The Driving Test


It’s useful to understand what will happen during your driving test so that you are prepared and will feel more relaxed. Virtually all instructors give their students an hour’s practice lesson before the test to ‘warm them up’. They then go to the test centre parking in its car park. Nearly all test centres have a toilet – use it if you need to.

In the waiting room the examiner will call your name out and then examine your documents. You must bring your provisional licence, and your theory pass certificate.

Before the test starts, the examiner will ask you if you wish your instructor to come on the test with you. It is best to discuss this with him beforehand. If your instructor accompanies you he cannot take part in the test in any way. You will also be asked if you would like your instructor to listen in on the examiner’s debriefing at the end of the test. Do agree to this as it can provide useful feedback for the training of yourself or other students.

Very occasionally, two examiners will come on your test. The second examiner is a more senior one assessing your examiner. This is a bit off-putting, but don’t get nervous. He is assessing the other examiner not you. Your examiner must be fair and will not be stricter because he is being assessed.

In the car park of the test centre, you will be asked to read a number plate approximately 20 metres away (20.5 for older style plates). If you have a medical condition which you think is relevant to your test, visit the website (see this site’s links page) to check.

The examiner will take down the car’s details. Then he will explain what will happen on the test. He will now ask you a ‘ tell me’ question about the car controls. There is a useful link on this site for study under the heading ‘show /tell me’. Now the test proper starts.

The practical driving test lasts between 35 and 40 minutes.

During that time the examiner expects you to follow the road ahead unless he says otherwise. Thus at a crossroads he will expect you to go straight on. If the road bends sharply, stay on the road, do not cross give way markings into a side road. Where you can only turn one way (e.g. joining a dual carriageway) then turn that way. Otherwise, if he wishes you to turn off the main road, he will direct you to do so. The examiner cannot give you advice except in exceptional circumstances. However, he can repeat directions. Occasionally, he may drop hints which could help you. For example, during a parallel park, if the examiner says ‘Would you leave it like this? This is an enormous hint that you need to adjust your position.

During the test you will be asked to do the following:

One manoeuvre: either a parallel park; or stop on the righthand side of the road; or bay park .

Hill Start

In addition, you may be asked to:

Angle Start (this is just moving off when fairly close to a car in front).

Drive on a dual carriageway for a short while.

Do an emergency stop (only 1 in 3 tests). The examiner will warn you beforehand.

You are allowed to make a maximum of 15 Driving Faults during the test and still pass.

However, just one Serious Fault or one Dangerous Fault will cause you to fail.

Furthermore, if you make the same Driving Fault many times (normally four) it is then regarded as a Serious Fault and you fail. Some mistakes are automatic Serious Faults because you are breaking the law e.g. emerging from a Stop junction without stopping. Others will be marked on the seriousness of the mistake. Here is an example. If you turn left into a side road and take the corner a little wide so that the car goes a little over the central line you will get a Driving Fault. This is provided it is possible to see clearly into the road and there is nothing coming on the other side of the road.

Serious Fault / Dangerous Fault

However, if you turn into the road and come wider over the wrong side and a car is coming in the opposite direction and has to slow suddenly or stop you will be given a Serious Fault provided the car could be seen. If the car could not be seen because of parked cars or some other obstruction you will be given a Dangerous Fault.  

Independent Driving.

For half the test, 20 minutes, the examiner will expect you to drive without road directions. You will either be asked to follow road signs to a stated destination or you will follow a satnav. The examiner will bring his own satnav that he will mount on the dashboard. You will not be expected to programme the satnav. This is a test of how you drive not your ability to navigate. You will not be faulted for getting lost. The examiner will tell you when this section of the test has ended.

At the end of the test you will return to the test centre. Once you have secured the car he will tell you if you have passed or failed. You may disagree with the examiner’s decision, but there is really no point in arguing with him. Due to the pressure of doing the test, it is very easy to commit faults without realizing.

The examiner will offer a briefing on your performance; do accept as it is useful. He will also comment on the eco efficiency of your driving style (this does not affect whether you pass or fail).

If you have failed try not to be too disappointedDon’t worry!

You can soon do another one. There is nothing to be embarrassed about in failing your driving test.

On a national basis, the majority of learners fail on the first attempt.

What matters is perseverance.

If you’ve passed, rejoice, but remember you’re still inexperienced. Be careful. The first couple of years are the most expensive and dangerous ones.

Safe driving!