Since July 1996, obtaining a UK driving licence has involved passing a driving theory test prior to taking the practical driving test. Until 2000 when it became computer-based, this was a written exam. In November 2002, the multiple-choice exam was joined by the hazard perception test.
Learner drivers need to take and pass the theory test before applying for a practical driving test. If you already hold a driving licence for another category of vehicle (eg. Motorcycle or Automatic car), you may not be required to take another theory test. For more details, please see the GOV.UK website - Who needs to take a driving theory test?
Your instructor will recommend the best time for you to take the test, but normally it makes sense to take the theory test soon after starting to learn to drive.
The Theory Test is made up of two parts:
You must pass both the multiple choice and hazard perception parts at the same time to achieve an overall pass, e.g. scoring 50 on the multiple choice is insufficient to pass overall if you only score 43 on the hazard perception.
Both parts of the test are carried out on a touch screen computer.
We strongly recommend that you prepare thoroughly for both parts of the theory test.
Although it is not necessary to have any experience of driving before you take your theory test, in practice, some experience of real road and traffic situations will help you to understand the theory and hazard perception element of learning to drive - plus your driving instructor will be an invaluable source of help and advice!
However, you will also need to do some preparation work by yourself!
Please see our Theory Test Preparation page for more details of study materials, websites and apps to help you prepare to take your theory test.
The multiple choice section of the theory test consists of 50 questions covering a range of topics associated with driving.
The test is done on a touch screen computer and you will be given instructions and an optional practice session before the test starts.
Questions will appear on the screen and you will be given several possible answers to choose from. You touch the screen to select your answer or answers. Most questions will require only one answer, but there are a few where more than one answer is required, so be sure to read each question through thoroughly.
If you're not sure of the answer to any question, you can move on to the next question and come back to it later on.
You are allowed a maximum of 57 minutes to complete the multiple choice questions, but if you finish sooner you can start the Hazard Perception test straightaway if you wish.
You need to score at least 43 out of 50 to pass the multiple choice part of the theory test.
The hazard perception test takes approximately 15 minutes and consists of 14 video clips of around a minute each. It tests your ability to identify and react to potential hazards that develop during normal driving.
You will be shown a tutorial video first that explains how the test works and you will need to wear the headphones provided.
Each clip features a scene that you may encounter during everyday driving. You must watch the clip carefully and click the mouse when you see a "developing hazard" - i.e. a situation that might result in the driver having to take some action, such as changing speed or direction. The earlier you respond to the developing hazard, the higher you will score for that clip. The maximum score for each hazard is 5. Some people find that they click too early and clicking the mouse a second and even third time can help, but be careful - if you click repeatedly you will score zero!
13 of the 14 clips contain one hazard with the other clip containing two.
You are not allowed to review your answers to the hazard perception test - in order for the test to be as much like real driving as possible, you only get one chance to respond to the developing hazard.
You need to score a minimum of 44 out of a possible 75 points to pass the hazard perception part of the theory test.
The test is carried out by a company called Pearson VUE on behalf of the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency at around 160 theory test centres throughout the country.
You can take the test at any theory test centre of your choice. In South Lincolnshire and the surrounding areas, the local theory test centres are in Boston, Peterborough, Kings Lynn and Grantham and in East Berkshire, South Buckinghamshire, North Surrey and the surrounding areas, the local theory test centres are in Slough, Uxbridge and Staines. To find your nearest UK Theory Test Centres, see the GOV.UK website - find your nearest driving theory test centre
The fee for the theory test is currently £23 (as at 2019).
The easiest way to book your theory test is online via the GOV.UK website.
Booking your theory test on any website other than GOV.UK is likely to incur a significant test booking fee.
It is very easy to book your test online at GOV.UK and you will ONLY pay the test fee of £23 with no extra charges.
There are a number of official looking websites that will charge a booking fee of around £8 to £10 to book your test for you. Some of these will promise things such as "free unlimited retests" but this is really not the case. In order to qualify for the "free" retest, you have a VERY narrow window of failure. The pass marks for the theory and hazard perception are 43 and 44 respectively. On one of these sites, the criteria for getting a "free" retest is to score no less than 42 on either part which is highly unlikely.
If you are being charged more than £23, you are not on the GOV.UK website - DON'T GET RIPPED OFF!
The theory test pass is valid for 2 years from the date you pass the test and you must pass your practical test before the end of that two year period. If you do not pass your practical test within this time limit, you will have to take the theory test again!
For more information, please see GOV.UK - driving theory test.