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How Do I Know I’m Ready to Take the Theory Test?

January 17, 2024

6 min read

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Leon McKenzie

Content Writer

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A surprising number of learner drivers find themselves stumped by the theory test. Some underestimate just how tricky the theory can be and end up focusing almost entirely on the practical test. Others, in contrast, get so worked up about the exam that they end up repeatedly failing or putting it off altogether. Neither of these scenarios are ideal if you’re looking to pass fast!

The key to mastering the theory test is to only take it when you’re absolutely ready. This might sound rather obvious but, as we’ve said, plenty of people trip at this first driving hurdle.

You can’t even book your practical test until you’re in possession of a theory test pass certificate. It’s vital, therefore, that you give the theory test the time and attention it requires. As people learn in different ways and at different speeds, this process won’t look the same for everyone, which begs the question: how will you know when you’re ready to take the theory test?

We’re about to explain all!

How to view the theory test

To become a good driver, theoretical knowledge goes hand-in-hand with practical expertise. The theory test isn’t just something you cram for and then forget all about. The material covered prepares you for the responsibility of being a qualified driver. Sadly, this is not how all people view it.

If learning to drive was Destiny’s Child (stay with us here) the theory test would be Michelle. Underrated, lightly mocked and barely given any thought. The thing is though, Destiny’s Child doesn’t work without Michelle! You need the foundation of those soft harmonies and the presence of a regular civilian to highlight Beyonce’s otherworldliness. The same (kind of) goes for driving.

The theory test is a vital component in the process of earning a licence. The knowledge it instils will inform your practical driving skills and increase your understanding of how things work on the road. Without it, you might be able to perform an action, but you won’t necessarily understand the how, when and why. Rather than viewing the theory test as an inconvenience on the path to taking your practical test, therefore, see it as the helpful checkpoint that it is!

Preparing to pass the theory test

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Now that you’ve decided to give the theory test the attention it deserves, it’s time to devise a solid revision plan. As we’ve mentioned, this will look different for everyone, depending on how you prefer to learn. In this day and age, though, there really is no excuse for skipping the studying. You can find the relevant information via apps, websites, computer programs and even good old fashioned books. For a detailed insight into how the test is structured and what you’ll need on the day, check out our full theory test rundown.

Once you’ve picked your chosen methods of revision, work out a study routine that matches your lifestyle. This might be a quiet couple of hours reading at home, or the use of an app during your morning commute. No matter how busy you are, pretty much everyone has small windows of free time within their day. Pinpoint these and make the most of them!

Multiple choice

The multiple choice section of the theory test covers information found in 3 books: The Highway Code, Know Your Traffic Signs and Driving - The Essential Skills. Try to get your hands on each one. If you have the cash to splash, they’re all available to purchase. Failing that, you could go old school and rent them from a library or try to find the content online.

The best way to supplement your revision (and get test-ready!) is to take mock tests. These are available to purchase, and you can also find a limited selection free of charge on the DVSA website.

Hazard perception

The hazard perception section is a little trickier to prepare for because it’s more about testing your instincts rather than a straightforward right a wrong answer. In some ways it can actually be useful to start with mock tests (you can usually find them in a bundle with the ones for the multiple choice section) to get an idea of what is required of you.

Once you get into the swing of it, stary applying your skills to real life scenarios! Everytime you’re being driven somewhere, watch the road and make a mental note every time you spot a potential or developing hazard. See how that theoretical knowledge can be put to practical use?!

When will you know if you’re ready?

And we arrive at the million dollar question! We can’t address this without covering exactly what it takes to achieve a pass mark. To earn that theory certificate, learners must achieve a minimum of 43/50 on the multiple choice questions and 44/75 on the hazard perception test. Each is totted up seperately, which means you can’t make up for a low score on one with a high score on another.

Once you can consistently pass the mock tests and recall relevant information without consulting a cheat sheet, you’re ready for the real thing. This may seem fairly obvious, but the point we’re really trying to drill home is that the theory test is not just something you can wing. Without adequate preparation and revision, it is unlikely you will ever be fully ready to take it. 

When should you book your theory test?

Being ready in terms of knowing the material is one thing, but you actually need to have a test date lined up in order to pass! Theory test wait times vary depending on location, with most centres having appointments available within 1-4 weeks.

It’s a good idea, therefore, to book your test when you have at least a vague idea of how long your revision plan will take to complete. If it’s less than a week, you can go ahead and book one as soon as possible. Those who will need more time because of their schedule might want to fit some revision in before booking a test. And, of course, there’s no harm in keeping an eye on the available slots at your local test centre, even if you don’t think you’ll be ready anytime soon.

What to do if you don’t pass the first time

Trust us when we say you’re not alone in failing your theory test! Less than half of people pass on the first attempt, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The best thing to do in this situation is to focus on the positives. They’re there if you look hard enough!

For starters, now you really know what to expect in terms of the formal theory test conditions. It’s very unlikely to be as daunting the second time around. You also now have the gift (yes, GIFT!) of knowing exactly what your weak points are.

Rather than adding insult to injury, this provides you with a clear blueprint of the areas you need to focus on before having another stab at it. With this valuable information in your arsenal, you can ace the test on your second go!

The key to theory test success

Key sitting in the palm of a hand
  • Take it seriously! While it’s nothing to freak out about, the theory test is a proper exam that requires some proper studying. This is not the time to play it cool and attempt a fluke.
  • Create a solid revision plan and write it down. Making studying for the theory test part of your routine is a great way to hold yourself accountable and stay on top of things.
  • Get your mock on! Practice tests are the best way to ensure that the studying you’re doing is actually paying off. The more you do, the easier you should find everything on the day.
  • Take test conditions into account. Remember that the actual theory test setting won’t be as relaxed as when you’re clicking away on your computer at home. Prepare yourself for this by timing your mock tests and getting plenty of sleep the night before the big day.
  • Believe you can do it! If you’ve put the work in and know your stuff, there’s no reason you can’t pass the theory test. Try not to let self-doubt or nerves deter you from your goal.

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