The theory test is a computerised examination that you take before the practical driving test. Its purpose is to test your knowledge of the Highway Code and driving in the UK. Questions are based on official DVSA guides: The Official Highway Code, Know Your Traffic Signs, and The Official DVSA Guide To Driving (Amazon). The test may be booked online, and it requires both parts of your driving licence, e-mail address, and credit/debit card information to be booked. It can also be booked over the phone. The fee to take the test is currently £23. The test comprises of two sections, the multiple-choice section and the hazard perception section, which we will discuss individually below.
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The multiple-choice section has two kinds of questions that ask about driving rules and behavior. The first kind is simply a question followed by a response in which candidates must select one correct answer. The second kind is considered a case study, in which test takers read a short story based on real-life experiences, and then answer 5 questions about the story.
A research study conducted by Theory Test Pro discovered 8 questions that 40% of learner drivers fail to answer correctly. These questions are:
The hazard perception section requires candidates to watch short video clips of real-life scenarios and click the screen when they spot hazards on the road. This tests the candidate’s ability to spot developing hazards, which are hazards that require the driver to take action.
The test taker must pass both sections of the theory test to obtain a pass certificate that lasts for 2 years. If you fail, you must wait for 3 days before attempting to retake the full test, even if you only failed one section. The passing score for the multiple-choice section is 43/50, and for the hazard perception section, it is 44/75.
Only 46% of test takers pass the theory test on their first attempt. Here are some yearly statistics on passing rates for the theory test:
Detailed official statistics on the driving and theory test are released quarterly by the UK Government and can be found here.
A study in 2014 found that females are 6% more likely than males to pass the theory test; however, males are 6% more likely than females to pass the practical test. Based on the results from January to March of 2016, 48% of men passed the theory test while 51% of women passed.
The theory test was introduced in 1996 to replace answering questions about the Highway Code during the practical driving test.
Comparing the Pass/Fail rates with the history of the test shows that the decline in pass rates is correlated with the changes made to the test. Additionally, the number of tests taken each year was relatively stable until 2013, when the number began to increase. This has been attributed to the decrease in pass rate which has led to more retests.
The Highway Code is a manual that can be downloaded here. Its goes over the rules and safety regulations for drivers, riders, pedestrians, and cyclists using the street. It was last updated March 29, 2016 and applies to Scotland, England, and Wales. Northern Ireland has its own Highway Code. Its contents include: Rules for pedestrians, powerful wheelchairs and mobility scooters, animals, cyclists, motorcyclists, drivers and motorcyclists, General rules and techniques for drivers and riders, Using the Road, Road Users Requiring Extra Care, Driving in Adverse Conditions, Waiting and Parking, Motorways, Breakdowns and Incidents, Roadworks and level crossings, Traffic Light Signals, Signals to Other Road Users, Traffic Signs and Road Markings, 8 Annexes regarding documentation, penalties, safety, and security.
The UK is currently considering changes to the driving test because of an increase in driving-related accidents. The government explains the reasons here. The main changes under consideration are the following: