Top 5 Myths About the Theory Test

If you’re a learner, you’re sure to have heard plenty of driving advice from everyone from your parents to your friends to your next-door neighbour’s hairdresser. The trouble is that so much of what people claim about driving simply doesn’t stack up—and this is certainly true of a number of theory test myths.

Here in this article, we’ll reveal the truth about the theory test, helping you to avoid some of the biggest mistakes candidates make and prepare to pass first time. Let’s dive in!


① The theory test is just common sense

Mercedes-Benz wheel with Continental tyre
Minimum legal tread depth across the central three-quarters of a tyre: common sense, surely?

The most common myth we’ve heard (and we’re sure that you have too) is that the theory test is nothing more than common sense. And since (hopefully) we all have common sense, that should be all there is to it—no need to revise, right?

Wrong. Though it’s certainly true that common sense will certainly come in handy when answering many of the questions (just as it comes in handy on the road!), it can’t solve everything.

Questions on your theory test may include, for example, the minimum legal tread depth of a tyre, the braking distance of a car at 60 mph, or identifying the sign that indicates a ring road. These aren’t things that we all have as inbuilt knowledge—instead, you’ll have to learn them.

The reality

In truth, the theory test covers an incredibly broad range of subjects. In fact, topics on the driving test range from the rules of the road to vulnerable road users, and from traffic signs to hazard awareness. All of this means that you’ll need to devote some serious time to your preparation: so, get studying!

You have choices when it comes to how to revise. The official DVSA theory test app for Android and iOS is a popular way to go, as are websites such as Theory Test Pro. Alternatively, you can go back to basics and pick up a copy of the Highway Code and theory test guide from a local bookshop. We’ve even created a quiz on traffic signs to help you revise!


② Keep randomly clicking during the hazard perception section

Hazard perception clip

The hazard perception section is one of the trickiest parts of the theory test. During this section, learners watch a series of video clips, and need to click when they spot a developing hazard. Most learners are unlikely to have experienced anything like it before—and, as such, may be a little thrown by it.

With this uncertainty, many have tried to devise strategies for dealing with the hazard perception section. You often hear people saying that you need to click at least once every 10 seconds, or that you should simply click as often as possible to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Of course, the DVSA anticipated the possibility that learners may try and click in a pattern or use other techniques to pass—and, as always, they’re one step ahead. The hazard perception section includes technology that detects when candidates’ behaviour appears to be suspicious. If it believes that you’re simply clicking in a pattern, it will give you a score of 0!

The reality

Worried about what you should really be doing during the hazard perception section? Stop focusing on tactics and start focusing on the road! There’s no secret to scoring here; just watch out for anything that may develop into a hazard and click when you see it. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t ultimately become a hazard—you won’t lose points if you click at the wrong time, so long as there’s nothing fishy about the way you seem to be clicking. You can practice hazard perception using clips on the official DVSA theory test app, or on Safe Driving for Life.


③ Everyone passes first time

Many of the common misconceptions about driving stem from one place: that one mate we all have who brags about just how easy everything driving-related is. The one who definitely passed after 5 hours and can do a three-point turn with his eyes shut. And, according to him, everyone—yes, everyone—passes their theory test first time. It’s just that easy.

Oh, would that it were true. In fact, this myth falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny. Think about it seriously: if everyone passed the theory test, why would the DVSA bother to run it at all?

The truth is that the theory test provides a real challenge for learner drivers—and it’s certainly become harder over time. Back in 2007/08, the pass rate was 65.4%. Ten years on, that’s down to just 48.7%—not far above the pass rate for the practical test. You can see the pass rates for the two tests side by side in the graph below.

Theory and practical test pass rates 2007–2018

This decline in pass rates isn’t too surprising when you’re aware of the history of the theory test. Indeed, the DVSA have been rejigging, tweaking and perfecting the theory test almost from the moment of its inception.

The reality

The theory test may be a harder nut to crack than you’d first imagined. But there’s no reason to fear the theory test—it’s certainly not impossible, after all! As always, preparation is the key. Start studying with your theory test app or website of choice; create (and stick to!) a revision timetable, and be sure to cover all the potential topics which may arise on your test. You got this!


④ You can do your theory and practical test on the same day

Image source: Dafne Cholet

We totally understand that many learners are eager to get on the road. (There’s a good reason why our name is PassMeFast, after all!) Unfortunately, some learners are under the impression that you can take the theory and practical test incredibly close together—even, in some cases, on the same day.

If you’re aware of the rules behind booking your theory and practical test, you’ll understand why this doesn’t work. The DVSA stipulates that you must pass your theory test before you’re even able to book a practical test. As such, taking both on the same day simply isn’t possible. This is definitely for the best—imagine the stress of two tests on one day!

The reality

Okay, so things may not be quite as speedy as you’d hoped. However, in reality, this is a positive. Keeping your preparation for the two tests separate means you’ll be able to properly dedicate yourself to each of them in turn. After all, extra time = extra preparation!

As an added benefit, studying for the theory test will also provide you with knowledge that will prove invaluable when you take to the roads. There’s a reason why you need to pass your theory test first!


⑤ You can’t start driving until you’ve passed your theory test

Driver with neutral expression

In some ways, this is the reverse of the previous myth. Some learners think that they won’t be able to get behind the wheel of a car at all until they’ve passed their theory test.

Fortunately, this is not the case. For a learner to legally drive on the roads, however, they must abide by the following rules:

  • You must hold a valid provisional driving licence
  • L plates must be clearly displayed on the front and back of your car
  • While driving, you must be accompanied by someone who:
    • is over 21 years old
    • is qualified to drive the type of vehicle you’re learning in
    • has held a valid, full UK, EU or EEA driving licence for 3 years
  • To legally drive on the motorway, your instructor must accompany you in the car
  • If practising in a car other than your instructor’s, you must be insured to drive it

The reality

It’s totally fine to start driving lessons (or private practice) before you take your theory test. Nonetheless, there are good reasons why many learners leave most of their lessons until later.

An important factor is that you can’t predict the outcome of your theory test. Imagine taking all of your driving lessons and feeling ready to take your practical test—only to be unable to do so because you haven’t already passed your theory test.

Our advice in this scenario, then, is to go ahead with a few lessons before passing your theory test if you’d like to go ahead of the game—but not to leave it too late. Passing your theory test early means you’ve completed a crucial step on your way to getting your full UK driving licence. Read up on our guide to passing your theory test for useful advice before the big day!

Got your theory test coming up? Read up on our top 5 last minute theory test tips.

By Andy Boardman

Andy fell in love with driving while road tripping around Iceland. He'll provide you with plenty of useful motoring advice, helping you to get the most out of every trip. When he's not writing here, you're most likely to find Andy on his way to the next destination.