once you have got your provisional licence, only two major hurdles remain before you become a qualified driver. Before taking the practical test, all learners need to pass the driving theory test. If your driving instructor thinks you’re ready for it, then it’s time to book your theory test!
Its objective is to ensure you have a good grounding in the Highway Code and rules of the road. Once you’ve proved this, it’s time to put it into practice. In England, Scotland and Wales, the test is set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). In Northern Ireland, it’s set by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA). If you want to drive legally in the UK, one of these organisations needs to give you the green light.
You also need to take the theory test if you’re applying for a different category of licence – for instance to drive a motorbike, lorry or bus.
First off, make sure you’ve got your provisional licence handy. You’ll also need to pay for the test with a debit or credit card.
If you have an email address, the easiest thing to do is book the theory test online. Or you can book the Northern Ireland theory test here.
If you don’t wish to book online or don’t have an email address, you can book over the phone:
● Phone 0300 200 1122, Monday - Friday, 8am - 4pm ● For Northern Ireland, phone 0345 600 6700, Monday - Friday, 8am - 12pm
If you need to reschedule your theory test, give at least three working days’ notice. This will be free of charge, unless you’ve passed the cut-off.
If you have special requirements - such as reading or hearing difficulties, or special educational needs - let the DVSA or DVA know when you book. That way, they’ll be able to cater for your requirements on the day of the theory test.
There are different rates for different vehicles. Learning to drive in a car is the most common, and the theory test costs £23. After you pass, booking the practical test costs £62. In Northern Ireland, it costs either £45.50 on a weekday, or £62.50 if you take it on the weekend.
For other vehicles, you can check the latest driving test rates here, or here for rates in Northern Ireland.
Please note that the test for disqualified drivers is an extended test, and will cost more than the regular theory test.
OK, let’s get down to business. The theory test comprises two parts:
● Multiple-choice test ● Hazard perception
Each test is taken on a computer.
First up, the multiple-choice section has 45 theory questions, which will test your knowledge of the Highway Code and driving theory. Although largely randomly selected, there will be a few questions specific to the vehicle you’re taking the test for - such as motorbike-related questions. There are a further five case-study style questions. This lasts for 57 minutes. Out of a possible total of 50, you need a score of 43 to pass.
You have a short practice first, to get you used to the format. Once the test is underway, it’s possible to flag questions if you’re stuck, and come back to them at the end.
After a short break, it’s time for hazard perception. This will test your awareness of developing hazards in a driving scenario.
Before you begin, you’ll be shown a short video to explain how this works. The test comprises a series of 14 videos, each around a minute long. You will see an everyday driving situation, and will need to identify hazards as they become apparent. These are events which would cause you to take action, such as changing your direction or speed. The hazard might be caused by another vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian or road condition - so you’ll have to stay alert. And just to mix things up, one video will feature two potential hazards, not just one.
You can score up to 5 points per hazard, and will score fewer points the later you spot it. In the car and motorcycle tests, there are 15 scorable hazards, meaning there’s a possible 75 points up for grabs. You only get one attempt at each video, and need to score at least 44 to pass.
Hopefully you’ll be on good form, because failing either the multiple-choice or hazard perception means failing the theory test entirely. If so, you can retake the theory test, but you have to wait at least three working days. Also, you’ll have to pay for it again.