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.
2. Who needs to take the test
Great Britain licence holders
You usually need to take the theory test before you can get your first full car or motorcycle driving licence.
There are some exceptions.
Who doesn’t need to take the car theory test
You don’t need to take the car theory test if you have:
- a full automatic car licence and want to upgrade to a manual car licence
- a B1 licence (3 or 4-wheeled light vehicles)
You only need to take the driving test.
You can view your driving licence information online to check if the exceptions apply to you.
Who doesn’t need to take the motorcycle theory test
You don’t need to take the motorcycle theory test if you passed a moped test after 1 July 1996 and want to either:
- take the motorcycle riding test on a small motorcycle (sub-category A1)
- upgrade your motorcycle licence (eg from sub-category A1 to A2) under the ‘progressive access’ rules
You must have a valid motorcycle theory test pass certificate to take the motorcycle riding test under the ‘direct access’ rules.
Adding new categories to your licence
You’ll need to take another theory test if you want a licence for a new category of vehicle.
For example, if you have a car licence and you want a motorcycle licence you’ll need to take the motorcycle theory test before taking the motorcycle practical test.
You won’t normally need to take a theory test if you want to upgrade within a vehicle category.
You must make sure you have the right licence. Contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) if you’re not sure if you need to take a theory test.
DVSA theory test enquiries
PO BOX 381
Non Great Britain licence holders
If you don’t have a Great Britain (GB) licence you might still be able to drive in GB without taking a driving test.
Find out if you can drive in GB with your non-GB licence.
3. 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.
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.
4. Preparing for the theory test
Tools and information are available to help you practise and prepare for both parts of the theory test.
Preparing for the multiple-choice part
To prepare for the multiple-choice part of the theory test you should use 3 books known as the ‘source material’. They are:
You can buy all the publications from most high street book shops and download the ‘Know your traffic signs’ booklet.
Online practice theory test
You can take a practice theory test online. It only includes multiple choice questions and does not include the hazard perception part.
Preparing for the hazard perception part
‘The official DVSA guide to hazard perception’ is a training DVD-ROM for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It’s available from most high street book shops. You can also order it from The Stationery Office.
5. Documents you need to take to your theory test
You need take your photocard driving licence to the test.
If you have an old-style paper licence, you must take your signed driving licence and a valid passport. No other form of photographic identification will be accepted.
If you don’t have a passport and only have a paper licence, before taking the test you must either:
Your test won’t go ahead and you’ll lose your fee if you don’t bring the right documents to your test.
If you’ve lost your driving licence
You must apply for a replacement driving licence. This could take up to 15 days - you can rearrange your test if you need to.
You might be able to apply for a refund of out-of-pocket expenses if the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) cancels your test at short notice.
6. Car and motorcycle theory test fees
There’s no administration fee if you book your driving theory test through the official booking service. Unofficial booking websites may charge a fee.
|Theory test type
You have to pay the full amount again if you don’t pass your theory test, and want to take another one.
7. If you have special needs
When you book your theory test you should say if you’ve got special needs. In many cases, special arrangements can be made to help you during the test.
If you have reading difficulties
You can ask for an English or Welsh voiceover if you have dyslexia or other reading difficulties.
A voiceover lets you hear the theory test instructions and questions through headphones. You can hear the questions and possible answers as many times as you like.
Voiceovers are available in English and Welsh only.
You can also ask to have more time to do the multiple-choice part of the theory test.
You must send proof of your reading difficulty to the theory test booking customer services. The proof could be a letter from:
- a teacher or other educational professional
- a doctor or medical professional
DVSA may also consider proof from someone independent who knows about your reading ability, eg your employer.
If you have hearing difficulties
You can take the theory test in British Sign Language (BSL) if you’re deaf or have hearing difficulties.
The BSL interpretation will run alongside the standard test questions and answers.
An interpreter can go with you into the test centre if you don’t use BSL. This needs to be arranged through the theory test customer services section.
You won’t be charged an extra fee.
Other special needs
Contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to discuss any other special needs before booking your test.
DVSA theory test enquiries
PO BOX 381
8. Theory test candidate impersonation
It’s illegal to impersonate someone taking a theory test.
Impersonators and people using them have been convicted in the courts and some have gone to prison.
Every case of suspected impersonation is investigated thoroughly.
Report an impersonator
If someone says they’ll impersonate you and take your theory test for you, report it to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
9. The 'abridged' car theory test
You can take an ‘abridged’ car theory test if you’re learning to drive and have a Safe Road User Award.
You’ll only have to answer 35 multiple questions instead of the usual 50. The pass mark is 30.
You’ll still be tested on 14 additional hazard perception clips.
You need to take the abridged test within 3 years of getting the Safe Road User Award.
Booking the abridged test
You can book the abridged car theory test through the usual online theory test booking service.
The abridged test costs £18.