Taking the theory test with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Taking the theory test can be hard – how should you tackle it if you have ASD?
The theory test marks one of the final stages of learning to drive and can be nerve-wracking for a lot of people. However, there is some great news for learner drivers with ASD. The format of the theory test has changed. The written case studies have been replaced with a short video clip, followed by 3 questions. As well as this, there are plenty of options for you to make the experience more accessible.
Autism Spectrum Disorders are incredibly diverse, and no one person will experience it the same way as the next. So, we can’t promise that anything in this article will make taking the theory test an easier experience for everyone; but we can share some basic information that we’ve found that may help some people with ASD.
You can take your theory test from your 17th birthday onward, or you can take it from your 16th birthday if you get (or have applied for) the enhanced rate of mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The theory test format
- You will be given 57 minutes to answer 50 multiple-choice questions.
- These questions are based on 3 books: the Highway Code; Know your traffic signs; and Driving – the essential skills.
- You’ll need to get 43 questions correct to pass this part of the test.
- Before starting, you’ll be given instructions on how the test works.
- You’ll also be given the option to do a practise session to get used to the layout of the test.
- At the end of the practise session the real test begins.
- A question and several answer options will appear on the screen, and you must select your chosen answer by touching the screen – some questions may require more than one answer.
- Some of these questions will be presented in the form of a short silent video clip on which 3 questions will be based. You can watch the video as many times as you like in order to answer the multiple-choice questions. You can find an example video here.
- The subject of the scenario will focus on real life examples and experiences that you might meet when driving.
- You can flag questions that you want to come back to later, and you can go back to any question to review and change your answer at any point.
- You can have a break of up to 3 minutes before the hazard perception test starts.
Hazard perception section
- You will be presented with 14 clips which feature every day road scenes.
- In each clip, there will be at least 1 developing hazard (but one clip will feature 2 developing hazards).
- You get points for spotting the developing hazards as soon as they start to happen.
- The maximum you can score for each developing hazard is 5 points.
- You should respond by pressing the mouse button as soon as you see a hazard developing that may result in you, the driver, having to take some action, such as changing speed or direction.
- The earlier you notice a developing hazard, the higher your score.
- You will only have one chance to respond to the developing hazard, so you will have to concentrate throughout each clip.
- If you react inappropriately during a clip by clicking continuously or in a pattern of responses you will score 0 for that clip.
- You will need to score 44 out of 75 to pass.
For more information on the theory test format, click here.
Learning to drive with autism
To prepare for your theory test, you should try to give equal attention to revising both the multiple-choice questions and the hazard perception section. Think about how you learn best and how you can apply this to your revision.
For example, if you personally find comfort in structure or routines, you could revise the Highway Code or road signs systematically to aid your memory of the content. Or, if you learn well through visual aids, you can (and should) practise some example scenarios for the hazard perception section through the official guides which can be found below:
NOTE: You can also buy a theory practise interactive DVD from most high street and online book shops.
If you or your GP/guardian/family member feel that an aspect of your ASD may make the theory test more difficult or less accessible, it is important to contact the DVSA prior to booking your test. The GOV.UK website offers information on how to contact the DVSA if you have a reading difficulty, disability or health condition.
What if I have a reading difficulty?
- You can ask to hear the test through headphones when you book your test. You can listen to the questions and possible answers as many times as you need to.
- If necessary, you can have extra time to take the multiple-choice section of the test (just under 2 hours to answer the questions, rather than 57 minutes).
- You can get someone to read what’s on the screen and record your answers.
- You can have someone to reword the questions for you.
What if I have a hearing impairment?
- If you know British Sign Language, you can take the test in BSL through a video that appears on the screen next to the questions and answers.
- You can have a BSL interpreter with you during the test if you contact the DVSA before booking your test – this service is free.
- You can arrange to have a lip speaker with you at the test centre or use a listening aid (hearing loop).
- A private environment or separate room to take the test in may be available on request.
What if I have a different impairment or requirement?
You can contact the DVSA to discuss any other disability or health condition before you book your test. Then, they can accommodate to help make the experience of taking the theory test with autism as smooth as possible. When contacting the DVSA, you’ll need to attach proof of any special needs – a letter from school/college (stating what provisions were made when taking tests/exams) or a letter from your GP (detailing the medical condition and special needs requirements) on headed paper will be fine.
For more information on things that can be done to help accommodate ASD, click here.
NOTE: No special allowances can be made when taking the hazard perception test.
Is the theory test hard?
The theory test is a challenging part of learning to drive. But it will test you on important skills and knowledge that will keep you safe on the road. Making sure you’ve understood exactly what to expect and spent lots of time preparing will help make the process easier for you.
What to bring on the day
On the day of your theory test, you must bring your provisional licence with you. The photo ID will help the invigilators to confirm that you are the right person to be taking the test and that you have not sent someone to take it on your behalf. If you only have a paper licence, you must bring your passport with you too for the photo ID.
You can’t take personal belongings into the test room such as headphones, bags, mobile phones or watches – but anything you do want to bring with you on the day can be stored safely in a locker. You’ll be able to retrieve your items when the test is complete.
What happens in the test centre
- You should arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled time of your test to give you time to relax before the test begins.
- When you go to the reception area you’ll be asked for your name and have your licence checked.
- Next, you’ll be shown to the lockers to store your personal belongings.
- You’ll then be shown to the waiting area, where you’ll be given a copy of the test procedures to read through.
- An invigilator will check you in by signing a registration log and confirming your details. They’ll also check that you have nothing with you that could be used to cheat.
- The invigilator will escort you to the test room and show you to your allocated individual booth where you’ll sit the test.
- On the screen there will be instructions on how the test works; as well as the chance to do some practise questions and get used to the screens.
- As long as the details on the screen are right, you can press ‘Start’ to begin.
- If you have any problems, raise your hand and a member of staff will come to assist you.
- When you’ve finished, you can leave the room and be signed out. Next, collect your belongings and take a seat in the waiting room to await your results.
- You’ll then receive your results and be given a letter saying whether you’ve passed or failed.
NOTE: You must have passed both sections to pass overall.
- You’re then free to leave the test centre.
Taking the theory test with ASD may be daunting and cause anxiety – if your ASD involves any other behaviours/characteristics that may make the experience difficult, you can bring someone you trust. They won’t be able to come into the testing room, but they can wait for you in the waiting room ready to support you when you’ve finished.
If you’ve passed…
Congratulations! If you’ve passed, then you can continue taking driving lessons until you and your instructor feel that you’re ready to take the practical test. You’ll need your theory test pass certificate number to book your practical test. You’ll have two years from the date of passing your theory test to take your practical – otherwise you’ll have to pass the test again. For tips on taking the practical test with ASD click here.
If you haven’t passed…
Don’t worry, your test results will tell you which parts you didn’t score enough points on so you know what to practise. You must book and take the full test again, even if you passed one part this time. You have to wait at least 3 working days before taking the test again.
Taking the theory test is a great achievement – whether you pass or not. It demonstrates dedication through committing to revision, and it shows that you’re determined to succeed. Keep trying, and seek more support if necessary. Your driving instructor may have some valuable advice, and if you’re a member of any forums or communities for other people that have ASD then consider asking them for their thoughts too! Even if you eventually decide that driving isn’t the right path for you, you can congratulate yourself for persevering and giving it your best effort.
Book your theory test here.
For more general information on learning to drive with a disability, check out our article here.
We know it’s hard learning to drive, so drop us a line on twitter if this helped, or if you think there’s anything else we could to help support other taking the theory test with ASD.
If you’re still learning and want to practise driving in someone else’s car ready for your practical test, then check out our learner driver insurance – you can get cover for as little as 2 hours and for as long as 90 days.