Practical Driving Test FAQs
Learning to drive and passing the driving test exists primarily as a road safety measure. It is designed to assess all new drivers, to make sure they can drive safely and unaccompanied. This process can be difficult and costly; however,
- Every year 1,000 people die in road traffic accidents involving a young driver.
- Analysis shows it takes 2 years from passing the practical driving test before a new driver's accident liability falls by less than 50%.
- Under the New Drivers Act 1997 newly qualified drivers who receive 6 or more penalty points on their licence within 2 years of passing their test will have their licence revoked.
- To get their licence back they'll first have to reapply for their provisional driving license, pay for even more lessons and then re-take the theory and practical tests.
So be warned. The more driving lessons you have, whether private or professional, the better. Learning to drive isn't easy. Being able to drive well is a skill that must be learnt.
- Assess you driving ability and get in as much driving practice as possible.
- Experience as many on-road situations as you can.
- Drive at night, in the country, in town, on dual carriageways and in all weather conditions.
Driving variety should be your main objective. The better the preparation, the higher the chance of passing the test.
Taking The Practical Driving Test
Before you take the test, indeed before you book it, you must have passed the theory and hazard perception tests.
Always seek the advice of your driving instructor before booking the test. They should give you an honest appraisal of your driving abilities, and the chances you have of passing.
The practical test will start at one of the many driving test centres dotted around the UK. When booking the test, you can choose which centre you want to use.
You MUST take to the driving test centre:
- your valid provisional driving licence, including the paper counterpart if you have a photo-card licence
- your theory test pass certificate.
If you have kept your practical test confirmation letter, then take this also, just in case a problems arise with the computers at the centre.
If you are using your own car, you will need to fulfil further requirements. You can read all about these here taking the driving test is your own car.
If you can't find any of the documents you need you must phone the DVSA as soon as possible. If you arrive without the required documentation your driving test will be cancelled and you won't receive a refund.
Glasses - if you need to wear glasses to drive, don't forget them, as you can't legally drive without them.
Practical Test Preparation
Traditionally, you will have a driving lesson with your instructor an hour or two before taking your practical test. This is always a good idea, as it gives you a chance to settle into the car and run through any points you are concerned about.
Like when taking any exam, arrive at the test center in plenty of time, at least ten minutes before your appointment time. You may have to wait to park and you may need to use the toilet. You may also need time to relax and mentally prepare yourself for the exam ahead. A calm attitude is much more likely to get a positive result than a rushed one.
Don't Be Late For Your Test
If you are, and by late I mean by as little as five minutes, the test examiner will cancel your test and you will lose the test fee you have already paid. It will then be up to you to book another test, and wait for another test date to become available.
The Start of the Test
At the start of the practical test, the examiner will come out and call your name. You will then be asked to read and sign the insurance and residency declarations while the examiner inspects your documentation. If all is in order, you will then be asked to walk to your car.
You are now able to have your driving instructor accompany you on your practical test. This decision is entirely your own to make. The instructor is not permitted to help you or assist you in any way while the test is being conducted.
Before getting to your car, the examiner will ask you to stop and read a new style number plate at a 20m or an old-style number plate at a distance of 20.5m. If you fail to do this, the exam will go no further, you will fail.
Show Me and Tell Me Questions
At the car, the examiner will ask you two questions from the show and tell question bank. To see all the show me, tell me questions and answers. Fail to answer either question correctly and you will score one minor fault.
The Driving Part of the Practical Test
The examiner will now ask you to get into the car and prepare yourself for the driving part of the practical test. Get in and perform a brief cockpit drill. As you have used the car to drive to the test centre, the examiner won't expect you to alter anything, but they will expect you to make a visual check to make sure everything is as it should be. Don't forget to put your seatbelt on.
The examiner will then give you the following instructions:
'During the test I would like you to follow the road ahead at all times, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise, or I ask you to make a turn, which I will do in good time. When you are ready, move off.'
You should now start the engine and move off. To be successful and to pass, you must drive safely and demonstrate through your driving that you have a sound knowledge of the Highway Code. Don't worry if you make a mistake, keep calm and continue driving. Unless you make a serious or dangerous fault, or make a less serious mistake a number of times, you won't fail the practical test. To learn how the driving test examiner expects you to drive on the test click here.
The duration of the test will be up to 40 minutes and will cover a variety of roads and traffic situation. You will have to deal with roundabouts, crossroads, pedestrian crossings and where possible dual carriageways, rural and residential roads. Test centre's do have specific routes that they follow, but these routes are designed to include the widest range of driving possible in that area, and to give a consistent standard of testing across the whole country.
You will have to perform one of the following driving manoeuvres and show that you can control the car safely and correctly: bay park, parallel park, turn in the road, reversing round a corner. You may also have to perform an emergency stop.
If you come to a junction or roundabout and the examiner gives you no instruction, you must follow the road ahead, for example go straight ahead at a roundabout.
If the examiner gives you an instruction which you are unsure about, ask them to repeat it.
The practical test now includes a section called independent driving. Its aim is to assess a candidates ability to make their own decisions whilst driving. For a detailed description see our independent driving page.
In Order To Pass The Practical Test, You Must Drive:
- Without committing any serious or dangerous faults
- Without committing more than 15 driving errors of a less serious nature.
Dangerous Driving Faults - a fault that results in actual danger. Commit such a fault and you will fail the practical test.
Serious Driving Faults - is when a potentially dangerous incident occurs, when the candidate reveals a recurring driving fault or fails to perform a reversing manoeuvre correctly. Receive a serious fault and you fail the practical test.
Minor Driving Faults - less serious faults, such as hesitating too long at a junction, faults that don't provide any immediate danger. Receive 16 or more minor driving faults and you will fail the practical test.
How to Pass The Practical Test
Learn to drive correctly! This may sound flippant, but it is true. There are no real shortcuts, or magical tips that will improve your chances of passing the test. Hours of practice is what it takes.
Top 10 Reasons for Failing
- Observation at Junctions: Ineffective observation and judgment
- Reverse Parallel Parking: Ineffective observation or lack of accuracy
- Use of Mirrors: Not checking or not acting on what is seen
- Reversing Around a Corner: Ineffective observation or lack of accuracy
- Incorrect Use of Signals: Not cancelling or giving misleading signals
- Moving Away Safely: Ineffective observation
- Incorrect Positioning: At roundabouts or bends
- Lack of Steering Control: Steering too early or too late
- Incorrect Positioning: When turning right at junctions and in one-way street
- Inappropriate Speed: Going too slow or being hesitant
Provisional Driving Licence
- You cannot have driving lessons or drive a car on UK roads until your provisional licence has been accepted and is in your possession.
- You must be 17 years of age for the licence to be valid (16 years old if you receive the highest rate of mobility allowance).
- You can apply for the provisional licence up to two months before your 17th birthday. See DVLA for full information on costs and relevant forms.
To Book The Practical Test
- It's advised not to apply for the practical driving test until your driving school tells you that you are ready.
- You cannot apply for the practical test unless you have taken and passed the theory test.
- The waiting time for a practical test can range from two to 12 weeks.
- Saturday & weekday evening driving tests are available at some driving test centre's. Evening exams are available during the summer months only.
Times you can take the practical driving test: 08:10 - 09:07 - 10.14 - 11:11 - 13.35 - 14:35.
You can book the practical test:
Online with the DVSA. To book a practical test you will need a valid UK driving licence number, theory test pass certificate number and a valid debit/credit card.
By Phone - using your credit/debit card. The person who books the test must be the cardholder. You will be given the date and time of your test immediately. Call 0300 200 1122 between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday. When you phone you will need:
- Theory test pass certificate number
- Driver number shown on your licence
- Personal details (name, address, telephone numbers)
- ADI code number (used so your instructor is not double booked)
- Preferred date
- Unacceptable days or periods
- If you can accept a test at short notice
- Disability or any special circumstances
You will be given a booking number and sent an appointment card with details of the time and date of your test.
The Practical Driving Test Costs
£62 if you take the test on a weekday or £75, if you take the test over the weekend. You will not get a refund if you fail.
To Cancel Your Practical Test
To cancel you must give at least 3 working days notice, not counting the day the DVSA received your request and the day of your driving test. Check the cancellation date on your appointment card. If you don't give enough notice you will lose your fee.
How Many Driving Lessons Are Needed To Pass The Practical Driving Test?
Analysis show that the average number of lessons a learner will need to reach exam standard, is your age multiplied by 1.5. So, on average a 20-year-old learner driver will need 30 hours tuition.
How Often Should You have Driving Lessons
To a large extent, this will depend on your budget and time commitments, and the availability of your instructor. Ideally, however, you should try and have two or three hours of lessons weekly, with private practice and theory test revision in between.
If you are in a hurry to pass, you may benefit from taking an intensive course with a pre-booked practical test. Depending on your driving experience, such a course can last from a few days to a few weeks. The more intensive the course, the more stressful and tiring they tend to be, a one week course will require you to be learning/driving for up to five hours a day, so intensive courses aren't for everyone, but if you can take the intensive learning, they can be an effective get your licence quickly.
Of course, you must have passed your theory test before you can take such a course.