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Hazard Perception Test Explanation and FAQ

The driving theory test consists of two elements: the multiple choice element, and the hazard perception element. Whilst both can seem daunting, there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the hazard perception test, and it can lead to great anxiety for many, who are not certain of the best way to approach this element of the test.

In addition, there are many different verdicts out there with regard to how best to approach the test with a view to passing it, and how many times you really can click on a clip without being told you have clicked too many times and therefore receive no points for that clip. Some even question whether the test is fair or not. The answer is it absolutely is, you just need to understand what it is looking for and how best to approach it. In order to give a definitive answer to the questions many people have about the hazard perception test, we spoke to a learner driver who passed their hazard perception test in 2013 for their verdict on the test and therefore provide an accurate hazard perception test FAQ based on this direct experience rather than mere hearsay:

How does the hazard perception element of the test work?

  • You are allowed up to a three minute break after the multiple choice part of the test, which must be taken sitting at the desk.
  • You then are told to put on headphones.
  • A video (with audio) is played explaining how the test works and some example hazards are shown. If you wish you can listen and watch the video again or choose to move onto to the test.
  • The video explains you should look out for developing hazards, and click with either mouse button when they appear. There is no pointer on the screen so you literally just click the mouse, you don't need to click over the hazard itself. The video shows in red circles examples of scoring hazards. Each scorable hazard has a window that is divided into five segments. At the start of the scoring window you score 5 points for a click, through to 1 point if you click right at the end of the scoring window. Hopefully you will already know all this before taking the test as you will have practiced thoroughly! You can remove your headphones before the test starts - there is no audio with the videos of the hazard clips, they are all silent.
  • When you move onto the test, you are shown 14 clips that each last approximately one minute. One clip contains two hazards you will score marks for, all the other clips contain just one. This means one clip is worth a maximum of 10 marks, the others are worth a maximum of 5 marks. This gives a total score of 75 marks available. You must get 44 or more to pass the test.
  • At the end of the test you leave the room, and are given your results almost instantly. You must pass both parts of the theory test to pass overall.
What is the quality of the video like and how large is it?

One of the major worries when you practice clips online or on CDs and DVDs is that the footage is very small or very grainy and therefore it is very hard to pick up hazards quickly.

In the test, you are watching a video that takes up the size of the monitor, so the size of the clip is not an issue. The footage quality (at time of writing, late 2013) is perfectly adequate to spot the hazards and is satisfactorily sharp. However if you are used to watching HD TV then it certainly is not that and nowhere near crystal clear. But at the same time it is perfectly adequate to spot the hazards so the quality shouldn't be an issue. Also, it looks likely the quality is going to improve soon - I was shown two sample clips at the end of the test that are being considered for future use, and the picture quality was much better in both of these.

Everything could be a hazard - what should I do?

The thing that confuses most people is that there are so many possible hazards, depending how you look at things. The best advice I can give is to click when there is something you think could be a hazard on screen (for instance a pedestrian walking along the pavement) then click again AS SOON AS THE HAZARD DEVELOPS, IF IT DOES. That is the crucial point to the test and how to pass it - if the pedestrian just keeps on walking along the pavement, safely, and well away from the edge, then don't click again - that won't be the hazard. But if they stop and take a glance at the road, it is pretty clear they are thinking of crossing... this means the hazard has developed, as the situation has changed, so you should instantly click again - this is probably the hazard in the clip, and the person is probably just about to walk in front of your car causing you to slow down.

How do I know if I have found the hazard they want?

You won't know for sure. However in each circumstance I've seen, the hazard results in your vehicle reacting in some way: in most cases slowing down, but this could also be changing lane for instance to avoid an obstacle on the road. If your car doesn't change what it is doing in the video clip, then it probably isn't the hazard. HOWEVER, don't wait for your car to take action to click: if you do you are almost certainly too late, or at best at the end of the scoring window. The point is to react to the hazard as soon as it develops so you can ready yourself to take action, not to react once that action has been taken when it is too late: so click when you think there is a chance you will need to take action due to the developing hazard, don't wait until you actually have to take that action.

I've heard you can only click once per video, is this true? If not, how many times can I click?

No it is NOT true. No matter how many times you read it on websites or friends wind you up by telling you this, you absolutely can and SHOULD CLICK SEVERAL TIMES PER CLIP to give yourself the best chance of passing the test, each time you genuinely think you see a hazard and again if it develops. That is simple fact. On some clips very little happens and you will find yourself only clicking a couple of times anyway - for instance when going down a quiet country road and nothing happens you won't click at all, then when you see a horse trotting along the road click. However on other clips there are loads of potential hazards - such as driving down a high street with loads of people constantly walking on both pavements - so you will naturally click many more times then.

The key is this: each time you genuinely see something you think COULD be the hazard, then click. Then if it DEVELOPS, click again. Do this for each hazard you think you identify in the clip and you really can't go far wrong. I clicked twice per hazard I came across: once as soon as I saw it, and a second time if I saw it develop. This worked just fine for me and I passed comfortably. On one clip I clicked about ten times without issue; that was the most times for a clip, the reason being it was a busy high street scene with lots going on all over the place and many I considered could be potential hazards. Obviously don't just click because you haven't for a while or without making a genuine effort to spot and react to a hazard.

What you MUST NOT do is just click blindly, or periodically, or a ridiculous number of times, because that is suspicious clicking that doesn't seem to correlate to the clip you are being shown, and then you probably will get zero points for the question. BUT if you click just when you think you see a hazard, and when you think you see it develop, then you should be fine since that was my experience with the test.

What practice should I do?

The best advice here is to watch the clips the DSA releases for practice use (these are not the clips used in the actual test - no-one sees those apart from when you take a test - but they are very similar). Have a go at those - there are eight of these Hazard clips here. There are also other products on the market that have lots of sample hazard clips that have been shot by people trying to emulate the hazard perception test that provide useful practice material. In all cases just practice looking for hazards, then clicking quickly when you see them and then when they develop. That really is all there is to it. In the hazard clips I saw in the test, the car moved more slowly than in a lot of the unofficial practice material, so it was easier to see the hazards than I feared from some of the practice stuff out there.

What feedback do I get after the test?

After the test, you will be given your results when you walk out. This will tell you your total score, and breakdown your score across the clips. So it will tell you that on the double hazard clip you scored x, then on n clips you scored 5, on n clips you scored 4, and so on down to the number of clips on which you scored zero.

If you've read and taken on board the above, have practiced on lots of clips, and are therefore able to spot a developing hazard in good time, then you should give yourself a great chance of passing the hazard perception test. Good luck - hopefully this above guide is comprehensive and answers all your questions, but if you do have any others, feel free to contact us and we'll add them to this hazard perception test FAQ. If you think other people you know would benefit from reading this guide to the hazard test, then please do recommend they read this page.