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How I Passed the Theory Test First Time

January 22, 2024

10 min read

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Sam Plant

Content Writer

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A woman taking a theory test

Not long after I started working for PassMeFast, I decided to start my own learning journey. Before I began taking lessons, however, I turned my attention towards the theory test. As you're probably aware, learners need to pass the theory test before they can book a driving test. With that in mind, I hit the books and pit my wits against mock tests in the hopes of passing the theory test first time.

In this article, I'll be walking you through my revision process and showing you how I passed my theory test first time. I'll even share some tips and tricks to help you ace yours!

The lowdown

I started working for PassMeFast in 2017 and decided that it was time for me to get behind the wheel. First things first, though, I needed to pass the theory test. Whilst you can take driving lessons before you pass the theory, you won't be able to book a practical until you have your theory test pass certificate in hand.

Rather than revise the theory test in the midst of starting lessons, I decided to cross it off my list first. As certain theory test centres come with long-ish waiting times, I opted to book my theory test first so that I would have a date to work towards. (When it's time for you to take the theory test, you might prefer to get some of your revision done before you book the test.)

Booking the test

Hands typing on a laptop as they book a theory test

To book the theory test, I headed straight to the DVSA's booking system. As a local to the Salford area, I set my sights on looking for available test dates at Salford theory test centre. When you log in to the theory test booking system, you'll be able to look at available test dates at your chosen test centre. If you don't spot a suitable test date, you can keep refreshing until you find one, or, come back to it at a later date.

When I first logged in, I found a test date that was exactly one week away. Not wanting to delay, I booked it then and there (costing me £23). As I'd been working at PassMeFast for a few months by this point, I was relatively familiar with the theory test format, so I felt comfortable with revising in a short window of time.

My top tip: If you're a bit unsure, you might want to start revising for your theory test before you book one. Once you're about halfway done with your revision, or at least mostly comfortable with it, you can go about booking it in. Don't feel pressured into booking one ASAP.

Knowing the enemy

With my theory test booked in for September 16 2017, I set myself the task of getting to know the theory test inside and out. Contrary to popular theory test myths, the test is not a walk in the park. It can be hard to pass if you don't know the format or lack a good foundation of theory test knowledge.

The theory test itself is broken down into two sections—50 multiple-choice questions and a hazard perception test. If you want to pass, you need to score 43 out of 50 for the multiple-choice section, and 44 out of 75 on the hazard perception test. You need to pass both sections in order to get an overall pass.

I knew that if I wanted to pass the theory test first time, I would need to use a range of resources to revise—from books to online tests to mobile revision apps. Below, you'll see exactly how I broke my revision down over the course of a week.

My top tip: Before you crack on with buying revision materials or starting your revision, first make sure that you're actually familiar with the theory test format. Read my guide on how to pass your theory test.

Hitting the books

Open books and pencils

According to the DVSA, the multiple-choice section is based on 3 important books:

The first two are available online for free, so you don't have to spend a penny! The last book is available to buy online for around £15. Now, you don't necessarily have to buy this book. As PassMeFast HQ already had a copy of an AA theory test revision guide, I opted to use that instead.

There are plenty of theory test revision guides that you can buy at a cheap price, so don't feel pressured into buying a specific one. Alternatively, if you're up for the challenge, you can substitute it with online/mobile revision materials that I'll take about later.

I started off with getting to know road signs. It's the easiest section by far, but it's certainly still important! You'll need to know these signs like the back of your hand once you take to the roads. Next, I moved onto the Highway Code. It should only take you a couple of hours or so (depending on your reading speed and the amount of free time you have) to make your way through it. Though it's not the most interesting read, it forms the basis of most of the multiple-choice section. So don't ignore it!

Once I crossed those off my list, I moved onto the AA's revision guide. This book went through all of the theory test topics and listed sample questions with explanations—helping me better understand how the test works. After finishing it, I felt like I had a good enough understanding of theory test knowledge to finally start testing myself.

Going mobile

A locked iPhone

After asking PassMeFast staff what the best method of theory test revision was, I was told that I should try a mobile revision app. With hundreds available, I was certainly spoilt for choice. Eventually, I opted to purchase the Driving Theory Test 4 in 1 Kit. For £4.99, I gained access to a huge bank of theory test questions, dozens of hazard perception clips, the Highway Code and road signs. There are plenty of free apps available, however, so don't feel like you have to spend money if you don't want to.

Practice questions

I started off by working my way through the many practice questions available. The app allows you to revise them by category or all at once, and gives you a percentage that shows you how many you've answered. You can even revise all questions, those answered incorrectly in the past, or those that you haven't seen yet. Whenever I had a spare moment, I would chip away at these questions until I reached 100%.

Mock tests

Once I made my way through most (if not all) of the practice questions, I started tackling the mock tests on the app. These tests were structured like the official theory test—you have to score 43 out of 50 to pass, and you have 57 minutes to complete them. As I waited until I'd revised most of the question bank to take the mock tests, I found that I passed more of them than I'd failed. If you do the same, you'll find it much easier too.

Hazard perception

The app also came with a range of hazard perception clips. I found this slightly tricky at first, if only because I wasn't used to it. In essence, you watch a clip and then tap the screen whenever you see a hazard emerging. It can take a little while to get the hang of tapping (or clicking) at the best time—if you do it too early or late, you'll get less or zero points. After watching the DVSA's explanation video, however, and trying out a few more, I eventually got to grips with the hazard perception section.

Why I liked using a revision app

Though, as I'll mention in the section below, there are plenty of online resources for your desktop, there were plenty of advantages to using a mobile app. At the time, I was commuting into work every day, so I had at least forty minutes on the bus where I'd be doing nothing. Having the app enabled me to make the most of this time—fitting in quick mock tests and practising hazard perception clips. It also meant that I didn't have to lug around physical books!

The trick to mastering the theory test is to chip away at your revision consistently. Don't just do 10 minutes and call it a day. Try to revise in bite-sized chunks throughout the day—e.g., ten minutes every hour or so. The more you revise, the easier it will become.

If in doubt, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

Revising online

A person browsing Google on a laptop

I didn't just rely on the mobile app for my revision, of course. There are countless websites online that offer free revision resources for the theory test—from quick multiple-choice practice questions to mock tests that mirror the actual theory test. The DVSA even offer learners a mock theory test. (I left this until I was almost done with my revision, as I didn't want to waste it before I was actually ready.)

I must have made my way through every revision website and resource available, trying dozens upon dozens of quizzes and mock tests. It got to the point where I recognised at least 90% of the questions—and I wasn't getting many wrong. It's important to note here that I spent more time practising the hazard perception test on a desktop than I did with the mobile app. Why? As useful as the mobile clips were, they required me to use a touchscreen.

In the actual test, you will have to use a mouse to indicate when you've spotted a hazard. As such, it's important that you get used to the motion.

My top tip: If you're not sure where to start with looking for online revision resources, we've got just the thing for you! Check out my ultimate theory test revision resources guide. You'll find everything I used to pass my theory test first time there!

Sticking to a revision schedule

As I've said, I had a week in total to revise for the theory test. One of those days was spent revising the road signs, Highway Code and the AA revision guide. For the other 6 days, I made sure to revise for around two hours each day. I'd like to point out here that I didn't do this consecutively. I'd spend around 30 minutes on the app during my commute in the morning, and then for the commute on the way back home. In the late afternoon, I'd then spend an hour or so on my desktop trying out mock tests.

The last thing I wanted was to be revising last-minute the day before my test, staying up until the early hours and weeping into my revision notes. I spaced out my revision, but also made sure that I did so in increments that actually helped me build up and maintain my theory test knowledge. And that's the trick—practice, practice, practice! Though it's not the end of the world if you fail the theory test, you don't want to have to spend another £23 simply because you didn't fully commit to revision.


Date: September 16 2017, Time: 08:00am

A theory test centre sign

Before the test

Though I was nervous before the theory test, having it booked in so early meant that I didn't really have enough time to start second-guessing myself and panicking. I didn't bother trying to cram in any last minute revision in the morning. I figured that if I didn't know it by then, a few minutes of revision wouldn't help.

As advised by the DVSA, I got to Salford theory test centre around 15 minutes before my test was due to start. I headed straight to the reception and signed in. The receptionist asked me to sit down and wait in a seated area with other candidates. Once they were ready for me, they asked me to put my belongings in a locker before guiding me to a desk. Once I sat down, it was time for me to put my newfound theory knowledge to the test. Dun, dun, dun!

During the test

The multiple-choice section seemed like a complete breeze, really. Though I was still slightly nervous (on account of me always getting nervous for exams), it was no different from the mock tests and practice questions I'd been going through in my revision. As such, I ended up getting through it pretty quickly—I didn't need to use the full 57 minutes. And that's not all!

My revision seemed to have paid off, as I ended up recognising the majority of the questions from practice tests. Before it ended, however, I went back through all of my answers to make sure I hadn't made any noticeable errors.

Though you have the option to take a 3 minute break before starting the hazard perception test, I just wanted to get it over and done with. It lasted 14 minutes and it seemed pretty similar to the hazard perception mock clips that I'd taken previously. Unlike the multiple-choice section, however, I wasn't as confident with the hazard perception. At the end, I figured that if I ended up failing, it would be due to that section.

The outcome

Two women with their hands up standing beside body of water

Once I finished the test, I headed to the locker to pick up my belongings. Next, I went to the reception area. After less than a minute, the receptionist passed me my result on paper and I was free to go. I was on the fence as to how well I'd done, which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I'd passed.

As expected, however, I'd done much better in the multiple-choice section than the hazard perception test. I scored 46 out of 50 for the multiple-choice section, with incorrect answers in the following categories:

  • Alertness
  • Attitude
  • Safety Margins
  • Hazard Awareness

I did have quite a bit of spare time at the end. Though I did read back over my answers, I could have potentially spent longer doing so. Given that I only missed out on four marks, however, I wasn't particularly bothered by this. I scored 58 out of 75 for the hazard perception test, as shown here:

  • Double hazard clip: 10 
  • 7 clips:
  • 1 clip:
  • 1 clip:
  • 3 clips:
  • 1 clip:

I wasn't really surprised by the outcome of the hazard perception test. Though I was completely confident with identifying hazards, it was the timing of the clicking that occasionally threw me off. If I'd have had longer than a week to revise, I probably would have dedicated more time to getting to grips with hazard perception. 

On a whole though, I was really pleased with the result. After crossing the theory test off my to-do list, next on the agenda was sorting out my course with PassMeFast.

Struggling to do your revision by yourself? Check out PassMeTheory — our online theory test revision session that will give you all the tools you need to pass.

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