How to pass the theory test


Published 28 June 2023
Last updated 12 July 2023

This week, driving instructor Annie Winterburn has some great advice for you if you’re struggling to pass your theory test.

The latest Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) figures reveal that the theory test pass rate is a little over 44 percent. This means that many learner drivers fail their tests at least once, and many fail multiple times, over many years. Some people have even given up on the idea of becoming a driver, simply because they cannot get through the theory test. Failing can become embarrassing, frustrating, and a waste of time and money.

In this blog I’ll share why I think so many learner drivers struggle with their theory tests. I’ll also cover how to know you’re test ready and what to do if you’re not.

Why do some learners fail their theory tests?

Practice tests are a fantastic tool for preparing learner drivers for their test day. They’re also a great way of checking test readiness. However, learner drivers should not feel they’re test ready when they can pass a couple of practice tests.

Practising the same questions again and again and memorising the answers to the questions isn’t a good idea. In my experience, learners expect questions that are exactly the same as the practice questions. Then they start the test and panic when they see something different.

The trick is to realise that DVSA are not trying to trip anyone up. All the questions in the real test are based on the same topics as the practice tests. They may look different or assess a another aspect of your learning, but they will not be taken from anything outside the theory test syllabus.

The theory test can also be challenging for learners who:

  • have test anxiety,
  • don’t speak English as a first language
  • have Dyslexia or ADHD
  • have a learning difficulty
  • are simply not motivated to spend time studying

Attitude is important!

Some of my learners have also tried to scrape a test pass with a score of 43/50. They’re happy with scoring the minimum pass mark in a mock test, thinking that they’ll be happy to achieve the same result in a real test. Although ‘a pass is a pass’, I think that if they aimed higher in mock tests, they’d be more ‘test ready’ and more likely to get a positive result. They’ll also be better prepared to face real life situations when they start driving.

How to prepare for your theory test

So how do you prepare for your car theory test?

Well you should also know that the questions are based on 3 sources, and you can find the answer to every question in one or more of them:

The next step is to think about how you learn best. Do you like reading, watching or doing?

For example, if reading suits you best, visit the Safe Driving for Life shop and grab the Official DVSA learning materials listed above. You may choose to read them in blocks or dip in and out of them as you work through the topics - both are fine.

You can also:

  • Use time with your driving instructor to discuss the rules of the road. My students often struggle with things like box junctions, roundabouts, crossroads and more – so don’t be afraid to ask!
  • Do some extra learning. My theory test course has video tutorials, fact lists and worksheets to go through, as well as practice questions to check your knowledge. There’s also advice about managing anxiety and plenty of additional help with answering questions. The video benefits drivers who prefer to learn by watching, listening, and doing.
  • Get the Official DVSA Theory Test Kit app

Practice Questions

Once you have good knowledge and understanding of the theory of driving, it’s time to move on to the practice tests. Keep practising questions until you can answer them all correctly, but remember - the practice questions are not the same as the live test questions.

If you want to take your practice to the next level, check out DVSA's eLearning. It contains all the car theory test revision questions – and over 130 hazard perception clips. It works on smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers.

Hazard Perception

To pass the hazard perception part of your theory test, you need to get 44 points out of 75. If you struggle with this part of the test - it could be because you don’t understand what a ‘developing’ hazard is.

A developing hazard is when something happens and develops so that you’d need to take action - like changing speed or direction. You should not click for static hazards (things that don’t move), like road signs, traffic lights, roundabouts, bends, road markings.

How you’ll know if you’re test ready

I usually say that learners are ready to take and pass their theory tests when they can pass at least 5 different consecutive mock tests with a score of 47 or more. The pass mark is 43 / 50, but aiming higher means that, if you score 1 or 2 fewer marks in the real theory test, it will still result in a good test pass.

When to book your theory test

Be realistic! Book your test when you and your instructor think you’re ready to pass. The length of time it takes to prepare is different for everyone, so don’t compare yourself with another person.

To give you an idea, many of my students take somewhere between 2 and 6 weeks to prepare. But those that have special learning needs or have little time to study due to family or work commitments may take longer.

What to do if you’re test ready

Congratulations! Choosing to take your theory test when you’re test ready means you do not need to go through months or even years of frustration.

Be sure to book your test though the official booking service on GOV.UK. Other sites may charge you more.

What to do if you’re not test ready

Keep practising. If you cannot pass mock tests with a high score, or you’re not scoring 3s and 4s in your hazard perception clips, you’re not test ready. Take the time you need to prepare properly so that you only have to take the test once. That will save you time and money and free up the appointment for someone who is test ready.

If you’ve booked a test and you realise as the day gets closer that you’re not ready, you can change your appointment on GOV.UK

Finally, remember there’s no substitute for good preparation. Plenty of study and practice will increase your chances of passing and help you to become a better, safer driver.

* This blog:

  • expresses the views of its participants as of the date indicated and does not represent the views of TSO, DVSA and or any other third party acting under their written authority, moreover, such views are subject to change without notice and neither TSO/DVSA have no duty and or obligation to update the information contained herein;
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