The Theory & Hazard Perception Test

By Helen Joberns.

Why Do It?

At worst, we do this test because obviously we won't be able to do the practical driving test without it. However, there are other reasons. it does actually make you more aware of the rules of the road and what hazards are. I don't have a doubt that studying for the theory test helped me become a safer driver.

I can understand why people on the net, (after failing the HP test in particular) believe that its just a way for the government to increase its income but I believe it does have a useful purpose and it IS perfectly passable. I did it first time.

I did take a mock theory test before I even looked at a highway code and managed to score 36 out of 50. This demonstrates that either I was very lucky with the questions that came up (and there's no guarantee I would be as lucky in the real theory test) or that what people say about a lot of the theory test questions / answers being common sense, is true. Try the same thing. See how far you can get with just common sense, but remember that to enhance your chances of getting the other more difficult questions right, you will need to be prepared to study.

How To Pass It - the quick answers.

To pass the theory test you just need two magic ingredients.

             A) Be prepared to do some revision.
B) Understand the "DSA game" for the Hazard Perception (HP) test.

First I will discuss the dreaded 'work' part of how to pass the theory test.

Unfortunately, whatever I have said above, some work (i.e. revision) is needed. I made it my business to find the easiest way to get this done. Unfortunately as we are all individuals, different people learn better using different ways of revising but I shall briefly discuss the different methods.

Traditional Method

You can just memorise the Highway Code, as millions of people before us have always passed the questions that were once asked in the Practical Driving Test but are now asked in a rather more concentrated way in the Theory Test.

However, this is a very laborious way of learning and to be honest, I should imagine 9 out of 10 people will find they lose interest completely or find this method of learning deadly boring.

Fortunately, nowadays we have this wonderful thing called computer technology that can make 'learning' a little less laborious and a lot faster. As you are reading this on the web, you already have the facilities to use computer technology so that's the expensive part solved!

Software Method

There are many forms of software commercially available. There are also free versions of the Theory test that you can use on the net. You can also use tests that will concentrate purely, for example, on the road signs you may be asked about in the theory test.

I personally used software I was given for free when making a block booking with BSM and a software set I bought from the LDC school. I used both. I tried using the workbook the LDC provided but as this was a bit close to the traditional method (i.e read these sections of the Highway Code and then answer the next 50 plus questions), I lost interest as it wasn't the method for me. However, what did work for me was using the CD provided by the LDC school. It set out every single question that can come up in the theory test by Highway Code section, and I worked my way through these, using the provided help button when I needed to (the help button tells you which part of the Highway Code the question refers to so you can look it up before answering if you don't know which answer is correct). I found that a lot of the questions didn't really require revision, the answers were common sense. The ones that did and I gave the wrong answers too, I tended to remember so that in the end I could answer all the questions.

It's a more interactive way of learning than purely learning by rote and it's the way that worked for me and saved me lots of revision (which I wasn't retaining much of anyway, there's nothing like getting a question wrong to make you remember the answer), ITS NOT AS HARD AS IT MIGHT SEEM. There's not as much to learn as you think.

The CD also contained 'games' that would help you learn things like how to remember what the various road signs meant. This helped me learn them but I checked up on myself by using a few of the free tests on the net as already mentioned.

The BSM CD came in use more after I had learned the basics, as the BSM had a similar set up but the mock theory test questions didn't include a help button to help you narrow down which part of the Highway Code the question was referring to, so I only used this later on.

I also found with the theory test, sometimes when I didn't know an answer, no matter how I looked up the answers (in the Highway Code) to some of the questions, I just couldn't find them. It was as if they were wanting you to pull answers out of the air. Unfortunately, this is where you need a more experienced driver around to ask, or be prepared to use Google. Fortunately my partner is an ex-HGV driver so I had a resident driving expert close to hand! And remember, if you have any questions. GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The DSA Game (or How To Pass The Hazard Perception Part of the Test)

Sometimes the set up of the scoring windows on the Hazard Perception clips is logical, then you get times when logic and consistency seems to be the last thing in the room!

Officially the DSA want to check that you know when a potential hazard becomes an actual hazard, or that you recognise the point at which you need to take some action to avoid a hazard (i.e brake, turn, go wide around parked cars etc etc).

In one of my more sarcastic moments, I came up with the name 'the DSA GAME' as I tried to make sense of what was happening with the clips. I quickly realised when I failed my first few mock HP tests that you have to know how to play this game. I spent some time trying to find guides on the web but there weren't any up to date websites. I knew there had to be some rules as to when the scoring windows opened and closed, however hard to find (although whether I would find them before I ran out of clips to practice on was a little more doubtful he he)! While I was looking at these seemingly endless HP clips I discovered it WAS possible to find 'rules' to help me pass. These rules helped me maximise my chances of passing. I did NOT work on maximising my score (tried that and failed miserably. I kept CLICKing too early and was outside the variably set score window and so ended up scoring zero more times than I care to count). I just wanted to make sure that I developed a way of passing so I would do so every mock HPT!

Below are the rules I developed to help me PASS the Hazard Perception Test.

So first of all the basics.., for each clip you can score a maximum of five points for a hazard (although you should remember that out of the 14 clips there will always be one that includes two separate hazards so you can score more on this one if you click on both hazards) if you spot it as soon as the scoring window opens. Some of the scoring windows are open for longer, sometimes they are only open for a couple of seconds. You will usually find at least one clip with:

      A horse, 
      A school patrol, 
      Suicidal children running into the road
      Road narrowing/oncoming traffic
      Elderly lady ambling across the road
      A car turning left or right (slowly, see below), 
      A wide lorry or slow moving vehicle (with amber lights flashing), 
      Pedestrian's crossing on a (to you) green light or no crossing at all
      Cyclist (negotiating a turn or traffic island or road narrowing of some kind)
      Objects (like a car door or passenger) suddenly obstructing your passage

Please forgive my sense of humour that appears as I write these 'rules' down, but when you've gone through hundreds of clips trying to figure out how the scoring system really does work and how on earth you can maximise your chances of passing this test. A dry sense of humour helps save your sanity (well almost).

Anyway here are the rules:

1) Horses:

CLICK once as soon as you see a slow moving black shadow in front of you (often far ahead on the road or you get a teasing glimpse round the other side of a long bend just to check your eyes are open) even if you can't figure out what it is because its probably a horse.

Same for if its a white vague moving thingy, its not something from Rentaghost - its probably a white horse.

CLICK again once it becomes clear that the vague shape IS a horse, just in case the DSA have decided to get clever and make it a super short scoring window, or start it late just to get your heart pumping. I think they do this just to make sure you don't fall asleep!

If another hazard develops like an oncoming car, pretend that the scoring window has just started and you haven't been watching a moving horse for the last 20 seconds, CLICKing at appropriate moments as occasionally in these circumstances the scoring window can start when what I would call a new hazard develops or it could be a clip containing two hazards (there is one of these in each HP test. CLICK again.

2) School Patrols:

Like with horses, if you see a school patrol road sign, start watching for anything fluorescent green in the distance. It'll be vague.

If it starts moving towards the road CLICK, even if it could easily be a low flying kite. Its probably a lollipop lady, but you never know!

As you get closer, and you can actually see the head, if you don't see a head, it really is a low flying kite so then you start looking for stray suicidal kids who wanna play chicken on the road look for the clue that the DSA advise us to look for (but provide with a vagueness that ordinary people with only 20/20 vision can't see it clearly - you often need 20/20 vision AND a video clarifier!) - a florescent green coat and a head nodding towards the road. This is definitely a lollipop lady on the move with kids in toe (if you are lucky you might get to see them, but no promises). CLICK AGAIN.

Then once you see a foot poking out from the fluorescent jacket and actually hit the road surface CLICK again. Most of the time, the scoring window will be closed by then, but not always (again, the DSA likes to get our hearts pumping).

3) Children On The Road

Yes, I am afraid that just as in real life, there is usually a clip where at least one child runs or casually walks onto the road, right in front of your car. Quite often they appear in herds! If you see a ball or a bicycle hidden amongst a row of parked cars or an ice cream van, watch out for children! If you see a herd of children running towards the road, if they don't stop, the score window will open up at some point so get ready to click. Children (and pedestrians in the DSA's view) try to hide out in dark patches of your screen or approach from the right hand side of your screen (which statistically an observer tends to pay less attention to) so you do need to be aware that this is part of the DSA game. There is a chance of this happening (them coming from a part of the screen that you don't always pay full attention to).

The moment you see a child (or a herd of them) run towards the road, CLICK ONCE, sometimes the score window opens up even when they haven't reached the kerb. Perhaps the DSA decides what a running pedestrians 'braking' distance is and starts the score window then, I don't know, but I have observed scoring windows opening when the children are metres away from the kerb still.

Once a child reaches a kerb, or you see a bicycle wheel hidden amongst some cars or a child on/pushing a bicycle disappears behind a car parked on the road, CLICK. The same holds true if you see a lone ball rolling onto the road, CLICK at this point, a child will follow very shortly.

Once a child steps off the kerb or looks towards you (this is a thing called an 'official DSA Clue' CLICK again.

This sort of clip was my downfall with getting that 'You are cheating with repetitive clicking so will score 0 points for this clip' window. Although it seemed to me that I was only clicking when there was a possible point the potential hazard became an actual hazard that would prod you into taking some driving action to avoid an incident, I did have to force myself to slow down with my clicking pattern. Try and keep your clicks down to less than one per second, and only click in the pattern given above. This will not lose you many points, if any at all, but will stop you getting 'nil points' for any clip.

4) Road Narrowing / Oncoming Traffic:

If you see a wide lorry/van/bus or whatever coming up the road on the right hand side, particularly if it is also coming equipped with amber lights (it's also called oncoming traffic), and there just happens to be a casually parked car in the left hand side lane you are in, or the road seems to suddenly be suffering from space problems (officially called road narrowing) - like double parking or road narrowing to calm traffic , this could be another hazard developing. CLICK once when you see it.

CLICK when you clearly see the oh so casually parked car/road narrowing and you realise the wide lorry/van/bus is going to have to go on a fast acting diet in the next second or two to get through without it or you losing parts of itself.

Then CLICK again when you see the wide vehicle is about to lose a wing (or you will) - the scoring window will usually have closed by then as its a bit late in real life to start braking at that point, but remember this is the DSA and not necessarily real life .., sometimes this is the point at which the scoring window starts.

5) Aged Ladies:

For some reason, the DSA doesn't seem to consider elderly gentleman as much of a hazard as elderly ladies. In all the clips I have gone through I have only seen one or two elderly men cross the road and it seems there are hundreds of elderly women ambling across their way across (although sometimes they seem to approach the road with remarkable speed, only to slow down the moment their foot hits the road surface).

With this hazard you do seem to score better if you CLICK as soon as you see a large shape moving towards the road even if its not clear what it is. Usually dressed in dark colours (often aubergine/brown but not always - I won't mention the word stereotyping here) and very short or hunched over so it looks like quite a thick figure.

CLICK again as soon as its certain the dark shape will step off the pavement, and by then you should be able to see it's a dear little old lady.

They will then slow down, and you have all the time in the world to CLICK, but only if you really really want to be sure you have. Remember the dreaded 'you're cheating so nil points' window we would sell our souls to have removed.

6) Cars turning left or right (also covers oncoming traffic hazards):

Now, this is the difficult one. They can turn left very, very slowly, and you don't quite know when the score window is going to open up.

So on the principle that its better to score a 3 rather than 0 because of the dreaded 'nil points window' I tend to CLICK as soon as I see a car in front of me and its brake lights go ON (this can sometimes be the start of the score window, but not always),

CLICK again when you see their indicator start flashing and

CLICK again when you see them heading for a queue of traffic or you see a car on the facing main road in the junction ahead trying to turn into the right hand lane of the road you are in. Really this should be when the score window opens, as for me, this marks the point when a developing hazard has turned into an actual hazard, but logic doesn't seem to mean much to the DSA! I found with this method my scores were much higher and I didn't completely miss the scoring window because I had clicked too early, or score 0 because of the 'nil points' window when I opted for this clicking pattern.

7) Pedestrians

This is another difficult one as the point at which the scoring window opens seems to be a tad variable. This hazard normally opens a score window when its an 'unexpected' crossing pedestrian so there will either be a zebra crossing (i.e. a crossing without lights) or no crossing at all (particularly look for this hazard if a clip is showing a busy shopping area) or it will be a crossing with lights but they won't be on red, when you'd expect to have to stop. The following is the best way I found to hedge my bets and achieve a reasonable score.

If you see a pedestrian that is moving towards the kerb (particularly if they look at the road), CLICK. If they have a stick in their hand consult the elderly ladies section above.

If they then look at you or the road, CLICK again.

Once their foot moves off the kerb CLICK again.

8) Cyclists

When you see a cyclist on the left hand side of the road, watch them. As with horses, if you see one, its probably going to lead to a scoring window opening up at some point (although sometimes they rather irritatingly turn off the road just as you are waiting in anticipation - like I've said, the DSA likes to keep you guessing!). The favourite seems to be if they have to negotiate a traffic island or pass a parked car/van with oncoming traffic, a scoring window opens up. However, once again, when the scoring window opens up is a tad variable.

Once you see a cyclist on the same side of the road as you, and they are negotiating parked cars, CLICK.

If you see a traffic island in the distance DON'T click yet, however clever it makes you feel (been there, done that). Only CLICK when the cyclist has to alter their passage to negotiate the traffic island / parked cars. Normally they will obligingly look behind them to see what traffic is behind them (one of the rare instances that the official DSA clues show up).

Then just to be sure you do click in the scoring window, CLICK again when the cyclist actually gets to the point of passing the traffic island/parked car/van.

9) Objects blocking your passage (Car doors opening, stray moving passengers/unloaders)

This hazard (just as in real life) can appear in both your lane or the right hand lane of the road. You will usually be given clues that a hazard is about to develop, in that you will see feet underneath a large lorry, a driver or passenger moving around a car signalling that they are not done raising your blood pressure yet!

CLICK when you see feet under a van (particularly one that is being loaded or unloaded), or a indecisive passenger/driver moving to and fro from a car. This may well be a bit early for a scoring window to open, but not always. CLICK if the indecisive passenger or the feet move seem to suddenly change direction and become decisive, this is often when the scoring window opens.

Finally, just to be sure, CLICK once again when the car you are driving seems about to hit something. A bit late but best to be sure!

OK. This is the best summary I can come up with of how to pass the Theory Test. Its not infallible but as I said originally, you should notice your scores on any mocks you take go up once you start following these rules. Finally, I wish you the best of luck. Do not get too pressured trying to pass this test. See it as the game it really is that you can and will win!

Helen Joberns.