Life from an outsider's perspective…

Two year old attempts the notoriously difficult Spanish driving theory test! *UPDATED with sample questions*

 Contradictory road signs in Tenerife, Canary Islands. Bureaucratic Spanish Driving Test.


Almost everybody takes for granted the ability to drive a car. OK, maybe not in the first few weeks… you’re an adolescent, you study the Learner manual for a few hours, sit in front of a computer at your local Roads & Traffic Authourity Office, and bingo, you’ve got yourself a new license. You’re now permitted to drive and you can worry about getting more experience and hence your P plates at a later time.

Now picture this: you are required to get your licence in another country, in another language. Because the country where you were born -Australia- and the country you now live in -Spain- well they don’t have any official reciprocal driving agreement.This is, of course, a lot simpler than it sounds; but don’t fall into the trap of underestimating the diffulty involved in passing a theory test in another language when you never studied that language at school. When you consider that only two years ago, I couldn’t understand any spoken or written spanish at all, effectively, with this completely new language, I’m only two years old as far as my spanish vocabulary is concerned.

Spanish people already know that it is notoriously difficult. Not only is the theory test rife with trick questions, the depth of information that is to compulsory to learn is astounding. The book contains 327 pages of verbose small text and diagrams. You must memorise practically every page! All aspects of road theory are covered, including vehicle maintenance, appropriate use of illumination… resuscitation you name it, its there.

I have sat in about 20 hours of spanish lectures over the last 4 weeks, on ALL aspects of driving theory. Also during that period, I’ve taken the practice test 50 TIMES! That’s a total of 1500 questions folks… and yet after all that, some questions still manage to trick me, and I only ever pass about half the time. In reality, the test is 40 questions and you’re allowed 4 mistakes. But there’s also a 40 minute time limit. The time limit is probably the most frustrating thing of all, because by the time you’ve read & understood the often long-winded questions plus all three possibly correct answers, you have about 5 seconds to choose the most correct response.

UPDATE – 02/10/07:

After substantial delays in obtaining my medical certifcate, and attending 10 weeks of lectures, I’m now going to attempt the theoretical Spanish driving examination this Thursday, the 4th of October! During this time, I have taken the practice theory exam more than 120 times!!! I.e. I’ve answered 3600 practise questions!!!!!:-| To say this was very tedious is an understatment. I think on the 60th attempt, I finally managed to correctly answer all 30 questions. It took another 40 or more attempts to repeat that stroke of luck.

UPDATE – 05/10/07:

I became very nervous  before the theory test. I opened up a book of questions for the first time, and there were a load of questions I hadn’t even seen before! The instructor told us “it’s not necessary to read the books; just attend the lectures, do the practice tests on the computers, and you will pass”.



(now I can begin the “practicas”)


Some of my personal favourite questions:

(answers are revealed in the comments section)







OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCES (given a hundred years I couldn’t possibly word it better myself):

Enough to drive you to distraction: Spanish driving test  

The Road to a Spanish Driver’s License (Part 1 of 2)

There are few things in life as difficult or intimidating as getting a Spanish driver’s license. It’s a bit like trying to solve Fermat’s last theoremwhile sitting on death row in a Texas prison. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has been through it. 

The Driving School

First, you must join a driving school. This is required whether you are a first time driver or, like me, had been driving in another country for nearly twenty years.

The reason is that you’ll need their car. Spanish authorities require that examinees take the behind-the-wheel portion of the driving exam in a car that has a second brake, accelerator and clutch on the passenger side.

I don’t know about you, but there’s no vehicle fitting this description parked in my garage. Fortunately, for a fee of multiple hundreds of Euros, any driving school will be pleased to lend you its car and will toss in a study guide and some lessons (both theoretical and practical) to boot.

The Medical Exam

Once you’ve enrolled in a driving school, you must then get a medical and eye exam.

There’s a cottage industry in Spain for doctors – some of whom may have even received their medical degrees from non-Caribbean countries – who specialize in medical exams for prospective drivers.

They advertise as much on their front doors. With regard to my own exam, the doctor certified me as fit because I was able to open the door to his office, and as having good eyesight because I was able to grasp the doorknob without first feeling around for it with my fingertips.

The written Exam

Now, the *real* fun begins. The written portion of the Spanish driving exam consists of forty multiple choice questions; at least thirty-six of which must be answered correctly in order to pass.

The scope of its questions goes well beyond the standard rules of the road.

Questions pertaining to automobile mechanics, first aid, and technical specifications for vehicles ranging from scooters to quads to automobiles to delivery trucks are not only fair game, but are fairly common.

Little wonder that the study guide I received from the driving school was over two hundred pages long, and densely packed with facts, definitions, formulae and statistics; all of which had to be memorized and memorized well!

And to make matters worse, each multiple choice question has at least two possible answers that you would swear – on your grandmother’s life – must be correct. Having taken both the State of Illinois Bar exam and the Spanish drivers’ written exam, I can say with certainty that I walked out of the former feeling
much more confident that I had passed.

But don’t take my word for it. Here are some authentic exam questions taken from and translated into English for your infotainment:

SAMPLE QUESTION #1:  You are driving an automobile on a road that has more than one lane for certain directions of traffic. What is the maximum speed that you are permitted to drive?

(a) 100 km per hour, but only in the direction that has more than one lane.
(b) 90 km per hour, in both directions.
(c) 100 km per hour, in both directions.

SAMPLE QUESTION #2:  You are driving on a road that has two directions of traffic and three lanes separated by discontinuous, longitudinal lines. When can you use the centre lane?

(a) Only for making a left-hand turn.
(b) For passing, making a turn or making a U-turn.
(c) For passing or for making a left-hand turn.

Do you see what I mean? The term “hair-splitting” comes immediately to mind, doesn’t it?

Imagine answering forty questions like these while seated at an uncomfortable, government-issued desk while row after row of fluorescent lights hum incessantly over your head.

With this background in mind, perhaps you won’t laugh quite so heartily when I tell you that I – after four months (FOUR MONTHS!) of diligent study and memorization -nonetheless failed the damn thing on my first try.

I did, however, squeak by with a passing score on the second try. Countless others have not been so fortunate.

12 Responses to “Two year old attempts the notoriously difficult Spanish driving theory test! *UPDATED with sample questions*”


    Question 1 – b
    Question 2 – b
    Question 3 – a

  2. With all that hard work, it’s a great pity that the majority of Spanish drivers then have no idea how to drive safely and considerately when they finally pass the Theory and Practical tests.
    I think that there should be a third test to check the applicant has a degree of common sense, i.e. how not to block a junction, how not to travel the wrong way along a one way street (because it was the shortest route!), why it is inappropriate to overtake slower moving vehicles on a blind bend and with a solid centre line marking, the list goes on and on…..

    All these are things I have seen on a regular basis whilst driving here in Tenerife over the last 16 months, where as I maybe saw them only once in 20 years of extensive (30,000 miles per year) driving in the UK.

    Point made ?

  3. Well that’s half the point of the other post too, the one about bureacracy (that it creates a revenge effect).

    About 20% of the people who were attending the theory classes were people aged about 40-50. In other words, they’d been driving around *without* a licence all those years!!

    By the way, I think some of you cheated on your mini exam! Hahaha.

  4. Another one then:
    What’s the maximum velocity of an urban highway/freeway: 50, 80 or 120 km/hr?

  5. Daz the truth is that obviously you get bonus points on your test for these manoeuvres. Also double parking is a very important facet to master.

  6. Hello There!
    I especially like your thoughts on driving license test questions and will be back again.

    . Thank you

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