The Driving Test

Driving testThere are two sections to the driving test, both of which must be passed. The theory test, which is taken first, followed by the practical test.

The theory test

There are two parts to the theory test: the multiple choice part and the hazard perception part. Both parts of the test are taken on the same day and you need to pass both to pass the theory test. If you have a Safe Road User Award you can take a shorter ”“abridged” car theory test meaning that you only have to answer 35 multiple questions rather than the normal 50. On passing the theory test candidates receive a theory test pass certificate which lasts for two years: you cannot book a practical test without one. A candidate who fails must wait at least three clear working days before taking another test.

The pass mark for the Theory Test is 86 per cent, which means that a candidate needs to answer 43/50 multiple choice questions correctly to pass. For the hazard perception section of the test, you need to score 44/75.

Multiple choice part of the theory test

In the multiple choice part of the test you will have up to 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple-choice questions. Before the test starts the candidate is given instructions on the format of the test and there is the opportunity to carry out a short practice test. A question and several possible answers appear on a screen, the candidate then selects the right answer. Some questions are given as a case study, this involves a short story that includes five questions and is based on a real life driving situation. Candidates can ”flag” a question to return to later and any question can be reviewed and changed within the 57 minutes. You then have up to a three minute break before starting the hazard perception test.

Hazard perception test

Before starting the hazard perception test the candidate watches a video about how it works followed by 14 video clips. These feature everyday road scenes and contain at least one ”developing hazard” — but one of the clips features two developing hazards. A developing hazard is something that would cause the driver to take action, like changing speed or direction. For example: a car is parked at the side of the road and isn’t doing anything. It wouldn’t cause you to take action, so it’s not a developing hazard. When you get closer, the car’s right-hand indicator starts to flash and it starts to move away. You’d need to slow down, so it’s now a developing hazard.

A candidate gets points for spotting the developing hazards as soon as they start to happen. Up to five points for each developing hazard can be scored. Unlike the multiple choice questions a candidate only gets one attempt at each clip and can’t be reviewed or changed.

Find out more about the theory test.

It’s a good idea to read the Highway Code and practice for the theory test.

The practical test

The practical driving test which lasts about 40 minutes is designed to see if the learner driver can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions, know the Highway Code and can show this through their driving ability. The ADI will tell the candidate when they are ready to take their test. The photocard licence must be taken to the test centre.

Highway code

The format of the driving test changed from December 4, 2017 for England, Scotland and Wales. The driving test works differently in Northern Ireland.

The practical test will involve:

  • An eyesight check (read a number plate from 20m if new style)
  • One ‘tell me' question where the candidate explains how to carry out a safety task at the start of the test before the practical drive
  • General driving ability
  • Reversing your vehicle
  • Independent driving Whilst driving the candidate will be asked a ‘show me’ question where they will demonstrate how to carry out a safety task

There are three types of faults that can be marked in the test:

  • A dangerous fault – involves actual danger to the driver, examiner, public or property
  • A serious fault – could potentially be dangerous
  • A driving fault (often referred to as a minor) – not potentially dangerous but if the same fault is made throughout the test it could become a serious fault.

Did you know?

The new test now involves:

Driving independently, most candidates will be asked to follow directions from a satnav. One in 5 driving tests won’t use a satnav, both will last for around 20 minutes. The reverse around a corner and turn in the road manoeuvre is no longer tested, instead candidates will carry out 1 of 3 reversing manoeuvres:

  • parallel park at the side of the road
  • park in a bay - either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out
  • pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and rejoin the traffic.

Candidates can make up to 15 driving faults and still pass, one dangerous or serious fault will result in failure. Feedback and the result of the test will be given at the end.

Find out more about the driving test.


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