The weekend is now over, and I’m one step closer to my full bike license with the successful completion of my Theory Test. The whole experience was straightforward, if a little different from when I took my driving theory test 10 years ago.
Taking the Test
Upon arriving at the test centre, you’ll be asked your name and for your driver’s license. You’ll then be asked to read through how the test works.
Before you go in, you’ll be required to empty your pockets, and place all electronic devices, coats, jackets, watches, phones, tissues, etc in a locker. At this point, it is worth paying a visit to the toilet as you’re going to be in the testing environment for around an hour. No water can be taken into the testing environment, so make sure you’re also well hydrated before you start.
Once you’re ready, the invigilator will direct you to your cubicle where you will take the test. The cubicle contains a PC, widescreen display and mouse. The cubicles are fairly compact but large enough to sit comfortably at. Screens to the left and right of you prevent you from looking at anyone elses display.
To begin with, your name will be displayed, along with instructions on how to interact with the test system. You will be given the option to undertake a sample test so that you can get used to the system. Next you will begin the multiple choice section of your test. The question will be displayed at the top of the screen, and the answer choices will be displayed below. You use the mouse to click the answer, then click ‘next’ at the bottom of the screen. You can go back through previous answers at any point throughout the test, or flag questions for review later. Toward the end of your test, you will be given a situation to read through. You will then be asked a number of questions that relate to this situation, where you will have to extract information to answer the question. Once you have completed the multiple choice section, you will be presented with your total number of questions answered, number skipped, and number flagged for review. at this point you can go back through all your questions, or review the ones that are flagged. As you are given 57 minutes for the test, I would suggest you use the remaining time to go through every question again, re-read the question again, and read every answer again. I changed two or three of my answers on my second time through.
Most importantly, don’t rush this stage of the test. You have plenty of time to complete the test two or three times over, so make the most of your time.
Next is the Hazard Perception part of the test. For this you will be asked to put on headphones for the initial welcome video. This will give you an example video which explains how to interact with the system. Once the video has finished, you will no longer need the headphones. Now you will be shown a number of hazard perception videos during which you will need to click the mouse for each hazard that you observe, and again if a hazard develops into something that you need to react to. The weirdest thing about the Hazard Perception videos is that they are actually (at least in part) CG instead of real videos, though for the most part it’s very hard to tell. The only thing that really gives these away is the way the people move and react, and how wildlife (specifically the sheep) are animated. If anything it actually makes the test a little easier as the definition on the videos is ‘really’ good.
Once you have completed the Hazard Perception section, you are technically done. You may now get asked to participate in some extra questions that may get used on future tests, and you may also get asked to rate your experience with the test centre and the system.
Once these are completed, you will be instructed to quietly leave the testing room to collect your results.
The Aldershot testing centre
Tucked away down Pickford Street, the Aldershot testing centre is easy to find, even though it is not easy to park there. I would suggest parking in the multistory carpark or on the main road and paying for two hours of parking. You may be able to park in the neighboring business estate, but at 0930 on a Saturday Morning, all of these spaces were already taken. My advice is to leave plenty of time to find a parking space and to walk back to the testing centre.
The testing centre itself is a nice modern affair, and has an air of quiet concentration inside. The testing room is separated from the reception by a glass window covering two sides. The invigilator sits at a desk on this corner (outside the glass) to monitor the candidates. The two ladies in the testing centre that morning were perfectly pleasant and helpful. They were more than happy to have a quick chat before and after the test. Lockers were provided for candidates to lock their stuff away in, and you can at least hand on to the key during the test.
For those who have never been there before, this is the location of the testing centre.
How I prepared
Preparation will be different for every person, so all I can do is explain how I prepared, and hopefully some of it will be useful. Even though I’m new to bikes, I’m an old hand at driving cars. I got my license back in October 2005, which means (at least in theory) I should have a good understanding of the road and its laws, but while my car driving experience does certainly help toward preparation for my motorcycle theory test, it is by no means a complete solution. Firstly, road laws have moved on a little in the last 10 years, as have the tests and the questions they ask. Secondly, even though I have previously passed a Theory Test for a car, the Motorcycle test is different, as it contains motorcycle specific questions.
When I booked in for my with 1st Gear, I was kindly loaned a 2016 Focus Multimedia Theory Test practice CD. Unfortunately this required two things: first was a Windows Computer (as most of you know, I’m a Mac guy), and a computer with a CD Drive (being a modern kind of person, I don’t own a CD Drive any more – long live digital downloads!)
This meant I could either find a CD Drive and install the software onto my gaming box, or go in search of an alternative solution.
There’s an App for that!
There’s an app for almost everything nowadays, and practicing for your theory test is no exception. A quick search on the Apple App Store revealed a lot of apps from a multitude of software manufacturers. An App provides a good portable way of practicing what you need to. You’re not restricted to a computer at your desk, or to hunching over a laptop screen (instead you can strain your eyes by looking at a Smartphone). This gives you the ability to practice anywhere you want, whenever you want. I quite often found myself running through mock tests at the end of my lunch break, or in the evening before bed. You can even practice while on the loo if you’re so inclined.
As the Theory Test is divided up into two parts, I would need a solution that would cover both the multiple choice theory test, and the Hazard Perception reaction test. Focus Multimedia sell a few different solutions for both of these parts.
As I have previously used Focus Multimedia products, and as the disc that 1st Gear gave me was a Focus Multimedia product, I figured it was a good idea to stick with their apps. They have been producing theory test practice software for years, and I see no reason not to trust them.
Motorcycle Theory Test UK – Driving Test Success by Focus Multimedia
The Motorcycle Theory Test app from Focus Multimedia seemed to be the best way to go. A large number of positive reviews certainly seemed to praise it, with very few complaining that they hadn’t passed. The app boasts the full collection of official questions as provided by the DVSA.
The app is divided up into two main modes. The first is a practice mode, which lets you practice questions from specific topics in the test. The second is the mock test mode, which will put you in test conditions as you work through a number of questions picked randomly from its database. Toward the end of the test you will be presented with a Situation, which you will then have to answer another 4 questions that relate to it.
Since taking my theory test, I have realized a couple of things about this app.
Firstly, the questions do seem to be a complete set from the DVSA, however they are worded differently. In most situations you’ll be able to identify the question and answer accordingly, but they are not word-for-word identical. It is interesting that the graphics that are presented during the test and in the app are identical, even though the questions are not.
Secondly, the Situation that you are presented with in the App is in no way like the situation you are presented with on the test. The app asks you questions like the ones you would experience during the rest of the mock test, while the real DVSA test gives you a situation, and then some slightly more obscure questions. These require you to go back to the situation to work out the answer.
I wouldn’t say these are deal-breakers, but they are worth considering for when you come to take your test.
Hazard Perception Test Volume 1 by Focus Multimedia
The Hazard Perception Volume 1 is a collection of fourteen videos designed to test you using real-world situations. First you are shown a brief introduction video that explains how the testing works, and how you are scored. Then you run through the first video in test conditions, simply touching the screen when you see a possible hazard, and again when you would react to it. Your responses are scored based on your reaction times, and your results presented at the end of the video. One video will contain 2 hazards, and the other thirteen will contain a single hazard.
After the results have been displayed, the app will re-run the video with an audio commentary of the situation. Hazards will be highlighted in Yellow, and the hazards that you should have responded to will be highlighted in Red. The commentary will talk you through everything from the initial condition of the road, to signs that you might have missed, to junctions, construction zones, pedestrians, cars, cyclists. Everything is explained in plain English and with a level of detail that certainly makes you think.
Hazard Perception Test Volume 2 by Focus Multimedia
Hazard Perception Test Volume 2 is more of the same as Volume 1. You will get presented with another fourteen scenarios: One scenario with 2 hazards, and the other thirteen scenarios with 1 hazard. The same high quality persists from Volume 1, with every video being presented after the test with an audio commentary and visual overlay, designed to help you read the situation.
Buy the highway code. No really, buy it. It costs like £3, and you really should own a copy. Already been driving for years but don’t own it? Buy it!
When you take your CBT you are required to have read and understand the highway code. According to some instructors, a lot of people who undertake a CBT have never even picked up a copy of the highway code. Most of what you need to know for your Theory Test is contained within its pages.
One of the best ways of learning what to do is to observe the world around you. When you’re a passenger in a car, or when you’re walking along the side of the road, observe what drivers do, how they drive, and how they react to situations. You can learn a lot from other drivers, and you can learn a lot from their mistakes.
Nothing beats experience! I would assume that by the time you’re taking your theory test, you’ve already passed a CBT and will have a bike. It is important to get out on the road and just practice. Obviously if you’re brand new to motorcycling, try to ride with other more experienced riders, and stay as observant as possible.
If you’re still not sure about something, ask a peer, family member, or other experienced driver. We’ve all been through this process of learning once, and other drivers will probably be happy to share their experiences and knowledge with you. You may find that even experienced drivers won’t have every answer. I certainly found a few questions that I didn’t immediately know the answers to.