Taking the Dutch Theory Driving Test

There are several reasons why an international resident in The Netherlands may need to take a Dutch driving test.  Holders of most non-EU licences are only allowed to drive in the Netherlands for the first 6 months after registration and many people are not eligible to just exchange their licence for a Dutch one.  Other reasons include learning to drive for the first time or retaking lessons after having a licence revoked.  

The first test needed for a Dutch driving licence is the theory test. It is not required to have passed the theory test before taking lessons, but you do need to have passed it before the practical driving test. For first time learners it does help to have had some lessons before the theory test in order for the first section of the test to make sense.

It is possible to arrange your test direct by logging into the CBR website using a DigiD. If you are taking lessons through a school they can arrange it for you and often include the cost of the test and a theory course in the price for the whole ‘learning to drive’ package. The actual cost of the theory test alone is around EUR 31 but there is a EUR 5.50 fee for taking it in English and other fees when booking online. In Amsterdam the CBR exam centre is on Naritaweg close to Sloterdijk station.

The CBR exam centre

The first part of the exam is hazard recignition. For new drivers the hazard recognition section is especially hard. On the screen is a photo of a traffic situation where you have 8 seconds to decide whether to 1) break, 2) release the accelerator or 3) do nothing. You see the speed you are driving and consider that along with what is happening in the picture. For example if you see the motorway with no other traffic and nothing upcoming and the right speed then click ‘do nothing’. But the next picture could be a busy road with an oncoming car blocking your side of the road, whilst a bus pulls out and a person walking a bike waits to cross. Because you need to pay attention to the detail this is easier to practice on a larger screen than a phone. There are 25 questions and you need to get 13 right so a maximum of 12 mistakes. If you miss answering fast enough that counts as a mistake.

The second part tests your knowledge of Dutch traffic rules, safe and environmentally friendly driving, priority regulations and general theory. In the actual test they ask 42 questions of which only 40 count. You don’t know which are the 2 fake questions but you need to answer 35 of the 40 correctly so not more than 5 mistakes. This is the section you learn about in the theory courses offered. Some questions and answers are obvious, whilst others require you to think harder. Most are multiple choice, but there are also drawings of a traffic situation where you have to mark which vehicle has priority or in which order all the waiting traffic can proceed. There are also questions where you enter a speed limit or number of metres into a numerical text box. This section takes 23 minutes and questions can be along the lines of the following:

  1. Which of option A) B) C) is the correct tightness of your seat- belt?
  2. How many meters before a bus-stop are you allowed to stop?
  3. Is a skater on the cycle path a pedestrian or a driver?
  4. Can you expect a moped on this road?
  5. Which vehicle goes last?

I took a theory course through The Theory House in Amsterdam West. This starts at 10am and finishes at 1700 hours with only 20 minutes for lunch and very short breaks through the day because there is so much to cover. The course covers example questions and the teacher also guides you regarding the way they ask questions. For instance the answer could be different if they ask ‘is it safe to overtake here’ rather than ‘are you allowed to overtake’.

When is the bridge slippery?
A) A cold snowy evening B) A hot sunny day C) Both times

Following the theory day I purchased 20 hours access to example questions, practicing the hazard recognition and taking tests online. This cost EUR 20 from www.leertheorie.nl and the time only counts down when you are logged in via your sign-in. If you create an account with your email address it helpfully tracks on which chapters of the theory book you make most mistakes so you can concentrate your practicing based on that. 2 days before the test I was still failing all the practice exams but one day before I was passing most of them, and mainly failing on hazard recognition.

Unfortunately I failed my first theory exam. One of the main reasons was that I did not react fast enough in the hazard recognition section. When you practice online the time to answer can actually be longer than 8 seconds because of the speed of your internet. Because of this I missed answering 5 of the first 10 questions because I did not react fast enough. I also failed because i knew nothing about driving in snow which had not come up in the examples or my practical lessons. I was then flustered for the rest of the test. In section 2 I forgot to highlight questions I was unsure of which made it harder to find them again when i had time left at the end.

I took my second test less than a week later. It was much easier the second time partly because I knew what to expect. I had also checked the correct reaction to snow and deliberately looked up some of the questions where I guessed in exam number 1. This helped because several questions were repeats from my first test and there were again hazard recognition pictures involving snow. Right from the start in section 2 I highlighted the questions I was unsure of and could then easily find them before pressing submit at the end of the test. I recommend this since there was enough time to properly check the first response on tricky ones rather than sticking with a first rushed answer.

The theory test remains valid for 18 months after the date of taking it. I wish you straightforward questions.

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