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How to pass the topographical skills test in 2024


To become an Uber driver in London –or work for rival operators such as Bolt and FREENOW – you need a valid PCO licence. These are issued by Transport for London (TfL) and drivers must pass a few exams to get one, including the topographical skills test.

You only get two chances to pass each TfL test and so it’s critical to prepare well. To help you navigate the challenge, this article blends expert insights with Uber resources and TfL sample questions.

For the ultimate guide on how to pass the topographical skills assessment, this is the right place.

What is the TfL topographical skills test?

In simple terms, topography means using maps. This test is mostly map reading or route selection but it does also check your basic knowledge of London geography.

The goal is to ensure Uber drivers can find their way around without a satnav in London. Imagine driving if your phone stopped working? Yes, friend, that is possible.

This is one of three TfL tests that London private hire drivers must pass to get a PCO licence. The other TfL exams you need for a PCO licence are the two-part English Language Requirement (ELR).

Naturally, Otto Car has a complete guide on how to pass the TfL English test and another on how to get a PCO licence. Here, it’s all about the topographical skills test. Let’s get moving.

Who needs to take the topographical assessment? 

Pretty much every private hire driver in London must pass this test. There are a few exceptions.

  • Previously licensed PHV drivers (i.e. who passed a TfL topographical skills test)
  • Licensed London taxi drivers (both All London and Suburban)
  • Professional London tourist guides (e.g. Blue Badge Driver Guide)

Until February 2020, TfL allowed drivers with a relevant vocational qualification to avoid the test. Since then, only the reasons stated above are acceptable. Everyone else must do the assessment.

How do you book a TFL topographical test?

After you submit your PCO licence application to TfL, you will get a letter and email with a date to attend a topographical skills test centre. This is at the official TfL premises in Pier Walk (North Greenwich) or West Kensington.

For booking queries, contact the TfL Topographical Team by email at tphtopo@tfl.gov.uk or phone on 0343 222 4444 (charges may apply).

You need a confirmed booking to do this test. Drivers cannot attend without a reservation.

Image 2: Drivers must take the test at official TfL premises

How much does the topographical test cost?

The test costs £36 and a retake is £16. Many Uber drivers worry about what happens if you fail a topographic test but there is no need to panic. With our help, you can nail this.

That said, you must pass the exam on either the first or the second attempt. Otherwise, you have to reapply for the whole PCO licence.

If this happens, Uber says that you will get a partial refund on the TfL licence application fee. 

How do you prepare for a topographical assessment?

The first step is understand the structure of the test, plus a few other practical ideas.

For instance, you enter the answers with a mouse, not a keyboard. You must click-drag maps to move them, or zoom in with the scroll-wheel. It’s worth practising these skills.

You get 90 minutes in total to answer 25 questions, so there is no rush. You can even skip back-and-forth between your answers to change them before you submit.

The multiple choice questions are 25% of the marks, whereas the four route-planning questions give you a whopping 75%. When practising, allow plenty of time for the routing section.

To switch questions, click on the “review assessment” button and look at the pop-up box in the bottom-right corner (see image 2). The ones you have already completed are green.

Image 3: How to navigate between questions

You only commit to final answers once you press the “submit” button at the end. After that, no more changes are allowed, so always use the “next question” button to move between the sections.

Did you know?
Uber runs free training sessions for the topographical test, including mock exams with the trainers, at its Green Light Hubs. See below for details.

What are the questions on the TfL topographical test?

As we’ve explained above, there are two main types of question: multiple choice and route planning.

However, TfL says that the test actually checks four different aspects of your map-reading skills.

  • Index-based questions
  • General topography
  • Planning a route
  • Compass-point questions

Section 1: Index-based questions

This is how to use the index of a London street atlas (i.e. book of maps) to find places. It sounds complex but is fairly simple.

You are given a copy of the Master Atlas of Greater London (also known as the A-Z) and must then provide correct information for specific locations or landmarks.

Example question:

Locate the grid reference and the page number for Addington.

Image 4: How to answer index-based questions

How to work it out:
In a standard index, the names of places are arranged in alphabetical order. Scroll through these until you find the exact location, then note the grid reference and page number.

In this example (see image 4) the page number is on the left (i.e. Addington is on page 20), and the grid reference is the code on the right (i.e. Addington is at A3).

It’s wise to practice with the Master Atlas A-Z for Greater London before the topographical test. You can buy one from Amazon here or Uber has copies for new drivers to borrow at the Green Light Hub.

Note that popular street names such as Hill Road (see image 5) are often used in multiple places and long roads might span more than one district. You must learn to check postcodes efficiently.

Image 5: Check the post codes of popular road names

The next step is knowing how to use grid references in questions. For instance, if you need to find the nearest train station to a specific address (eg Clifford Ave, SW14).

Once you get the correct page and grid-reference from the index (check the post code) you’ll see the closest station is Mortlake (images 6 and 7). In central London, this is easier on a large-scale page.

Images 6 (above) and 7 (below): Using grid references

Locations which begin with the word “the” list this after the main description in the atlas index. For example, “The Shard” is written as: “Shard, The”.

Did you know?
Blue words in the index mean areas of London (e.g. Hounslow), while places of interest (e.g. Houses of Parliament) are in red. There are also special pages for public transport stations and hospitals. 

Section 2: General topography

This involves using the map in a standard atlas to identify directions between points or locations.

Example question:

What direction is London Heathrow Airport from Central London?

How to work it out: 

First, locate a map where both Heathrow and Central London are on the same page. Then decide the direction of travel to move from one location to the other. The answer is to go west.


Get familiar with the most popular abbreviations (i.e. shortened words) used in the London Master Atlas. For instance, Courtyard is often shortened to Ctyd and Boulevard is Blvd.

Did you know:

Common abbreviations are in the section of the Master Atlas titled “How to use this index”. 

Section 3: Planning a route

These four questions will each show two different points on a map, and ask you to draw the best route between these locations. This section has the most marks (75%) so it’s vital to get it right.

To understand how these questions work, start by watching the TfL video (image 8). It shows what this part of the test looks like on a computer and how to use the software. This only takes 6 mins.

Image 8: TfL video on route planning questions

How to work it out:

Planning routes is mostly common sense but make sure you avoid these common mistakes.

  • Fail to follow the most direct route (i.e. this is not necessarily the fastest one)
  • Ignore important map symbols (e.g. one-way systems or roundabouts)
  • Arrive at the wrong end location (i.e. going to a nearby drop-off, not the point on the map)


Enlarge a map to see road markings before you plot a route. You can zoom into the digital map (i.e. use the mouse scroll-wheel). For central London areas, check if it’s on the large scale pages.

Bank station is on page 91 (image 9) but it’s also shown at large scale on page 225 in more detail.

Image 9: Checking large scale pages

Did you know?

The standard road-markings of the maps in the topographical test are explained on the “Reference” pages of the London Master Atlas. For example, red arrows indicate the one-way streets.

Image 10: How to use the software to plot routes

Section 4: Compass-point questions

These check if you understand directions with compass points (i.e. North, South, East and West).

Here, you must use these basic compass directions to answer questions about specific scenarios.

Example question:

Start at junction 1 and travel two streets east, then one street south. What junction are you at now?

Image 11: Typical grid for a compass point question

How to work it out:

Unless stated otherwise, North is always shown as upwards on a map. If you imagine a clock face, with the compass directions as numbers, the order from the top is: North, East, South and West.

Once you know this, it’s easy to follow these directions. Do not get distracted by diagonal roads unless the question says so (e.g. travel north-east). In this case, the answer will be junction 6.


Compass directions might be included as arrows in the top-left corner of the map (image 11). If not, a good way to learn the correct order (i.e. NESW) is to remember: Never Eat Soggy Waffles.

Did you know?

You might get a grid that checks if you recognise road closures or one-way signs, rather than compass points. In image 12, you must give correct directions to go from A to C (answer in green).

Image 12: Alternative grid layout example question

What score do you need to pass the topographical test?

You must score at least 60 out of 100. This sounds high but is only slightly more than half marks. If you stay calm and use the time carefully, you should pass easily. Good luck.

Extra training resources

  • Various firms sell topographical training courses but you don’t need them.
  • The official TfL topographical skills test page contains advice here.
  • Book a free topographical training session at the Uber Green Light Hub here.
  • AppDriver has a free guide on how to use a London Master Atlas for the TfL test here.

Not sure which PCO car to choose? Try our car selection tool to find your perfect partner.

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