Practical driving test

You've had the lessons, passed the theory test and now comes the moment of truth. Get ready for a nerve-wracking 40 minutes.

taking driving test

If you could take the next left-hand turn...

Before the test

The test will begin with a vision test. The examiner will ask you to read the number plate of a car parked near the test centre. If you fail this it’s game over, so bring your specs.

After this comes the ‘show me, tell me’ section of the test. The examiner will ask you a couple of technical questions about car maintenance, such as “how do you check your brake lights are working?” You will need to explain what you would do, as well as point out whereabouts in the car you will find these things. Your driving instructor should go through these with you prior to your test.

During the test

You’ll be asked to drive along a test route where your examiner will give you clear instructions and directions. This route will involve minor and major roads where the speed limit can be up to 70mph.

You’ll be asked to park and perform one manoeuvre. These will be either: a three-point turn, reversing around a corner, a parallel park, or a reverse bay park. If you can’t perform these to test standard you will fail.

During the test you may be asked to carry out an emergency stop, so make sure you have practised these with your instructor.

You’re allowed up to 15 minor faults, but any serious or dangerous slip-ups will result in failure.

Independent driving section

Candidates will be expected to spend 10 minutes of the test driving independently, but this isn’t an opportunity to demonstrate your hand-brake turns or your 70mph emergency stop. You’ll be asked to park at a safe location and then asked to drive to a location unaided and unprompted.

The examiner will either ask you to follow road signs to a location, or will show you a diagram of directions for you to follow.

If you get lost, don’t panic. The examiner isn’t marking your navigation skills, but your ability to drive unaided. Wait until you are on a clear road and calmly ask them to redirect you.

What happens if I pass?

If you pass, the examiner will tell you straight after the test. They will ask you for your driving licence and give you a pass certificate. You then use this to apply for a full driving license by sending the certificate to the DVLA. The examiner will also give you a copy of your test report, showing any faults you made.

Once you have your licence you’re free to drive and if you want further road training, the Pass Plus course is available to you. Costing around £150, the Pass Plus is a further course for newly-qualified drivers. It’s carried out by Advanced Driving Instructors (ADI) and is split into six different modules that include motorway and night driving. At least six hours must be completed to finish the course. Completing the Pass Plus course usually means a very significant discount on insurance, so it’s definitely worth it.

What happens if I fail?

You’ll receive a sheet that shows your serious and minor faults so you can then fix them and improve for your next attempt.

You can retake your test by rebooking with the DSA, but cannot resit the test within two weeks of the previous attempt. The waiting list for a test can be up to two months in many parts of the country, so it is best to book as soon as possible – although you could take a cancellation if a suitable slot comes up.

Whatever you do keep practising and don’t give up, it is said that many good drivers don’t pass the first time.

Photo of girl taking driving test by Shutterstock

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By Sarah Willoughby and Holly Thompson

Updated on 29-Sep-2015