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The Practical Driving Test

So, here it is.  What you've been waiting and practicing for.  The chance to show off your driving skills to the examiner and hopefully, at the end of it, hear the words 'You've Passed!

Booking your Practical Test

You cannot book your practical test until you have passed your theory. 

Book your test through Direct Gov  - there are no extra fees if you use this service.

To book your test online you will need:

- your valid Great Britain or Northern Ireland provisional driving licence number,

- your credit or debit card details,

- a theory test pass date and certificate number (if appropriate)

Booking your test
What is the test like?
Show Me/Tell Me
The Driving Test
What car should I use?
Taking someone on the test
Passing the test
If you fail...
If you pass...
Driving test tips
No Waiting
The Driving Standards Agency aims to give you a test date within 9 weeks of the date of your application, but waiting times vary around the country, and at different times of the year.  The online booking service allows you to find test centres near to you, and shows the length of wait you can expect at each one. 

If, as the date gets closer, you find you are not as ready as you thought you can cancel or change your driving test date, but you must give 3 clear days notice in writing if you are not to lose the fee paid.

What is the Practical Test like?

During the test the examiner will check to see that you can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions.  He will also be checking to see that you demonstrate your knowledge of the Highway Code through the way that you drive.  As long as you reach the required standard you will pass the test. 

Before you start the test the examiner will ask you to read the licence plate number of a car parked a little way away - this is to check that your vision (either without glasses or with them if you need them for distance) is sufficient for driving.  If you fail this part of the test, the test cannot continue.  If you have any doubt about your eyesight make sure you see an optician before going for your test.

Show Me Tell Me

The examiner will then ask you two vehicle safety questions.  One will be a 'show me' where you will need to show the examiner how you would carry out a safety check, and the second will be a 'tell me'.  You will be marked with one driving fault if you give the wrong answer for one or both questions. 

Your driving instructor will have taken you through the types of questions asked on his car if you are using it for the test.  If you are using your own car, or another person's then you will need to find out how you would carry out the checks on that car.  Some questions that you might be asked are below.  A full list of questions is available from Direct Gov

Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.
Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level.
Show me how you would check that the brake lights are working on this car. (I can assist you, if you need to switch the ignition on, please don't start the engine)
Show me / explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.
Example Show Me Tell Me Questions
Why do we have a driving test?  When was the test first introduced?  See our potted history of the driving test for the answers! 

The Driving Test

The on the road driving test will last for about 40 minutes.  Throughout the test the examiner will give you instructions to follow, and you will drive in different road and traffic conditions. 

You will be asked to do one of the following:

Reversing round a corner
Bay parking or parallel parking
A turn in the road.

You may be asked to do an emergency stop.

There will be a 10 minute section of the test which is 'Independent Driving'.  You will be asked to follow road signs, or directions, or a combination of both.  You will be shown a diagram before you start.  This is not a test of your navigational skills, so don't worry if you go wrong.  It is to make sure you can make your own decisions and navigate safely.

If you go off the route, or forget where you are going don't worry.  The examiner will help you get back on track.  Unless you commit a driving fault it won't affect your test result.  If you are uncertain and get lost ask the examiner.  As long as you continue driving safely that's all that matters.

What car should I use for my driving test?

You can usually use your instructor's car, although this can be quite expensive.  If you have been practicing in another car you may feel you are more familiar with that, and would prefer to use your practice car. 

Vehicle Safety Recalls

Some vehicles need to be checked and possibly fixed before they can be used for a driving test because of vehicle manufacturer recalls. Find out if a safety or recall notice has been issued for your vehicle and what you need to do.

What cars can't you use for your test?

Generally you cannot use a convertible or a panel van to take your test in.  If you are thinking of doing so check whether it is suitable at the time of taking your test.

If you turn up to take your test in a car that is not suitable, or that is not road worthy, your test will be cancelled and you will lose your fee.
have four wheels
be capable of reaching at least 62.5 miles per hour (mph) or 100 kilometres per hour (km/h)
be fitted with a speedometer that measures speed in mph
have no warning lights showing - for example, the airbag warning light
display L-plates ('L' or 'D' plates in Wales) on the front and rear, but not interfering with yours or the examiner's view
have a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of no more than 3,500 kilograms (kg)
be appropriately insured
display a valid tax disc
be legal and roadworthy and have a current MOT if it needs one
be a smoke-free environment
a seatbelt for the examiner
a passenger head restraint - it doesn't need to be adjustable, but must be an integral part of the seat as 'slip on' types aren't allowed
an interior rear-view mirror for the examiner to use - you can buy one from most car accessory stores
Using a hire car for your driving test

You can use a hire car for your test if it meets the following conditions:
- It is fitted with dual controls
-The vehicle meets all the other rules to be used for a driving test
You cannot use a hire car that does not have dual controls for a driving test.

Vehicles fitted with a space-saver tyre

If the space saver is actually fitted to the car at the time you can't take your test in it.  This is because space savers should only be used in an emergency, and for a short distance - for example to get you to a garage where you can have a proper tyre fitted.  If the space saver isn't in use, you can use the car.

Taking someone with you on the test

You are encouraged to take someone with you on your driving test.  This will usually be the person who taught you to drive, although it could be a relative or friend.  They must be over 16 years of age.  They can listen to the result and the feedback at the end of the test.  If you do fail, they will know what you have to work on for next time.


Passing the Test

To pass the practical driving test you must pick up no more than 15 driving faults - and remember if you haven't got the Show Me Tell Me questions right then you will already have 1 fault.

If you make one serious error during the test, you will have failed at that point.  A serious fault is one where you cause another road user to slow down or change direction - the road user may be a car or a pedestrian. 

You will need to show the examiner that you are alert and recognising and reacting to road traffic signs.  If the speed limit changes you should adjust your speed.  If you are driving in a 30 mph area, and signs appear for 40 mph make sure you go a little faster.  Increasing speed is just as important as decreasing speed when you come to a 30 mph sign again.

Don't be hesitant at roundabouts and junctions - but if there is a lot of traffic make sure you wait for space for you to go.  This seems a very fine line, and one which comes with experience the more you drive.  Many people fail the test because they just haven't had enough experience, and need more practice with an accompanying driver.

Although the examiner won't be out to trick you, s/he will be looking out to make sure you see and react to traffic signs.

Be on the lookout for being told to go straight on and coming across a sign such as this: 
No Entry
One way traffic
Buses and Cycles Only
You might also come across a No Entry sign in similar circumstances - or you might be told to take the next available left hand turn - but that road has this sign.  The important word is 'available' - you'd simply drive on to the next turn which you are allowed to go down. 
Look out for when you are in a one way street, and if told to turn right remember to use the right hand lane.  But be equally careful to watch for the sign telling you the road has two way traffic once again! 
There are lots more examples where you must interpret the instructions you are being given in the light of the road signs.  Be aware of this when you practice, and perhaps ask your accompanying driver to test you in some similar situations.

Driving Test Tips

If this sign is in front of you, or another sign such as No Entry, then you will need to look for a route off to the side.  Often these are marked 'through Traffic' or All Routes. 

This is just checking your powers of observation.

If you fail your driving test...

Remember, this is not the end of the world, although it is pretty devastating.  Taking the driving test is nerve racking.  You really want to pass, and are tense so it's less easy to concentrate.  You may find yourself trying to hard and making lots of silly errors - or you may panic and go too soon at a junction. 
You might do something daft, like going down a one way street the wrong way.

At the end of the test your examiner will give you feedback about what you did right, and what you did wrong.  It is useful to have someone listen to this feedback with you, as you might not be able to take it all in at that point.

But do treat the feedback seriously, as you'll find out what you need to work on for the next time you take your test.

And remember - there is always another time, and most people pass in the end.  Only just over a third of people taking their first test pass.  If this happens to you - Well Done!  If not, you are in good company.

If you pass your driving test...


But remember you have only just started on the road to being a good driver.  Passing the test means you are safe to drive alone, but does not mean you are fully experienced to deal with all hazards you will come across.

If is a sad fact that most accidents involve a driver aged between 17 and 24 years old.  This is reflected in the very high insurance premiums for young drivers.

You can reduce your insurance premium and add to your driving experience by taking the Pass Plus driving course. 

Now you're driving you want to stay safe to enjoy it!
See also:

Taking your Theory Test
Pass Plus
Buying your First Car