from theory test practice to getting the low-down on practical test routes. Download the 'Otimo: for Learner Drivers' app, choose '1 Month' during the sign-up process, and then get 50% off the first month of your Otimo subscription by selecting 'redeem code' and entering CUVVA50 🔥)

Don’t click too much

On your hazard perception test, you’ll be asked to click on any “developing hazards” that you see.

It might be tempting to get in as many clicks as possible. But be careful — if you click too many times on any one clip, you could score a zero for the section. This is to stop people from cheating.

So when you’re studying for your hazard perception test, pay careful attention to what is and isn’t considered as a hazard. And when you're taking the test, make sure you only click on each hazard once.

Don't click too much in the hazard perception test - just when you're sure you've spotted something
Don't click too much in the hazard perception test - just when you're sure you've spotted something

Get support if you need

If you find reading difficult, or you have a disability or condition that makes it harder to take your theory test, the DVSA might be able to provide some extra support. This doesn’t affect your mark at all — so use it if you need to.

Be on time

If you’re more than 15 minutes late, you probably won’t be allowed to take your test. So be sure to plan your journey beforehand. It’s probably best to be a bit early — there’s less stress that way. Oh, and don’t forget your provisional licence!

Use the practice time

You’ll get the option to answer a few practice questions before each section of the test. They don’t count towards your score, and they could help jog your memory.

Just so you know, in the multiple choice section you can go back at any point and look over your answers. So if you have any extra time at the end, be sure to go back and check.

Sort your learner driver insurance

If you’re learning to drive and want to get in a bit of extra driving practice on top of your lessons, you could save thousands using hourly cover rather than being added as a named driver to a family member's car.

We've written much more about this cost of learning to drive here - but if you've only got a few minutes, you can get a quote in just a few clicks.

Happy driving - and good luck with the test! 🚗

Learner driver FAQs

Can I change the date of my theory test You can change your test date online. Normally, you’d have to do this at least 3 working days in advance. But if you can’t make your theory test because you’re self isolating, you can amend your test date at short notice.

How can I find my closest theory test centre? You can find your nearest test centres on the GOV.UK website. You don’t have to go for the closest centre to your house.

How old do I need to be to take my theory test? You’ll need to be at least 17 years old, and have your provisional licence.

How do I book my theory test? You can book your theory on the GOV.UK website.

How long does the theory test take? You can expect to be at the test centre for around 90 minutes in total.

How much does the theory test cost? At the moment, a driving theory test costs £23, both in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland. You can pay by credit or debit card.

Are theory test centres open? Yes. Theory test centres have reopened. But because they were closed during the Covid lockdown, you might have to wait longer for your appointment due to the backlog.

Updated on 14th February 2023