The driving test is a safety test conducted by the DVSA (Driving Vehicle Standards Agency) to make sure that you understand the Highway Code and can be a safe driver. A bit like the theory test come to life.
The driving test was something to be feared with strict, stern examiners taking candidates out on the hardest test routes. But now examiners, old and new are fully trained in friendly customer service skills, including how to deal with nervous candidates. Which makes the whole driving test a much more positive experience.
You need to have passed your theory test before you can book a practical driving test.
Firstly, make sure that you've got the right date and time.
It's well worth double checking the email confirmation that you should have received. Sometimes the DVSA have to reschedule tests, so keep up to date with your emails. It's also worth looking in your spam folder from time to time just in case you have an important email from them.
Your driving test won't go ahead if there's bad weather such as flooding, thick fog, high winds or when the roads are icy. Call your local test centre if there are any of these conditions on the day. You can find the phone number on your booking confirmation email.
If you're going for the test with your driving instructor then you'll probably do a one hour
driving lesson before.
Get your documents ready to take with you. You need to take your theory test certificate
and provisional licence. If you don't have a photo card licence but the old style paper licence then you'll
also need to bring a valid passport.
The drive before your test will hopefully calm you down a little.
Try not to do too much before your test as you'll want to be at your best and not tired of driving.
Make sure that you arrive for the test on time.
If you're later than five minutes then there's a good chance that your test won't go ahead.
Arriving too early could also be a problem as you might get in the way of other learner
drivers returning from their driving test.
Try to arrive at the test centre roughly ten minutes early.
Some test centres are situated within a business park. Look out for signs directing you where to go and where to park. There might also be a lower speed limit.
If the test centre has a car park then it might be a good idea to reverse into the bay so that you're ready to easily drive forward at the start of the test.
Not all test centres have a car park.
If the one you're going to doesn't, make sure that you park reasonably close to the test centre.
Park somewhere that's easy to move off from and don't forget where you've parked.
Also, bear in mind that not all test centres have a toilet.
Don't forget to switch off your mobile phone.
You'll have to wait in the waiting room at the test centre and try to relax. Get your licence out and ready to show the examiner.
At the time of your test, a few examiners will enter the waiting room and one of them
will call your name and ask to see your provisional licence.
As the examiner checks your licence they'll ask you to read and sign the insurance and residency declaration.
Sign your usual signature, the same as on your licence.
The examiner will then ask you if you want your instructor or person who accompanied you to go with
you on the test.
This is totally your choice but they wouldn't be allowed to help or interfere with your driving in any way or the test
would be terminated.
If you decide that you want them to come along then they should sit behind you in the car.
The examiner will also ask you if you'd like your instructor or accompanying driver to be
there for the result and end of test feedback. Again, this is your choice but it can be very useful for your instructor to listen to, especially if you've failed as they'll be able to help you improve.
The examiner will then ask you to lead the way to your car. They'll introduce themselves and ask you what name you'd prefer to be called.
Sometimes the examiner's supervisor also goes out on test for quality control.
They will sit behind and make sure that the
test is carried out correctly and to maintain standards.
But don't worry, it doesn't mean that you'd have two examiner's marking you.
Once outside, the examiner will ask you which car you're using and then you'll be asked to read a number plate of a random vehicle but not of the car that you've been driving.
Remember to wear glasses or contact lenses if you need them.
If it's a new style number plate then it'll be from a distance of 20 metres. Or an old style number plate from 20.5 metres.
If you can't read it then you'll be given another chance with a different plate.
If you can't read that, the examiner will measure the exact distance from another plate and if you can't read it again then unfortunately it will be a test fail.
Once you've read the number plate, you'll walk to your car.
During the walk or in the car, the examiner will ask if you'd like them to explain a little bit about the test before starting.
If you agree, they'll say "The test will last about 38 to 40 minutes and will include about 20 minutes of independent driving and various roads and traffic conditions. I will ask you to complete one manoeuvre and we may carry out an emergency stop. The sort of things you've been practising with your instructor or accompanying driver."
The examiner will ask you one 'show me' question and one 'tell me' question.
The 'tell me' question will be asked before you start driving. A 'tell me' question is where you would have to explain how you'd carry out a safety task.
The 'show me' question will be asked while you're driving. That's where you'd have to actually show the examiner how you'd carry out a safety task.
Failure to answer one or both will result in a driving fault (also known as a minor).
Losing control of the car when answering the 'show me' question will result in either a serious or dangerous fault (test fail).
Part of the test will include a reversing exercise (reverse bay parking, pulling up on the right-hand side of the road and reversing 2 car lengths or driving forward into a car park bay then reversing out). You'll only carry out one manoeuvre. You may also be asked to carry out an emergency stop. Manoeuvres information can be found here.
Assessing you driving independently is part of the test. This will take up roughly 20 minutes of the driving test and will consist of you either following traffic signs or directions from a sat nav. Read more about Independent driving here.
You are allowed no more than 15 driving faults and not allowed any serious or dangerous faults. Test sheet can be found here.
The examiner uses an iPad to record any faults plus other things such as if you've completed a hill start.
After the test has finished, your examiner will tell you your result and explain any faults. Your driving instructor can listen into this part if you wish and help you improve on anything that you got wrong. The test result will also be emailed to you (example on the left).
One of the greatest myths surrounding the driving test is that driving examiners have a strict quota of passes per day. We can assure you that this is untrue.