Practical driving testThe Practical Car Driving Test
& How to Pass Your Driving Test 1st Time.

Date updated: 4th September 2017

UK Practical Driving Test.

Our UK Driving Test is designed to check whether or not the learner driver (provisional licence holder) has reached the minimum driving standard across a variety of types of roads and junctions, plus certain reversing exercises (manoeuvres). The aim of the UK driving test is to make sure that all newly qualified drivers are safe competent drivers, capable of driving safely on their own.

So if you are learning to drive and want to know more about the driving test together with driving test tips to help you beat those driving test nerves then read on.

Car driving test in detail.

Reporting for the practical driving test.

Arrive at the test centre in good time, ideally 10 minutes before your test is due to start. You will need a suitable vehicle which is appropriately insured and licensed and displaying L-plates correctly.

Make sure that your photo card driving licence with you, as without this you will not be able to take your test and will lose your test fee.

It is always worth checking the details on your appointment email or letter to make sure that they are correct, as you don’t want to arrive for your test at the wrong time or even day!

After parking, you will need to wait in the test centre waiting room. The examiner will come out at the allotted time (as per your appointment email) and will ask to see your driving licence and for you to sign the declaration confirming that the vehicle you will be using is insured for the purposes of the test and that you have been resident in the UK for at least 185 days in the last 12 months.

What will the test involve?  The UK car driving test will change from 4th December 2017. 

The changes to the driving test will include following directions from a sat nav and testing different manoeuvres.

The changes are designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving.

There are 4 changes to the car driving test.

  1. The independent driving element of the test will increase from 10 to 20 minutes. Currently (September 2017) during the independent driving section of the test the learner will be given a series of instructions to follow, rather than turn by turn instructions from the examiner.
  2. During the independent driving part of the test, most candidates will be asked to follow directions from a sat nav (a TomTom Start 52). The examiner provides the sat nav and sets it up with the route to be used. You will still be able to ask the examiner for confirmation of the directions if you’re not sure. As with the rest of the test, you will not be penalised if you go the wrong way unless you make a driving fault while doing it. One in five driving tests won’t use the sat nav. Instead, you will be asked to follow traffic signs.
  3. The ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn-in-the-road’ manoeuvres will no longer be tested, however, your instructor will still be asked to teach them to you. You’ll be asked to do 1 of 3 possible manoeuvres: Parallel park at the side of the road (as current test Sept 2017). Park in a bay – either driving in and reversing out or reversing in and driving out (the examiner will tell you which you have to do). This changes from the current (Sept 2017) reversing in only. Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and then moving away safely to rejoin traffic.
  1. The examiner will ask you 2 vehicle safety questions during your driving test, these are known as the show me tell me questions.

You’ll be asked the:

  • ‘tell me’ question (where you explain how you’d carry out a safety task) at the start of your test, before you start driving
  • ‘show me’ question (where you show how you’d carry out a safety task) while you’re driving – for example, showing how to wash the windscreen using the car controls and wipers

There will be no change to the pass mark of no more than 15 driving faults and no serious or dangerous faults.

The overall time and cost of the driving test will remain the same. 

Please note the driving test works differently in Northern Ireland.

At the beginning of the test.

You will be asked to read a car number plate from the required distance (20 metres). This must be successfully completed before the rest of the test can be started.
The car driving test will last approximately 40-45 minutes (driving), plus a few minutes for two vehicle safety check questions, which you will be asked at the beginning of the test.

Driving Test routes will use a variety of different types of roads, such as:

  • Town or City centres.
  • Rural roads.
  • Residential areas.
  • Dual Carriageways.

Routes will normally include all the major types of junctions (where possible) including:

  • Roundabouts.
  • Crossroads.
  • T-junctions.

The examiner will ask the learner to complete one of the set exercises (manoeuvres) from:

  • Turn in the road (use to be called The 3 point turn).
  • Reverse around the corner (normally to the left).
  • Reverse park (either into a parking bar or beside the road).

Examiners will also test the learner’s ability to park beside the road and then to move away again both safely and under control, including moving away on a gradient (hill start) and moving away at an angle. The emergency stop is still part of the test, however, it is now only done on 1 in 3 tests.

We have been talking about what the examiner will ask the learner to do, but how will the examiner give their directions/instructions?

Driving Test Examiners Directions.

At the beginning of the test, the examiner will instruct the learner to follow the road ahead unless the road or traffic markings indicate otherwise. During the test the examiner will give their instructions in good time, making allowance for road and traffic conditions. If the learner is unsure of the instruction given they should ask the examiner to repeat or clarify this instruction. Please remember however that the examiner can only give directions/instructions they cannot instruct the learner how to deal with a situation or junction!

When learning to drive it is well worth while spending some time with your accompanying driver giving you instructions just as the examiner will. This will get you used to what it will be like on the test.

From the 4th October 2010, the independent driving section was added to the practical driving test. During this 10 minute section of the test, the examiner will give their instructions differently. Instead of giving instructions one at a time the examiner will give a series of instructions, either two, three or four instructions at a time. This is not a test of memory as you can still ask for instructions to be repeated, instead, it is to test the learner’s ability to plan ahead.

What is the examiner looking for? pass or fail?

Well, it may sound obvious, but a driving test examiner is simply looking for a safe competent drive. You have to show: Good control of the vehicle of the vehicle, both when driving forward and when reversing. That you understand and can deal with the various road layouts/ junctions. Carry out good effective observation and finally that you can judge other traffic when for instance emerging onto a roundabout. If you deal with all of these to a reasonable standard then you will pass!

But what if you make a mistake, will you automatically fail or still pass the test? Well, it all depends on what the error was, as to how the examiner marks it.

How is the test marked?

The driving test examiner will use the Driving Test Report form (DL25A) to mark the test. There are three different types of marks that the examiner can use. These are:
Driving Fault (used to be called a minor mark).
Serious Mark (potentially dangerous).
Dangerous Mark (actually dangerous).

The learner is allowed up to 15 driving faults and still pass the test, but if the learner has 16 or more driving faults then they will fail the test. If the examiner uses a Serious or Dangerous mark then the learner will fail.

It can be difficult for anyone other than an experienced driving instructor (ADI) to accurately advise a learner whether an error will be marked down by the examiner and if so will it be a driving fault, serious or dangerous mark and therefore end up as a pass or fail. I would therefore always suggest checking with your instructor if you are unsure as to how serious the examiner may mark a mistake and would it be a pass or fail.

Can my instructor sit in on my driving test?

Yes, your driving instructor can sit in the back seat during your test, as long as they do not interfere with the test. This means they cannot instruct you, comment or take any action that could affect the test.

The result.

At the end of the Driving Test, the examiner will ask you to turn off the engine. The examiner will then add up any driving faults and make a note of the total on the bottom of the test report form. Then subject to the number of driving faults and whether or not there are any serious or dangerous marks advise you (the candidate) whether you have passed or failed the test.

The examiner will then normally talk through (pass or fail) any marks on the report form explaining why these marks were given.
If you (the candidate) have passed the test the examiner will complete the necessary forms and ask you to sign the report form. Assuming that you have one of the newer style photo licences the examiner will take this from you and send it directly to the DVLA for them to issue your new full driving licence. This will be sent to the address on the provisional licence (always make sure that your address is correct).
Well, that’s it you have passed, no need to continue learning, No!
Even if you have passed your driving test first time with no driving faults you are still an inexperienced driver. We, as drivers should all strive to continue learning and improving our driving, possibly through the Pass Plus course.

Booking your practical driving test.

Well before you can pass your test you will need to book it! Please note that you must pass the Theory Test (unless exempt) before you can book your practical test.

There are two ways that you can book your driving test, these being by phone and my personal choice online. However, before you can book your practical driving test you must have passed the theory/hazard perception test (unless exempt). If you are learning with a driving instructor (ADI) then you should speak to them before booking your test. Not only will they advise you when to book the test for, but they will also give you their ADI number. This number will avoid your instructor having two tests booked at the same time. Remember to listen to you instructors advice when discussing when to book your driving test for, as taking your test too early is more likely to result in a fail rather than a pass and you don’t want to end up taking more tests than you need.

If you intend on practising in your own car then why not download The Private Driving Practice Handbook to make sure you are practising effectively.

If you have any special needs, you will need to notify the DVSA when booking your test.

How much does the practical test cost?

Car practical test (Weekday) £62.00.

Car practical test (Weekday evening & weekend) £75.00 (not always available).
Extended test (disqualified drivers) weekday £124.00.
Extended test weekday evenings & weekends £150.00.

Booking lines open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri.
Phone 0300 200 1122
Welsh Language 0300 200 1133
When booking by phone you will need to have (with you):
Valid UK Driving Licence (Provisional).
Credit or Debit Card (most major cards accepted).

To book you practical driving test online make sure you have the same documents/information as detailed above (by phone). Then click here to go to the DVSA online booking page. This is, in my opinion, the quickest method.

Driving test tips to help you pass.

The first and most obvious driving test hint or tip if you want to pass the test is to prepare as fully as possible before you take your test. The better prepared you are the more confident you can be of passing. Practice, practice and practice again, but make sure it is good practice, as just having a drive around won’t help you pass.

What you need to do to help you pass (when at test standard) is to practice as the test will be conducted. This means driving on a variety of different types of roads and junctions plus completing manoeuvres with the supervising driver (instructor) giving the directions, but not assisting the learner. This will help to get you used to how it will feel on the actual test, which can really make the difference between passing or failing. Better to make mistakes now than on your test!

The Driving Test “Secret” revision cards really helped. I wasn’t anywhere near as nervous as I thought I would be. I will recommend them to all my friends”. Alice. Passed 1st time!

Our next tip to help you pass the practical driving test is revising for the test. In this instance, we are talking about revising for the driving test when not actually in the car. A few minutes spent, on a daily basis thinking through for instance how you have been dealing with a particular crossroads or possibly your last bay park, will help you to reinforce in your mind what you did correctly and also what you need to do differently next time.

This has proved to be an extremely effective method of increasing your confidence when actually on the test, which in turn helps you to pass.

To help you in this revision we have produced our own Driving Test Revision Cards. These revision cards (32 in all) cover all the major areas that the examiner will be assessing and that you will need to be confident in to pass your test. Regular use of these test revision cards, which also now include diagrams to help you to visualise the junction or manoeuvre better, have proved to be exceptionally good at helping learners to pass their test, in many cases passing 1st time.

“I can’t believe I passed 1st time the Driving Test Revision Cards you recommended really did help me. I felt much more confident after using them”. Patrick, Norfolk. Passed 1st time!

So if you want to prepare properly and hopefully pass your test 1st time, then this revision can really make a huge difference to you passing. If you want further proof that this revision can help you to pass then you should read the following statement from an experience Approved Driving Instructor.

“I just used the “Secret” for a few minutes every day and it really worked”. Amy. Passed 1st time!

As can clearly be seen a little bit of extra work, when learning to drive can make all the difference to you passing the driving test 1st time.

So you have practised and prepared properly for your driving test, but you are still likely to be a bit nervous (or possibly very nervous). What can you do about these nerves? and give yourself the best chance of passing your test.

The article below looks at how an approved driving instructor approached a pupils nerves and more importantly dealt with them.

Why Learners Get Nervous.

The UK driving test tends to leave even the most confident/positive person feeling nervous and apprehensive. But why should this be? Firstly most of us have taken numerous written tests and exams by the time we reach 17 years old (the earliest that we can take the UK test). However the driving test is quite different, not only is it a practical rather than academic test, but unlike most tests where we can put a line through something we have written if you make a mistake when driving you cannot go back and have another go. So the learner driver has to make the right choices in real time without the opportunity to sit and think about it for a little while first.

As an Approved Driving Instructor I usually ask my learners a few weeks before their driving test if they are nervous, and if they are, why. The most common reason for their nerves is that they are worried that they will make a mistake in a particular area of their drive. So how can the learner deal with these worries? Well, first we need to identify exactly what the areas of concern are.

What Are You Worried About?

If it was as simple as asking the learner this question then this will be a very short article. However, we need to make sure we ask the right questions and use the answers correctly. Let me give you a real example from one of my past pupils. A couple of weeks before my pupil’s practical driving test I asked her if there was anything that she was worried about.

She said that she couldn’t do her manoeuvres.

Now as her instructor I knew that she could do all the manoeuvres to the test standard, but wasn’t keen on the turn in the road (3 point turn) in particular judging the front and rear of the car to the kerb.

  • So I asked a series of questions in such a way as to eliminate the areas that she wasn’t nervous about.
  • I asked: Can you complete the reversing around the corner? Yes.
  • Can you do both reverse park exercises? Yes.
  • What about the turn in the road? No! I can’t do that.
  • We had now moved from being unable to do any of the manoeuvres, to just being worried about one of them. Next, I asked about this manoeuvre.
  • Do you understand how to do the manoeuvre? Yes.
  • Can you control the speed of the car and still do positive steering? Yes.
  • And carry out effective observation? Yes.
  • I was now left with the actual area that my pupil was concerned with.
  • Can you judge the distance to the kerb at the front and rear of the car accurately? No.
  • Again knowing their driving I was able to ask the right questions next.
  • When we normally practice this manoeuvre, do you keep hitting the kerb? No.
  • Do you occasionally stop a bit short from the kerb and need to take 5 turns instead of 3? Yes.
  • Will taking 5 turns mean that you fail the test? No, just a minor mark (driving fault).

I was now able to confirm to my pupil that the good news was that the only thing that they had to be nervous about was picking up 1 driving fault on their driving test (you can get 15 of these and still pass the driving test).

A few weeks later and with renewed confidence this pupil went on to pass their driving test 1st time! By talking through the area that the learner is nervous about we were able to isolate the exact area of concern and deal positively with it. If the nerves had been well founded, being about an area of their drive that was not as good as it should be then we would still have had time to work on this area and improve it prior to the test.

Dealing with Driving Test Nerves.

Talking through our nerves is a great way of bringing them out into the open, where they are always easier to deal with. Hiding our worries away is never a good way of dealing with them, it’s a bit like sticking our heads in the sand, and it simply doesn’t help. If you are coming up to your driving test then sit down and think or even better talk through your drive with someone you trust to give you honest answers. Possibly write down your concerns and if you are learning with an instructor ask them about these worries, so that hopefully, as detailed above you can deal with these worries in a positive, constructive manner.

Prepare properly, with plenty of good quality driving practice. Use some of the excellent resources that are now available, such as Driving Test Revision Cards to help you feel more confident. Confront the reasons for your nerves head on. Then you will be ready to deal with your Driving Test, and achieve the result you want, a pass!

By facing up to your nerves you can deal with them rather than letting your nerves beat you.

Good luck in passing your driving test.

As can be seen with a little thought you to can deal with your nerves, which will make passing your Driving Test that little bit easier.

When giving advice to my pupils before their driving test, I often say if I could only give you two pieces of advice or hints to help in passing the test, they would be to plan ahead and keep checking.

By planning ahead I mean thinking about what you will need to do at the next junction as you approach it, not leaving it till you get there. You are much more likely to make the right decisions and in doing so pass your test if you plan instead of just reacting. Snap decisions will often result in a fail, where a planned approach is much more likely to end in a pass.

Checking what you and others are doing will mean that you don’t miss something important. If you keep checking what you are doing you won’t try to move away in the wrong gear, or forget to cancel a signal. These two examples may result in minor or possibly a failure mark depending on the situation. But if you keep checking they can be avoided altogether, making the test easier to pass. Many learners have just a quick look at what other drivers are doing but don’t check back. Situations change so quickly when driving, so if you want to pass your test remember to keep checking what other drivers are doing.

We hope that this driving test information, hints and tips have helped and that with practice and revision go on to pass your driving test 1st time.

Good Luck, Your Online Driving School.

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