If you want to drive a car or ride a motorcycle you’ll need to pass the driving theory test before booking either the car practical driving test or the motorcycle practical test.
You need to have a provisional driving licence to take your driving theory test.
There are 2 parts to the theory test:
the multiple choice part
the hazard perception part
Both parts of the test are taken on the same day. You must book your driving theory test in advance. The questions in the multiple-choice part and format of the hazard perception part depend on what kind of vehicle you want to drive.
You need to pass both to pass the theory test.
You can take the shorter ‘abridged’ car theory test if you’ve got the Safe Road User Award.
The theory test pass certificate
You’ll then get a theory test pass certificate. You’ll need the certificate number when you book your practical test.
Preparing for the test
There are official publications and tools to help you prepare for the test, and if you’ve got special needs then there are a number of facilities to help.
How the theory test works
The theory test is made up of a multiple-choice part and a hazard perception part. You need to pass both parts to pass the theory test.
If you pass one part and fail the other you’ll fail the whole test, and you’ll need to take both parts again.
The questions in the multiple-choice test will depend on the category of vehicle you are hoping to get a licence for. For example, a motorcycle theory test will contain questions that don’t appear in any other test.
For the hazard perception test there are no separate versions for different vehicles, but the pass mark is different for them.
At the theory test centre
You aren’t allowed to take any personal items into the test room with you. All your personal items must be stored in the lockers provided.
If you’re found with any prohibited items in the testing room your test will be stopped, you’ll be asked to leave and you’ll lose your test fee.
You can’t distract or talk to other candidates in the test room.
The multiple-choice part
Before the test starts you’ll be given instructions on how it works.
You can choose to do a practice session of multiple-choice questions to get used to the layout of the test. At the end of the practice session the real test will begin.
A question and several possible answers will appear on a computer screen - you have to select the correct answer. Some questions may need more than one answer.
You can move between questions and ‘flag’ questions that you want to come back to later in the test.
Some car and motorcycle questions will be given as a case study. The case study will:
show a short story that 5 questions will be based on
focus on real life examples and experiences you could come across when you’re driving
The car and motorcycle multiple-choice part lasts for 57 minutes and the pass mark is 43 out of 50.
After the multiple-choice part you can choose to have a break of up to 3 minutes before the hazard perception part starts.
The hazard perception part
Before you start the hazard perception part, you’ll be shown a short video clip about how it works.
You’ll then be shown a series of 14 video clips on a computer screen. The clips:
feature everyday road scenes
contain at least one ‘developing hazard’ - but one of the clips will feature 2 ‘developing hazards’
A developing hazard is something that may result in you having to take some action, such as changing speed or direction.
Hazard perception test scoring
The earlier you notice a developing hazard and make a response, the higher you will score.
The most you can score for each developing hazard is 5 points.
To get a high score you need to respond to the developing hazard as soon as you see it starting.
If you click continuously or in a pattern during a clip a message will appear at the end. It will tell you that you have scored zero for that particular clip.
You won’t be able to review your answers.
The pass mark for cars and motorcycles is 44 out of 75.
Your test result
You’ll be given the results of your theory tests at the test centre after taking it.
You get a pass certificate if you pass your theory test. You’ll need this when you book and take your practical test.
Your theory test pass certificate lasts for 2 years after taking your test. You’ll need to take and pass the theory test again if you haven’t passed your practical test by then.
The practical driving test is designed to see if you:
can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions
know the Highway Code and can show this through your driving ability
As long as you show the standard required, you’ll pass your driving test.
There’s no minimum number of lessons you must have or hours you must practise driving before you take your test. There are no pass or fail quotas.
You’ll need to have passed your driving theory test before taking your practical test.
Documents to bring to your test
You must bring:
your theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) if you’re not exempt from taking the theory test
your driving licence - the photocard
You must bring your signed driving licence and a valid passport if you have an old-style paper licence.
Your test will be cancelled and you’ll lose your fee if you don’t bring the right documents.
What happens during the test
Before you start the driving ability part of your test, you’ll have an eyesight check and be asked 2 vehicle safety questions.
You’ll have to read a number plate from a distance of:
20 metres for vehicles with a new-style number plate
20.5 metres for vehicles with an old-style number plate
You can write down what you see if you can’t speak English or have difficulty reading.
New-style number plates start with 2 letters followed by 2 numbers, eg AB51 ABC.
You’ll fail your driving test and the test won’t continue if you can’t pass the eyesight test.
Vehicle safety questions: ‘show me, tell me’
You’ll be asked 2 vehicle safety questions. These are also known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
The examiner will ask you one ‘show me’ question, where you’ll have to show them how you’d carry out a vehicle safety check.
You’ll also be asked one ‘tell me’ question, where you’ll have to explain to the examiner how you’d carry out the check.
The driving ability part
The driving part of your test will last about 40 minutes. Throughout the test your examiner will be looking for an overall safe standard of driving.
If you’re taking an extended test pass because of a driving disqualification, the test will last 70 minutes.
Your general driving ability
During your test the examiner will give you directions that you should follow. You’ll drive in various road and traffic conditions. You should drive in the way your instructor has trained you.
It should include:
an angle start (pulling out from behind a parked vehicle)
a hill start
You might also be asked to carry out an emergency stop.
Reversing your vehicle safely
You’ll have to show how well you can reverse your vehicle. The examiner will ask you to do one of the following exercises:
reversing around a corner
turning in the road
reverse parking - either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road
Independent driving section
Your driving test will include around 10 minutes of independent driving. It’s designed to assess your ability to drive safely while making decisions on your own.
If you make mistakes
Carry on if you make a mistake, because if it’s not a serious mistake it might not affect your result.
Your examiner will stop your test if they think your driving is a danger to other road users.
Taking someone with you
Your examiner will ask if you want your instructor, or another person, to:
sit in the back of your car during your driving test
be with you after the test for the result and feedback
This person will usually be your driving instructor, but it could also be a relative or friend.
They must be over 16 and can’t take any part in the test.
The examiner’s supervisor
The examiner’s supervisor may come along as well. They will be watching the examiner’s performance, not yours. The supervisor won’t have any say in how you’re tested or in your result.
Your test might be cancelled and you could lose your fee if you don’t let the examiner’s supervisor go with you.
Independent driving section of the test
Your practical driving test will include around 10 minutes of independent driving. It’s not a test of your orientation and navigation skills.
How the test works
During your test you’ll have to drive independently by either following:
a series of verbal directions
a combination of both
To help you understand where you’re going when following verbal directions, the examiner can show you a diagram.
You can’t use sat nav because the independent driving section tests how you make your own decisions.
Forgetting the directions
It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember every direction, or if you go the wrong way.
Driving independently means making your own decisions - this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation about where you’re going.
The examiner will confirm the directions to you if you ask for a reminder of them.
Going off the independent driving route
Your test result won’t be affected if you go off the independent driving route, unless you make a driving fault.
The examiner will help you get back on the route if you go off it or take a wrong turning. You can then continue with the independent driving.
Poor traffic signs
The examiner will give you directions until you can see the next traffic sign if there are poor or obscured traffic signs. You won’t need to have a detailed knowledge of the area.