It’s the morning of your driving test. The big day you’ve been preparing for since you first parked your bum in that driver’s seat. You’ve consumed a hearty breakfast, dressed in your finest comfy-yet-practical attire and your instructor has just arrived to take you to the test centre. You set off, armed with your provisional licence and a positive mindset.
You’re good to go! …Right? Well, according to the DVSA’s test day checklist, not quite.
The official guidelines state that, along with your provisional and a car that meets the requirements, you must also take your theory test pass certificate to the practical test. Now, you may be thinking: ‘Is this really absolutely necessary? Surely they can access all of my information via their computer system!’ And you’d be half right.
As with many FAQs surrounding learning to drive, the pass certificate issue isn’t completely straightforward. Luckily, we’ve compiled everything you need to know in one handy article!
Theory test pass certificate: DVSA official line
Remember back to that lovely moment when you were told you had passed your theory test. Along with a pat on the back, you received a theory test pass certificate—complete with a theory pass certificate number. The latter is particularly important, because it allows you to log into the practical test booking system.
As we’re sure you’re aware by now, the pass certificate number is valid for two years. In other words, you must pass your practical within two years of passing your theory. If you don’t, it’s back down to the theory test centre you go, to complete another test. Not ideal.
It seems a little strange that, knowing you needed to pass your theory test to book your practical in the first place, the DVSA still requires that you bring the certificate to the test. They do, though—it’s right there in black and white.
Here’s exactly what the DVSA website tells you to take to the practical test:
- Your UK driving licence Duh!
- Your theory test pass certificate (we’ll see)
- A car Don’t show up on foot—you’ll look a fool. A fool!
*Some of the above comments are not necessarily the words of the DVSA.
Your licence is obviously the most important item to take to the test. Yes, your information is on a system somewhere, but if they had to check everyone’s details on a computer before each test slot, it would waste a lot of valuable minutes. They don’t fit all of those precisely timed tests (where else do you find appointments scheduled for 11 minutes past the hour?!) into a day by wasting time, you know! Plus, imagine if the system crashed. It would be chaos.
The same logic could also be applied to the theory certificate. If anything goes wrong with the computer system, they don’t have time to confirm everyone’s theory test status. Still, it just doesn’t seem as relevant as the provisional licence (which also handily doubles up as your photo ID).
Not thoroughly convinced, we decided to go straight to the source—for a precise, up-to-date answer…
The test centres
First up, we phoned a range of test centres. Not all picked up (busy working out the most random times to schedule driving tests, no doubt) but a couple managed to give us the answers we needed.
A friendly chap at one of the South Yorkshire test centres confirmed that “it’s not normally necessary” to bring your theory certificate along, but still emphasised: “If you have it, bring it.”
The other centres that responded to us concurred with this attitude. A second test centre employee added that bringing your theory certificate with you “could be helpful” in the event that something goes wrong with the DVSA’s database. Such a scenario is not unheard of, apparently.
Given that the information we received from the test centres slightly contradicts the DVSA’s instructions that you must take your theory certificate to the practical, we decided to contact them directly, too.
“The chances are you won’t [need to bring the certificate] as most people have it stored digitally online here, but of course a small minority won’t be stored online […] If you can supply us with your driving licence number and either the practical test booking number or theory test pass number, we’d be able to check it for you.”
—DVSA support centre
So, it’s not absolutely necessary, as long as you are on the DVSA’s system. This seems like a fair enough deal—especially as they are willing to look this up for you. If you want to check whether your information is on their system, we recommend contacting the DVSA online. You’re more likely to get a speedier response via their website or Twitter page.
What to do if you lose your theory pass certificate
The information we’ve given to you about the theory certificate thus far is intended to reassure you that, if you forget to bring it to your test, it’s unlikely to be the end of the world. This is by no means to say that your theory pass certificate is not important. Indeed, in the event that you lose it, you’ll need to arrange a replacement (which may be in the form of a letter, rather than another certificate) as soon as possible.
If disaster strikes and you lose the certificate before you’ve booked the practical test, your immediate concern is going to be getting your hands on the theory pass number. That’s because, in some cases, you may need this number to book your test.
True to form, the DVSA is one step ahead—offering help for this issue in 2 stages:
|① Enter your details into the candidate log in section of the theory test site. From here you should be able to access your pass certificate number.
② Next, they advise you to get a replacement letter to take to the practical test. You can obtain one of these by contacting the DVSA’s theory test enquiries centre and explaining your situation. For this part you’ll need to provide your name and driving licence number.
This should be a fairly simple process. If you happen to lose your provisional licence, however, it’s a a slightly more serious matter. We’ve put together an article on exactly what to do if you’ve lost your provisional licence—so check it out and save yourself some worry!
The theory pass certificate on test day
Let’s be honest: if it’s the day of your practical test, you don’t need anything else adding uncertainty or stress to the situation. That’s why we’ve always been firm supporters of the idea that it is better to be safe than sorry. It’s annoying how Mums are always right, isn’t it?
Even though we’ve established that, in all likelihood, you won’t need your theory certificate on test day—why complicate things? As it’s clearly listed as a must-bring item on the DVSA website, there is always the off chance that in some test centres they will ask to see it.
This means that, technically, they will be within their rights to cancel your test if you are unable to show it—meaning, you won’t be able to make a test cancellation claim. For this reason, we’d stick with the advice from the test centres: if you have it, bring it.
For all of the latest news and tips from the driving world, keep checking in with the PassMeFast blog!