Theory Test Topics Explained: Alertness

Theory Test Topics Explained: Alertness

One of the first things that learner drivers have to tackle before getting on the road is the theory test. Despite what you might have heard, however, it’s not a walk in the park. It will require you to hit the books and put in some serious work. There are 14 topics that make up the theory test’s multiple-choice question bank and we’re going to break down each one to help you ace your theory test! First up is alertness!

Table of contents: 

Theory Test Topic: Alertness

What is alertness featured image

The first topic from the theory test is alertness. As you can probably guess, it refers to how alert a driver is whilst behind the wheel. The road can be an unpredictable place, so it’s important that a driver does not get distracted by things like mobile phones and music, is prepared for any potential hazard, and follows road signs and markings correctly.

Now, that by itself is pretty broad. So you’re probably wondering, “How am I supposed to revise the theory test topic alertness?” Fortunately for you, we’ve broken it down into bite-sized chunks to help you better understand the key areas you need to focus on.

✓ Avoid distractions

You never know when things might change on the road, so the last thing you want is to be distracted from looking ahead. This means that you need to:

  • Avoid tinkering with your radio/music device
  • Set up your sat nav before you set off
  • Put your phone away (it’s illegal to use when driving)
  • If you can, you should even avoid using hands-free

Simply put, if you’re thinking about doing something that will take your attention away from the road ahead, don’t do it. You need to be on the ball all the time when you’re behind the wheel.

✓ Concentrate

If you’re on the road for a long period of time, you’ll need to take precautions to avoid feeling sleepy—any lapses could be catastrophic. This means either winding your window down to let in a fresh supply of air, or taking a breather at the next available rest stop. If you’re taking a road trip, or any long journey, plan your route and implement frequent rest stops to make sure you don’t get too fatigued.

It’s also your responsibility to avoid things that can affect your concentration and reaction time on the road, such as alcohol and drugs. You should also be aware that some medication can negatively affect your ability to control your vehicle.

✓ Be aware of other road users

You need to be alert to what’s going on around you at all times. This means that you need to check your car mirrors regularly. You also need to be aware of any potential blindspots, e.g., the area near the windscreen pillar. Whenever you intend to make a turn, move off, pull over or pretty much anything else, you need to use the MirrorsSignal and Manoeuvre (MSM) routine.

If your view is ever blocked, e.g., if you’re exiting a closed junction, you’ll need to exercise caution and move slowly until you can see properly. Similarly, if you’re attempting a manoeuvre but haven’t got a full view of the area around you, ask someone to guide you.

✓ Make yourself visible

You’ve also got to keep an eye out for situations in which you might not be visible to other road users, and take action to ensure it doesn’t become a problem. If you’re driving at night or in bad weather, you’ll need to make sure you’re using your car lights properly. Take care when following large vehicles too—you’ll need to fall back to ensure they’re able to see you in their mirrors properly.

✓ Overtake with caution

When it comes to overtaking other vehicles, it’s vital that you look at the road ahead before you do anything—even if you’re just overtaking a stationary vehicle. Make sure that there aren’t any oncoming vehicles, pedestrians or road signs that tell you not to overtake. You need to be sure that you’ll have plenty of time to complete the manoeuvre, and that is legal to do so. Furthermore, you’ll want to avoid overtaking:

  • When the road starts to narrow, limiting the amount of space you have to overtake
  • When you can’t fully see the road ahead, e.g., at a bend or dip in the road

✓ Be prepared

Road signs and markings are there for a reason. If you’ve spotted a give way sign, or a warning about changes to the speed limit, you should prepare by slowing down. Don’t leave things to the last second. It’s the same as when you’re approaching a set of traffic lights—if they’ve been on green for some time, you know that they’re likely to switch to red, which means you need to slow down immediately.

You’ve also got to prepare for how your ability to act will be affected by changes in road conditions such as bad weather, heavy traffic and unfamiliar routes.

Not sure you can remember all of these sub-topics? We’re way ahead of you! Check out our handy summary of alertness rules below!

Theory test alertness rules

Example questions featured image

Multiple-choice questions

In the actual theory test, you will need to answer 50 multiple-choice questions from the multiple-choice section. You will need to get 43 right in order to pass the section. Now, there’s no way of knowing how many of these questions will relate to the alertness topic. To give yourself the best chance possible, then, you’ll want to practice questions from each topic.

To help you do this, we’ve created our very own quiz based off questions from the DVSA’s very own question bank. In the slideshow below, you’ll be asked 10 questions related to the theory test topic alertness. Once you’ve carefully read through a question, and decided on your answer, the next slide will give you the correct answer. Take your time when going through the quiz, and try to remember what we’ve covered!

Well, that wasn’t so tough, was it? Out of all of the theory test topics, we’d argue that alertness is probably the easiest to wrap your head around. (Don’t think that means you can get away with doing no revision though!)

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

Case studies

In the past, the theory test would contain a case study at the end of the multiple-choice section. Learners would have to read it carefully and then answer 5 multiple-choice questions about it. This was brought in to urge learners to apply their theory test knowledge to real-life situations. With the new theory test changes, however, learners are asked to watch a video and answer 3 questions instead.

Don’t go thinking that case studies have been made redundant now, though! The video clip you watch is essentially a case study brought to life. So, to ensure that you properly understand alertness and how it applies to the real world, we’ve put together five case studies. In each study, you’ll read about a driver who is facing a certain situation on the road. You then have to decide what the driver’s response should be.

Bet they were easier than you thought they’d be, right? Whether it’s a written case study or a video clip scenario, all you’ve got to do is figure out what’s happening in the example situation and apply your theory test knowledge. It couldn’t be simpler!

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

How to revise alertness

Two stacks of books, one taller than the other, each with a car on top, floating in clouds

Once you understand what falls under the alertness topic (see our alertness rules for a quick reminder), you’ll find that most of the questions you’ll be asked will simply be common sense. You’ve just got to read the question carefully and try to figure out what the safest and most cautious answer should be. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be able to make the right choice.

Of course, that’s not to say that you can bypass revision altogether. To give yourself the best chance possible, you’ll want to take practice quizzes and mock tests. You’ll find plenty of these, and more, in our ultimate theory test revision resources guide. Of course, if you’re just sticking to the alertness topic for the time being, here are a few handy tests to help you get started:

You might also find it useful to download one of the theory test revision apps that we mention in our guide. Many of them offer mini-tests and revision materials for each theory test topic, so you’ll be able to fly through your theory test in no time!

Not sure how much time you need to dedicate to revising? Check out our guide to how many hours of revision are needed to pass the theory test.

Looking for more? Check out our next theory test topic breakdown instalments:

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.


  1. Reply

    Gail Richards

    I think that this testing is a good way to get you to think and be alert for the real test thank you

    1. Reply

      Bethany Hall

      Hi Gail,

      Thanks for the lovely feedback!


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