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Special Needs and the Theory Test – what help is available and how do you book it

When you book your Theory Test you should say if you’ve got special needs. In many cases, special arrangements (or accommodations) can be made to help you during the test.
COVID-19 precautions are now starting to be relaxed, some face-to-face accommodations are starting to become more available e.g. face-to-face readers and interpreters (July 2021).

Special needs accommodations available when taking the theory test – If you have learning difficulties, problems with reading or writing, or have required additional help with schoolwork or taking examinations at school or college, then you may be able to get help with the Multiple Choice Theory Test; this may be:

  • Computer voiceover, (English or Welsh spoken test using a head set is available for any test candidate, no proof of special needs is required but this must be booked in advance – tick the box when booking the test).
  • Extra time to take the test (up to double the normal time).
  • “Translator kit” (reader only), The reader is in a separate room and communicates with the candidate via headphones. This has been introduced as a safer alternative to the face to face reader as an additional COVID-19 precaution. (Be aware that this is a very different solution from the option of a face to face reader). This is often the first option that is offered for those with reading or learning difficulties, make sure that this solution is fully explained to you before agreeing to use it. The “Translator kit” is unlikely to be suitable for those with no or very limited reading ability. 
  • The previous option of a face to face reader/recorder is still available but may be more difficult to arrange. This is where a person, provided by Pearson VUE (the company that administers the theory test), sits next to the candidate and reads the questions and answers on the computer screen word for word, they then record the answer given by the candidate (they are not permitted to explain the meaning of the English language). Additional COVID-19 precautions will include a transparent screen between the candidate and the reader.
  • Oral Language Modification (OLM) – in exceptional cases, where the candidate has severe difficulty understanding the meaning of the language used for the test, the reader can explain the meaning and reword the questions to make them easier to understand; technical terms (e.g. anti-lock braking system) may not be reworded. A face to face reader recorder would always be used for OLM tests, DVSA have confirmed that they will not use the ‘translator kit’ for these tests.
  • Private environment / separate room may also be available on request if the candidate can demonstrate that they would be seriously distracted by other people in the same room. A separate room may also be needed if other candidates would be distracted by the special needs accommodations being used.

Due to difficulties maintaining social distancing in the small side rooms and because of problems providing adequate ventilation most side rooms are currently unavailable. If a separate room is essential the additional COVID-19 precaution of a total centre shutdown may be required to allow the candidate to take the test on their own in the main room.

  • The only special allowance made when taking the Hazard Perception Test is the facility to pause the test between clips for people who suffer with motion sickness.

To apply for a Special Needs Theory Test – if the candidate needs extra time, if a face to face reader/recorder is needed, if an OLM test is required or if a separate room is necessary proof of Special Needs will need to be provided.

DVSA are currently advising candidates to notify them of any special needs when they book the theory test, if you ask for extra time, someone to read the the questions/answers on screen and record the answers or someone to reword the questions then they will contact you to discuss the accommodations requested. They will ask for proof of special needs to be sent to them, this could be – a letter from School / College (stating what Special Needs provision was made when taking tests/exams) or from GP (detailing the medical condition and Special Needs requirements) on headed paper should be sufficient. If you have had a Driving Mobility Assessment a report from the Occupational Therapist conducting the assessment should also be acceptable.

DVSA have confirmed that they will also accept the Dyslexia+ Profiler (from Do-IT Solutions), available through the British Dyslexia Association website (, as proof of Special Needs – this would be suitable for those out of education or those who have not been formally diagnosed. (Agreement confirmed by DVSA – 24.05.2019).

For OLM tests evidence of severe difficulties in language comprehension will be required. This evidence would normally state that OLM has been required when taking exams at school or college and would take the form of a statement of educational needs from an educational professional or a report showing comprehension scores (which would need to equate to below 8 years of age) to warrant the service. For those out of formal education a report from any educational establishment attended or from a medical professional explaining the severe difficulties in language comprehension will be considered.

DVSA will consider the application and will then confirm back in writing that they have agreed to the request, this letter will give a reference number that must be quoted when booking the test. The best way to book the test is to contact the Customer Care Team by phone, quoting the reference and requesting extra time, a reader/recorder or an OLM test, whichever is needed; if you have difficulty getting through by phone send an email with a contact number and ask them to ring you back (put ‘special needs accommodations’ in the subject box).

If a reader/recorder or OLM test is needed the test would take place in a side room so that there is no interference or distraction from other people taking the test and so they are not distracted. If the side rooms are not available then the test centre could be closed off for the duration of the test. DVSA have put aside dedicated test slots at 3.00pm each Saturday afternoon for Special Needs tests requiring total test centre closure; waiting times for these tests may be longer.

If any specific requirements are needed due to physical disability (e.g. wheelchair access to the building, a height adjustable desk or if a bespoke design of computer mouse is needed) these should be arranged when booking the test.

It is advised that the Special Needs request is made as soon as tuition commences. Once they reply with the reference the test can be booked, quoting the reference, whenever you are ready, there is no time limit. It is also advised that you book the test in plenty of time especially if a complete site closure is required.

From 19 July, for booking enquiries about tests due to take place on or after 6 September, please contact DVSA customer contact centre as it will be taking over the service from Pearson VUE:

British Dyslexia Association:

Tel: 0845 251 9003    Fax: 0845 251 9005    web:

Updated 01.10.2021