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Theory Test Pass Mark: What You Need to Succeed

Cartoon of Mark Sheet

One of the most important steps towards getting your driving licence is passing the theory test. However, with so much focus placed on the practical side of things, many learners remain unclear about how exactly it works. One of the most common queries we get relates to the theory test pass mark.

Fear not! We’re about to provide a handy breakdown of the theory test pass mark for you, including details on both the hazard perception and multiple choice sections. By the end of this quick guide, you’ll know exactly what to aim for on the big day. Let’s get started!


A game of two halves

Close up of table football featuring red and blue figures and ball
Image source: Gavin Tyte via Unsplash

Before we dive into the requirements, we need to start by clearing up a common misconception. You see, many learners assume that, like most exams, there’s a single point score to obtain in order to pass. When it comes to the theory test, however, it’s slightly more complicated.

If you’ve done a little research into the test, you’ll be well aware that it consists of two sections: multiple choice and hazard perception. You may not yet realise, though, that candidates receive a separate score for each of these, rather than one overall mark. You need to succeed in both sections individually in order to obtain an overall pass.

With this in mind, it might be best to think of the theory test as two separate exams rolled into one. Similarly, you should be thinking not of a single theory test pass mark, but two. And remember: it’s not good enough to excel in one if you flunk the other!


Multiple choice

Candidate using a computer to complete the multiple choice section of the theory test
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

The first half of your theory test is all about multiple choice questions. Each of these questions focuses on the rules of the road, with information drawn from The Highway Code, Know Your Traffic Signs, and Driving — The Essential Skills.

The format of this section is straightforward. There are 50 questions to get through in total, covering topics from attitude to alertness, and each comes with a choice of 4 possible answers. Every correct answer is worth 1 point, and you’ll need to score at least 43 to pass.

NUMBER OF QUESTIONS POINTS AVAILABLE PASS MARK
50 50 43

Case studies

Note: the format of the case study changed as a result of the September 2020 theory test changes.

As a subsection of the multiple choice part of the exam, you’ll also be presented with a case study. This will involve watching a short, silent video clip, and then answering 3 multiple choice questions about it. You can watch this video clip as many times as you wish during this section of the test.

The case study forms part of your overall mark for the multiple choice section: 3 of the 50 available points. There is no distinction made in the marking between these questions and the others asked in the section. In other words, you can still pass this section even if you get the case study questions wrong, so long as you get at least 43 others right.

Prepare to pass

With a relatively high threshold to clear, it might not surprise you to learn that plenty of candidates don’t succeed at the multiple choice section. In fact, in 2019, out of a total of 1.9 million tests, more than 900,000 failed this section. If you’d like to avoid this happening to you, then it’s time to start preparing for the test! Here are our top tips:

  1. Hit the books (or e-books!) and read through the three guides thoroughly
  2. Build your knowledge on the go with a theory test app
  3. See how far you’ve come by taking mock tests
  4. Take advantage of a wider range of resources with our ultimate revision guide
  5. Ignore the myths—the theory test is more than just common sense!

Hazard perception

The other component of the theory test pass mark comes from the hazard perception section. This part of the test asks you to watch a series of 14 video clips. During each clip, you’ll need to click when you spot a developing hazard. A developing hazard is something that would cause you, as the driver, to take action, such as slowing down, changing direction or stopping. Examples include a car pulling out of a side road, or a child running into the road.

To score points, you must be able to spot the hazard in good time. Each hazard comes with a scoring window, in which you can earn up to 5 points. If you click when the hazard first starts developing, you’ll get the maximum of 5. Click slightly later, and you could earn from 4 through to 1 point. Click too late, and you’ll score nothing for that particular hazard.

You’ll watch 14 video clips during this section. Most of these clips will feature only one developing hazard, but one clip will feature two. In turn, this means that most clips come with a maximum score of 5; for the double hazard clip, it’s 10. To pass this section, you’ll need to earn at least 44 points across the clips.

You won’t lose points for clicking when something turns out not to be a developing hazard. However, if the system detects that you’re attempting to cheat (for example, by clicking constantly, or in a pattern), then you’ll receive a score of 0 for that particular hazard. If this happens, you’ll see a warning message on your screen.

NUMBER OF VIDEO CLIPS POINTS AVAILABLE PASS MARK
14 75 44

Prepare to pass

The hazard perception section trips up substantially fewer candidates than the multiple choice questions. Out of 1.9 million tests in 2019, just under 1.6 million candidates scored 44 or above. However, it remains the case that this is a test unlike any other you’re likely to have sat before, and one that must be taken seriously. To give learners a boost, we’ve created a full guide to the hazard perception section. Plus, we’ve got another 5 top tips!

  1. Be aware of developing hazards when you’re in the car
  2. Try the hazard perception clips in the official DVSA mobile app
  3. Don’t skip revision on a desktop—this is what you’ll use on the day
  4. Find more videos via YouTube
  5. Avoid the temptation to click in a pattern

FAQs

1. How will I know if I’ve achieved the theory test pass mark?

After taking the test, you’ll be called over to your theory test centre’s reception. The member of staff there will give you a letter which tells you if you’ve passed or failed the test. If also breaks down your performance as follows (where # is your score):

• Multiple choice 43 correct answers out of 50 You scored #
• Hazard perception 44 out of a possible 75 You scored #

2. Will I find out all the answers to the multiple choice questions?

To protect the secrecy of the test, the DVSA will not print the full breakdown of your answers on your letter. It will, however, let you know the topics where you answered incorrectly. This is an example:

Topic Area Incorrect Answers
Other Types of Vehicle 1
Accidents 1

3. Will I receive a breakdown of my hazard perception score?

Yes. The letter you receive after taking the test will include a breakdown like the one below. Note that, other than the double hazard clip, you won’t be informed of your score on any particular clip.

On the double hazard clip you scored 5
On 6 clips you scored 5
On 4 clips you scored 4
On 3 clips you scored 3

4. Has the theory test pass mark changed?

The theory test has gradually become longer and more difficult over time. When it was first introduced in 1996, the test featured only a multiple choice section; hazard perception was not added until 2002. The pass mark changed most recently in 2007. You can see the evolution of the theory test pass mark in the table below.

Date Multiple choice pass mark Hazard perception pass mark
July 1996 26 out of 35 N/A
October 1996 30 out of 35 N/A
November 2002 30 out of 35 38 out of 75
September 2003 30 out of 35 44 out of 75
September 2007 43 out of 50 44 out of 75

5. What if I pass one section but not the other?

The rules here are, unfortunately, very clear: you can’t pass the test without reaching the pass mark for both sections. Additionally, you must sit both halves of the theory test together; it’s not possible to take the multiple choice section on one day and the hazard perception on another.

By Andy Boardman

Andy has been part of the PassMeFast Blog team from the very beginning. 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 the way to his next destination.

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