Topographical Skills Test | Beginners Guide for PCO Drivers

Topographical Skills Test | Beginners Guide for PCO Drivers

August 22, 2019

We’ve got a newer article for you! 
Check out our latest article about the TfL Topographical Skills Test HERE.

Here at Otto Car we’ve received a lot of questions around the topographical skills test, so we felt that it would be useful to put together a simple guide about what’s in the test, and some tips that could help you pass with flying colours.

Where possible we’ve included example questions provided by TfL themselves, so that you can get an idea of what each question will consist of.

Please keep in mind that this is just a general outline of the test, at the bottom we’ve also included some links to help you find even more information, and a free training course you could begin with as well.

If you would also like to learn more about how to get your PCO badge in general then you can also check out our guide on how to get a PCO licence in London. 

Don’t forget, Otto Car has a wide range of PCO driver support content on its website. From the Private Hire Operator Guide 2020 to helping Uber Drivers save their income better through our Smart Money Guide.


What is it?

For those of you wondering, topography basically just means understanding how maps work.

After you have submitted your application to TfL you will be invited to complete a topographical skills assessment test.

You must complete this test to receive your Private Hire Licence.


What’s in the test?

The test will consist of four sections, which you can complete on paper or on a computer if you prefer. The four sections are as follows:


Section 1) Index Based Questions 

This will test your ability to use the index section of a standard atlas to find where different places are in London.

You will be provided with an atlas and told to find the grid reference and page number of certain locations.


Example Question:

Locate the Grid Reference and the Page Number of Addington.


What it will look like

Atlas Index for Topographical Skills Test

In a standard index you will be able to see the different names of places, arranged in alphabetical order. In this picture the page number is the number on the left (e.g: for Addington it is Page 20), and the grid reference is the number on the right (e.g: for Addington it is A3).

Keep in mind that anything that begins with “the”, will have this listed afterwards. So for “The Shard” it will be written as “Shard, The” on the index.


Section 2) General Topography

This section will involve you using the map in an atlas to identify directions to/from different points and locations.


Example Question:

What direction is London Heathrow Airport from Central London?


How to work it out: 

You will see the map, and will be required to locate where Central London is, and where Heathrow is. You will then have to determine the direction that you will have to travel.

Therefore the answer in this case will be West.


Section 3) Planning a Route

In this section you will be shown two different points in the map, and you will have to plan the best route between these locations.

The best way to understand how this section works is to watch TfL’s video below. This will show you how the test will look on a computer, and what you’ll have to do.


Please Note

This section carries the most marks, so it’s important that you don’t make any silly mistakes.

You will lose marks if you make any of these mistakes:

• You fail to follow the most direct route
• You don’t acknowledge the right map symbols (eg: one way systems & roundabouts)
• You don’t arrive at the end location


Section 4) Compass Point Questions

For this section you will need to know your North, South, East and West.

You will be presented with different scenarios, and will have to use these compass directions to answer the question.


Example Question:

You start at junction 1 and travel 2 streets east. Then you travel 1 street south. What junction number are you at now?

Topographic Skills Assessment Test



In this case the answer will be Junction Number 6.


Where can I learn more & practice for the test?

If you would like more general information around the test, or would like to find out the approved test centres, then you might like to visit TfL’s official topographical skills test page.

If you would like to actually do some training for the test, then you could begin by visiting Uber’s Online Topographical Preparation Page. This is filled with lots of useful videos about what the test consists of, and some practice questions to help you get familiar with the questions.

This also contains information on how you can book to do your test directly at the Uber Ignition centre, which is one of TfL’s approved test centres.


Anything else you would like to know?

If you’re looking to learn more about how to become an Uber driver then you can also check out this article.  You can also see Otto Car’s blog for PCO drivers which has a number of topics from avoiding penalty charge notices to work hotspots.

Don’t forget, our Covid-19 & Private Hire newsletter is constantly updated so you’re up to date with the latest industry news.

If reading is not your thing then also feel free to check out our popular podcast for PCO Drivers.



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