Learn to drive UK – Do you need to pass theory test before driving lessons?

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Your learning to drive journey starts here!

Learning to drive can be a life-changing experience. It opens the doors to a whole host of new opportunities, whether socially, professionally or just in everyday life.

Here’s everything you need to do before you can independently get behind the wheel and enjoy the freedom of being able to drive.

Information is kept current with guidance from the DVSA and DVLA.

Can’t wait to get on the road? Check out our guide on the quickest way to learn to drive.

Do you have to pass your theory test before taking driving lessons?

Q. Do you need to pass your theory test before taking driving lessons?

A. No, you can take driving lessons before the theory test. (although you will need your provisional licence).

Although confirming you can drive with a provisional licence without a theory test, we strongly recommend taking the theory as soon as possible.

Knowing the Highway Code will allow you to progress through your lessons quicker and be safer while learning to drive. And you won’t have to spend time in your lessons learning the theory, but you can focus on driving.

Infographic

Learning to drive a car infographic - showing provisional licence, driving lessons and theory and practical driving test

Learning to drive UK

When can you start learning to drive? The minimum age to start learning to drive a car is 17. However, if you receive the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of the Personal Insurance Payment (PIP), you can start driving a car at 16.

Learning to drive is life-changing. Driving can open doors to new jobs, make managing family life a lot easier, and provide the freedom to go where you want.

First, though, you have to learn to drive. It’s neither easy nor cheap. And the decisions you make now can have a lasting effect on whether or not you become a safe driver.

Luckily, Young Car Driver has a whole host of information to help you on your way to getting hold of a shiny pink driving licence.

There’s even a page on “the quickest way to pass your driving test” for the impatient ones among you.

Below, we’ve condensed the key points to know when you’re learning to drive a car.

How much does learning to drive cost?

First, you need to save up enough money to pay for it.

Like owning and running a car, learning to drive can be expensive. The numbers start to increase from driving lessons to provisional insurance and test fees. And things can get even more costly if, like most, you don’t pass at the first attempt.

According to Young Car Driver’s estimations, you’ll need around £1700 to cover the cost of learning to drive, which includes:

  • 45 hours of driving lessons with an independent driving instructor (£1125)
  • A one-hour driving lesson before your test (£50)
  • Provisional licence and test fees (£150)
  • Supervised driving insurance (£250)
  • Fuel (£100)

Of course, this can vary depending on if you decide to have extra driving lessons and the amount your instructor charges per hour. Learning to drive in London or the South East, you’ll likely pay more than elsewhere in the UK.

Applying for a provisional driving licence

Before you can make yourself comfortable behind the wheel, you’ll need a provisional licence.

We recommend you do this as soon as possible, even if you’re only considering driving lessons at this stage, as you can’t begin your driving lessons without one.

Besides, it’s pretty smart to have an extra form of ID.

You can easily apply for a provisional driving licence. It costs £34, and you’ll need to have your passport handy (or another valid form of ID).

Can you drive with a provisional licence without a theory test? Yes!

Can I do my theory test without provisional? No!

Can I do driving lessons without provisional No!

Getting driving lessons

The exciting part. Once you’ve got your provisional driving licence, you can start taking driving lessons.

When searching for a driving instructor, as crucial as a reasonable price is, you should look beyond just how much they’re asking for per hour.

You’re spending a lot of time in the car with the instructor, so you need to find someone you can get on with and who can motivate you to learn to drive.

Make sure you ring and speak to your potential instructor before committing to them. You should be able to tell a lot about them from the phone call and whether they’d be a good fit for you.

Also, check that they are available when you need them and confirm they will pick you up from wherever you want.

PS Get that theory nailed asap

Your driving will progress faster if you maximise the period with the instructor on the practical, not spending valuable time learning the theory.

Indeed, you don’t need to pass your theory test before taking driving lessons. However, we suggest you get a head start, and you will find the learning more progressive if you already know.

Supervised driving - learning to drive with family and friends

You can also get extra driving practice with family under your belt outside of your driving lessons.

The DVSA says the average learner needs around 45 hours of driving tuition with an instructor and 22 hours of additional practice with friends or family.

This extra driving practice is like the magic bullet when learning to drive. The best way to boost your chances of passing is to get more time behind the wheel.

So, if you’re fortunate enough to have a parent or friend happy to give you lots of their time, make the most of it.

Of course, things can sometimes get a little heated. Parents nor friends are professional driving instructors, and perhaps the occasion can sometimes get a bit tense.

But it’s essential to remain calm and appreciate the time they’re giving (they may also be concerned about their car returning in one piece).

Anyone to be able to supervise you must be at least 21 years old and have had their licence for three years. Also, if you’re driving a manual car, you must have a licence for manual vehicles.

Learner driver insurance

Compare learner driver insurance

Learner Driver Insurance also is known as provisional insurance allows you to practice in your parents or a friend’s car without risking the owners No Claims Bonus

L plate

What is learner driver insurance? And why do I need it?

I know my driving lessons with a driving instructor include learner insurance for me.

Learner or Provisional driver insurance is for your driving practice with a parent or friend between driving lessons.

As the learner driver, you can take Insurance in your name rather than drive on the car owner’s policy.

The essential advantage being In the event of a claim, the car owner’s NCB is not affected.

Provisional licence insurance policies restrict the car you can drive and the person supervising you.

Typically the car you can drive on a learner driver policy:

  • Must have primary Insurance in the owner’s name.
  • Be limited to a value of, usually, £30,000 and Insurance Group 32.
  • Be no more than nine years old.

The person to supervise you:

  • Must be a qualified driver and have sufficient experience.
  • The legal age limit to supervise someone driving is 21 years old. However, most insurance companies offering learner driver insurance require this person to be 25 plus.
  • Have held a valid GB – NI or EU driving license for at least three years.

The theory test

Possibly the least exciting part of learning to drive is the theory test. But it’s got to be done and is vital to ensure you can drive safely.

It covers all the rules of the road and gauges how you’d act should you find yourself in specific hypothetical scenarios.

You can take driving lessons before your theory test; however, we strongly recommend you start revising or take your theory test before taking driving lessons.

Practising early for your theory test will help you progress quicker with learning to drive. And you can focus more on practical driving instead of using driving time learning theory.

You can book your theory test online at gov. uk/book-theory-test. It will cost you £23, and you’ll need to provide your provisional driving licence number.

Revision can be a little boring, but some great apps and other resources are out there to help you get up to scratch.

Our advice is to take as many mock tests as possible to get used to the questions that might come up.

How does the theory test work?

The theory test is in two parts: multiple-choice questions and hazard perception. It’s all completed on a computer in exam conditions at the test centre.

The multiple-choice part takes up to 57 minutes, and the hazard perception part takes 14 minutes.

In the multiple-choice part, you’ll answer 45 questions to gauge your knowledge of the road rules and test your decision-making. For example, knowing who has the right of way at a roundabout or which lane you should be in when overtaking on a motorway.

There will then be a further five questions part of a case study. You will get a potential scenario you could face when on the road and a set of questions to determine how you’d respond.

So, get revising!

Young Car Driver has a handy step-by-step overview of what happens on the day of your driving theory test, so you can know what to expect.

Practical driving test

Arranging your driving test is simple and works similarly to booking your theory test.

It’s all handled online and will cost you £62. Note that you can’t book it until you’ve passed your theory test and will need to provide the number on your theory test certificate.

You will also need to choose from which test centre you take your driving test. However, we strongly recommend you stick to what you know and go with the test centre in an area you know well.

What happens on your driving test

The driving test is a nervous time for everyone. So, be sure you know what to expect on the day of your driving test. Over just 40 minutes, You will see the result of all that hard work and money you put into learning to drive. But it’s essential to remain calm. Nerves are healthy – but if they’re too intense, they can affect your driving.

We recommend having a read of Young Car Driver’s page to keep a handle on your nerves ahead of and during your driving test.

You’ll probably have a driving lesson with your instructor ahead of your test. Great an opportunity to run through a few final things you’ve been finding difficult and get into the zone.

Eyesight check

The first thing you’ll do with the examiner is a quick eyesight check. You’ll have to read the number plate of a car parked 20 metres away. If you fail, then the test ends here. However, let us assume it shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve got this far.

The first minute is crucial!

Then, it’s time. The first minute in the car is an important one. You don’t want to do something that will knock your confidence for the rest of the test. So stay focused, keep calm, and don’t forget the car keys!

Driving part of the test

The driving part of the test is over three sections. The first part will measure your general driving ability. It will see you follow a set of instructions from the examiner and is your opportunity to show you can drive safely and perform a set of manoeuvres correctly. At some point, you’ll also need to show you know how to pull over to the side of the road and safely drive away again.

Reverse the car part

In the second section, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can capably reverse the car – most people’s least favourite part of the test. You will have to do a bay park, reverse at the side of the road, or the dreaded parallel park.

Independent part of the test

The final part of the test, independent driving, is your time to shine. You get 20 minutes to follow either a sat nav or road signs. The intention is to show the examiner you can drive safely and make decisions without being told what to do.

Take it slow. Too many people subconsciously desire to do things quickly in a vain attempt to ‘get it over with’. But you’re going to be driving for 20 minutes either way and speeding through it will only give you more opportunities to make a fault.

The Young Car Driver learn to drive a car guide has a list of 10 top tips for passing the driving test we recommend you check out before you take your test.

How is the driving test scored?

The examiner will mark you on the number of ‘faults’ you make while driving the car.

You can make up to 15 minor faults and still pass. These small mistakes don’t necessarily endanger anyone; however, if you continue to make them, they could become a problem.

Whereas if you make a single major fault – a mistake that has the potential to be a real danger – then you will not pass.

Getting your driving test result

If you don’t pass, don’t worry. Most learners fail the driving test the first time, and two failures or more are not uncommon. Stay positive, take a few more lessons and book another test when you feel ready.

But if you are one of the lucky ones, well done! Your learning to drive days is over as of the moment. The test ends you’re free to get in a car and take it for a spin (responsibly, of course, and providing you have insurance).

Life on the road

So, you’ve passed your test. Now it’s down to you to decide what kind of driver you want to be. Remember that, even though you’ve got your full licence, you’re still very inexperienced, and there’s plenty to learn.

Consider doing a Pass Plus Course to learn the basics of driving on a motorway. Or perhaps even kit your car with P plates to make your transition to independent driving smoother.

Otherwise, congratulations! Learning to drive a car is a real-life skill, and you should be proud that you passed your test.

We hope you enjoy your new life on the road, and don’t forget: be alert, remain calm and, above all, be safe.