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How to get a motorbike licence and pass your CBT test

Are you thinking about Compulsory Basic Training? There’s lots of theory and practical tests – but don’t be put off. We’ve pulled together what you need to know.

Learner motorbike rider taking their test


How to get a motorcycle licence

Your first step is to get a provisional licence, which costs £34 online. If you’ve got your basic ID ready – passport, National Insurance and proof of addresses, for example – you could have a provisional licence within a week.

To apply for your provisional licence from DVLA online you must be at least 15 years and 9 months old. You’ll also need to be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.

But if you’ve a full driving licence you can jump on a 50cc moped with no training – at all. But it does depend when you passed your driving test.

If you passed before 1 February 2001 there’s no need to take Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) to ride a moped. But you’ll still need the full CBT to ride a motorbike.

Those who passed a driving test on or after 1 February 2001 still have to take the CBT to ride a moped. A 50cc moped won’t make you a bona fide biker – yet.

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What’s a CBT test?

Before riding your bike on the road you’ll need to complete your Compulsory Basic Training. The emphasis here is on the words ‘compulsory’ and ‘training’. There’s no pass or fail test here.

What can I ride? Once completing this one-day course – it’s an eight-hour day – you can ride a motorcycle up to 125cc if you’re 17. Or a scooter for two years if you’re 16.

But this CBT is only valid for two years.

You can’t ride on motorways. But you can ride on dual carriageways and you must display your L plates at all times.

While not strictly a test, you could be held back if your trainer feels more training’s needed.

Made up of five parts, the CBT’s an excellent primer for all biking matters, off and on-road. You’ll be expected to have a basic knowledge of traffic signs and The Highway Code.

There’s also:

  • An eyesight check & basic maintenance checks
  • Braking & manoeuvring
  • Changing gear & riding behaviour
  • Riding in typical traffic conditions & U-turns
  • Emergency stops
  • At least two hours out on the road with your instructor.

Once you’ve got your CBT licence you’ve then got two years to pass your full moped and motorcycle theory and practical tests.

If you take your own bike to your CBT, do make sure it’s taxed and you’ve got a motorbike insurance policy in place.


How much is a CBT test?

It varies, but most courses usually costs between £110-£150. That could also include helmet hire plus insurance.

There are usually flexible cancellation options if you need them and all fuel costs tend to be included. Do check to make sure any ‘reservation fee’ is included in the total cost.

Some companies may be quicker to offer you the training than others. If you need your CBT licence in a hurry, then phone around. If you’ve trouble finding a course near you then the government’s CBT portal could help you.

If you don’t take your CBT training you could get up to six points on your licence and be fined up to £1,000.


Motorbike lessons: do I need them and how much do they cost?

Once you’ve completed your CBT you might want to keep up the lessons. This is especially true if you want to build on what you’ve learnt, or more powerful machines.

There are lots of training schools, so it’s worth shopping around. You’ll be fully supported by a training instructor who should guide you through the maze of UK licences, on-road and off-road tests.

Typically, motorbike lessons cost from around £20 an hour. Remember, your CBT training qualification only lasts two years. So, for many, it makes sense to continue with the training.

But there are a few necessary and well thought-out hurdles to navigate. The first one’s the theory test.


The motorcycle theory test: what to expect

Before the motorcycle practical test, the motorcycle theory test comes first. You can book your motorbike theory test online or over the phone.

There’s a 50-question multiple choice test and a hazard perception test. This second part uses video clips.

The multiple question test is based around real-life situations and case studies. While there are 50 questions in total, you only need to get 43 out of 50 right.

So, there’s a margin for error. You can also go back to any questions for another go.

Here are a few examples of the questions you might be asked.

  • Question: What should you use to clean visors and goggles?
  • Possible answers: Petrol, white spirit, anti-freeze or soapy water?
  • Question: At an incident, someone is suffering from severe burns. How could you help them?
  • Possible Answers: a) Apply lotions to the injury. b) Burst any blisters. c) Remove anything sticking to the burns. d) Douse the burns with clean, cool water.
  • Question: Which lane must not be used by a motorcyclist?
  • Possible Answers: a) Crawler lane. b) Overtaking lane. c) Acceleration lane. d) Tram lane.

The test covers all aspects of riding, so it’s worth being fully clued up before booking the test.

The hazard perception test is made up of 14 clips. There’s a maximum of 75 points but you only need to get 44 to pass. Each ‘hazard’ is worth five points. Unlike the first multiple choice test, you can’t nip back for a second go.

What’s really helpful is that you can practice both parts of this theory test online for free. There’s also a bunch of books, online videos and apps out there to support you.

If you only have a smartphone rather than a computer, don’t worry. The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has created several different formats.


How much does the motorcycle theory test cost?

The theory test costs £23 and the price is the same for evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

As we mentioned, you’ll need to pass 43 out of the 50 multiple-choice questions and 44 out of 75 on the hazard perception round. You’ll know if you passed or not straight after the test.

Your theory test certificate is valid for two years. During those two years, both parts of the practical test have to be passed. Otherwise, you’ll have to retake your theory test.


How does the motorcycle practical test work?

The practical motorbike test is split into two modules. Let’s look at both.

Module One is an off-road riding test. This test lasts around 20 minutes and tests your bike-handling skills at a Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency test centre.

Typically, it covers basic road skills including some bike-handling. The examiner should be looking closely at any potential faults that might put you, the public or the examiner at risk.

Even though it’s a highly-controlled environment, treat the test as if you’re on a public road.

Module One includes:

  • Wheeling the moped or motorcycle and using the stand
  • Doing a slalom and figure of 8
  • A slow ride
  • A U-turn
  • Cornering and a controlled stop
  • Cornering and an emergency stop
  • Cornering and hazard avoidance.

The hazard avoidance and emergency stop exercises must be done at a minimum 19 mph on a moped or 31 mph on a motorcycle.

As long as there are no major faults and no more than five minor faults you should pass.

Even then the examiner might give you a run-down of possible areas of concern or areas you can improve on.

If you’ve passed, congratulations! This means moving onto Module Two.

If you haven’t passed, bad luck. You’ll need to allow three working days before re-attempting the test.

If you’ve already booked your Module Two test and failed Module One then you might need to change this date.


Module Two takes around 45 minutes. Make sure you’ve got all the paperwork you had for Module One – licence, theory pass certificate, etc – and bring it along.

For Module Two there’s an eyesight check. This optical check means reading back a new-style number plate from 20 metres away. Also, reading an older-style number plate from 20.5 metres away.

This test is usually from a marked car. Or perhaps a plate fixed to a wall or fence.

Then there are some ‘show me, tell me’ safety questions. This part of the test is where you demonstrate your awareness of how your bike works. Don’t worry, you’re not expected to know anything too technical.

Some of these ‘show me, tell me’ questions might typically include:

  • Where is the brake fluid reservoir and how would you know if it’s safety topped up?
  • What about the condition of your bike’s chain? How could you check for tension and alignment?
  • How would you check the brakes – and what might you need to look for?
  • What advice would you give a pillion passenger if they’d not been on the back of a motorcycle before?

After this some riding, separated into two parts, begins. The first part typically covers stopping, hill starts and pulling out from parked vehicles.

The second part – the independent ride – is a test to demonstrate your forward-thinking abilities.


Tips for passing Module Two


The priority is always safety

Navigational prowess comes second. Sometimes what you might feel is a major mistake is sometimes a minor error.

If you’re aware of your mistakes and correct them safely and quickly, you’re winning.


Practice the eye test

You can always practice the eye test beforehand by standing 20 metres back from a vehicle’s number plate. Watch the position of the sun here.

If you measure things in old money, remember that there’s about three feet to one metre.

If you wear glasses or contact lens and are concerned about the visual test, book yourself in for an eye test at your optician.

They can give you feedback on how your eyes perform. It might be the time to renew your prescription before your test.


Don’t force the pace

Always ride inside what feels comfortable.


Pay attention to what you wear on the day

Gloves, heavy trousers and decent footwear - your basic motorcycle safety gear. And don’t forget your helmet!


How much does a motorcycle test cost?

The Module One off road test costs £15.50 and the Module Two road test costs from £75 in normal working hours. This goes up to £88.50 at other times including weekends.

You must use the same bike for both modules.


How to upgrade your motorcycle licence

Ready for a full motorbike licence? What route you take depends on the type of bike you want to ride, and your age.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and hurdles, you’re not alone.

A good local training school should put you on the right road in terms of choices. But it is age dependent. There’s also a bit of choreography involved in the planning.

If you’re at least 17 then an A1 licence allows you to ride up to 125cc motorbikes. This lasts as long as you’re able to ride. No L plates are needed.

An A2 licence is for those aged19 and over and it’s generally the ‘fast track’ to riding a more powerful bike. You can ride a bike with up to 35kW of power and without L plates.

You can also ride on motorways and carry a passenger. An A2 licence means you can apply for your full A licence at 21. In other words, getting it two years earlier than you would have otherwise.

If you’re aged 24-plus with some car driving experience then a Direct Access Scheme (DAS) could help you complete the journey to a full a licence. But these courses could be pricey.

The DAS means going straight to the CBT, then Module 1 and Module 2 – and onto your machine of choice.

The full A licence allows you to ride any machine however powerful, ride on motorways and carry a passenger. It’s completely unrestricted.

If you’re young and serious about your biking it might an idea to wait until you’re seventeen and a half before taking your CBT.

That means when you’re nineteen and a half you can take your A2. Which means doing just one CBT. Remember, a CBT only lasts two years.

Or you could stay on a 125cc until you’re 24 – then go straight for your A licence!