Theory Test Topics Explained: Road And Traffic Signs

Road and traffic signs featured image

Hello, PassMeFast readers! Your wait for the next instalment of our Theory Test Topics Explained series is finally at an end! We’re back this time to shine the spotlight on the eighth topic out of the fourteen used in the DVSA’s multiple-choice question bank: road and traffic signs. We’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about this topic, give you example questions and even share with you some top revision resources!

Table of contents: 

Theory Test Topic: Road and traffic signs

What are road and traffic signs

The eighth topic from the theory test is road and traffic signs. Whilst all of the topics we’ve covered (and are going to cover) are vital in helping you become a safe driver, road and traffic signs probably take the cake in terms of importance. Once you get behind the wheel in your lessons, you’ll need to be able to identify road and traffic signs and know what action(s) you need to take. Otherwise, you could end up endangering yourself and other road users.

To help make things easier for you, we’ve broken down all of the road and traffic signs into subsections. Make your way through each section carefully—we’ve included a link to the DVSA’s official Know Your Traffic Signs PDF at the end which you will need to make your way through in order to get to grips with all of the road and traffic signs that you might encounter when behind the wheel. Once you’ve done that, you’ll put your memory skills to the test with our mock tests further below!

When it comes to revising for the theory test, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

✓ Circular signs

Circular road signs are mandatory instructions that all drivers must follow. If you disobey them, then you could potentially end up with a fine and penalty points. They come in two different colours: blue and red.

Blue circles

If you spot a blue circular sign on the road, it’s telling you to do something. They’re commonly used for minimum speed limits, showing drivers which direction to go in and indicating which road user can use a specific route, e.g., cyclists and pedestrians.

vehicles pass on either side road sign Mini roundabout sign Keep left road sign
Vehicles may pass on either side to reach  destination Mini-roundabout ahead (give way to traffic on the right) Keep left (if symbol is reversed, then keep right)
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

Red circles

Red circular signs, or rings, are the exact opposite of their blue counterparts—they’re telling you what you must not do, e.g., do not exceed 30mph, or, no vehicles over the height shown may proceed.

No motor vehicles road sign No entry road sign No overtaking road sign
Motor vehicles not allowed No entry for vehicular traffic No overtaking
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

✓ Triangular signs

Red triangles warn road users that there are potential hazards on the road ahead, e.g., traffic signals, a junction on a bend, or two-way traffic. Once you spot these signs, you’ll know that you’ll need to potentially alter your speed, or change lanes.

You might spot the occasional red triangle sign with a white sign below containing text—this is simply there to provide further elaboration about the potential hazard, e.g., roadworks are at an end. You might also notice inverted triangles on the road. They’re also there to provide warnings. The most recognisable inverted triangle sign you’ll probably see on the road is ‘Give Way’.

Level crossing with gate road sign Maximum speed on bend road sign Give way sign
Level crossing with a gate or barrier Maximum speed at a bend Give way to traffic on major road
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

✓ Rectangular signs

Rectangular signs offer up information to road users. This can range from directions to primary, non-primary or local routes, tourist destinations or even traffic routes during roadworks. As with circular signs, they come in different colours to signify what type of information they’re offering.

Blue rectangles

Blue rectangles (with a white border) play different roles depending on what type of road you’re on. If you’re on the motorway, blue rectangular signs offer you directions, e.g., telling you which lanes to use on the approach to a junction, or letting you know when a roundabout is ahead.

Appropriate lanes for turning road sign Directions from junction ahead road sign Motorway junction road sign
Appropriate lanes for turning movements at junction ahead Directions from junction ahead Motorway to motorway junction with a roundabout
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

If you spot blue rectangular signs on any other road type, however, they’ll be offering you general information about the road ahead, e.g., telling you that a road is one-way, that there are bus/cycle lanes next to you, or even where you can find parking spaces.

Park on verge road sign Cycle routes road sign No through road for traffic road sign
Vehicles can park on verge during times shown Cycle routes leading from junction ahead No through road for traffic on the left
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

Green rectangles

Green rectangular signs are direction signs that are based on primary routes (mostly A roads). You’ll see these A roads highlighted in a bold yellow colour. Additional details might include white rectangles with black text for non-primary routes and a blue rectangle for alternative routes (for cyclists) or directions to a nearby motorway.

Primary route road sign Primary route cyclist route road sign Primary route and non primary route road sign
Primary route sign indicating directions to a ferry and airport Primary route sign indicating directions to a route for cyclists Sign indicating a primary and non-primary route
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

Red rectangles

As with red triangular signs, red rectangles are there to either warn road users of a potential hazard up ahead, or to instruct them to take a certain action. They will come with a written warning, e.g., ‘reduce speed now’.

Reduce speed now road sign Animal disease road sign New speed limit road sign
Road users must reduce speed  Area is infected by animal disease A new speed limit (30mph) is now in force
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

White rectangles

White rectangular signs are typically used for direction signs on non-primary routes, e.g., parking and local facilities. They are also used in conjunction with warning signs in order to give road users more information.

Short and long stay parking road sign Directions to payphone End of road works road sign
Directions to short/long stay parking places Directions to a public telephone End of roadworks and temporary speed limits
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

Brown rectangles

Brown rectangles are used to indicate tourist destinations to road users—telling them which junction to turn into or how far away the destination is. These signs are usually separate from main direction signs. They’ll usually come with the name of the destination and a picture that indicates what kind of tourist attraction it is.

Tourist attraction at side of carriageway road sign Multiple tourist attractions road sign Directions to tourist attractions
Sign for tourist attractions at the side of the main carriageway Road sign indicating multiple tourist attractions Sign indicating directions for and distance to local tourist attractions
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

Yellow rectangles

Yellow rectangles are commonly used to provide road users with information about current or future roadworks—indicating where the roadworks are taking place, when work begins and what delays might be like. Road users will then know to use alternative routes, or to give themselves extra time when travelling on these routes.

Road works on motorway road sign Road works start date road sign Road works delays road sign
Sign indicating roadworks between junctions Start date for roadworks Sign indicating how long delays will last
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

✓ Exceptions

As with every rule in life, there are a few exceptions to the shape and colour rules that we’ve discussed so far with road signs. These are often used so that a sign is so distinctive that a motorist will have no doubt over its meaning, such as the red octagonal stop sign.

Stop road sign National speed limit road sign Tram speed limit road sign No stopping road sign
Stop before crossing the line and check the way is clear before entering road The national speed limit applies here Speed limit sign for tram drivers (km per hour) No stopping, not even to pick up or drop off passengers 
© Crown copyright (Open Government Licence)

✓ Traffic lights

Traffic lights are very easy to understand. Their sequence is as follows:

  • Red (stop)
  • Red and amber (prepare to move)
  • Green (go)
  • Amber (stop unless it isn’t safe to do so)

If you spot a green arrow light (otherwise known as a filter) instead of the standard green light, this means that you should move in the direction it tells you to. If there’s a filter light and a standard green light, it means that you can go in the direction of the arrow (if it’s lit up), even if the main light is on red. Obviously, you have to make sure that oncoming traffic has stopped, or that the way is clear, before moving.

You might also spot a set of twin red traffic lights, usually found at level crossings and bridges, which indicate that you need to come to a stop when they’re flashing.

Know your traffic signs

Though we’ve walked you through the different shapes and colours of road signs that you’ll encounter when behind the wheel, that’s only really the tip of the iceberg. Before you proceed onto our mock tests (let alone go in for your theory test), you will need to make your way through the ‘Know Your Traffic Signs PDF‘. This walks you through all of the road and traffic signs that you might come across when driving.

Once you’re done with that, try out our mock tests below. If you want to really make sure that you’ve memorised the signs, try printing some out and getting someone to test you!

Example questions featured image

Multiple-choice questions

Now that you’re more familiar with road and traffic signs, it’s time to put your mettle to the test! The multiple-choice section of the theory test is made up of 50 questions and there’s a good chance that a handful of these questions will involve you identifying road and traffic signs. So, to help you get a rough idea of how well you know the topic, we’ve created a quick road and traffic signs quiz below!

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

Case studies

It’s not enough to just have this theory test knowledge in your head, you also need to be able to apply it to real-life situations. That’s why the DVSA include a video case study at the end of the multiple-choice section. You’ll watch this clip and then answer three questions about it—figuring out what course of action the driver should take or how they should react to a situation. Below, we’ve created five written case studies involving road and traffic signs, to give you an idea of what to expect.

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

How to revise road and traffic signs

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

Bravo! You’ve made it to the end of our eighth theory test topic! Now that you’ve gone through our breakdown of road and traffic signs, and worked your way through the Know Your Traffic Signs PDF, you should be able to accurately identify signs on the road and know what actions you need to take. To really make sure that you’ve grasped the topic, however, you should test your skills against these tests:

Looking for something more fun? Try out PassMeFast’s Sorted game! The aim is to identify which road signs are real and which ones are fake. Let us know what score you get in the comments!

You should aim to revise for the theory test every day if you can, even if it’s just for ten minutes or so. If you have the time, we’d recommend creating a revision schedule and making your way through our ultimate theory test revision resources guide. Put in the work and it will pay off!

If in doubt, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

Looking for more? Check out our other 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.

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