A simples guide

The practical driving test

Taking your driving test can be a stressful time, but you can help yourself by being well prepared. We’ve put together a guide to the practical test so you know exactly what to expect.

When will I be ready to take my driving test?

That depends on you – learning to drive is one of those things that you might naturally be brilliant at, while the rest of us may need a little more time. In most cases, your instructor will tell you when you’re ready but, on average, it takes about 45 hours of driving lessons (and around 20 hours of practice).

Remember, too, the more experience you have in the car out on the road, the more knowledgeable you will become about road signs and practical hazard spotting. Both of these will be useful when it comes to the theory test, as well as preparing you for the practical test.

What about taking my theory test?

Before taking your practical driving test, you’ll need to have passed the theory test. The theory test is divided into two parts and both are carried out on the same day.

First, you’ll need to answer 50 multiple choice questions. Then your perception of hazards will be tested during 14 different video clips. You have to pass both parts to be awarded the theory pass certificate.

What should I take with me to my driving test?

You’ll need to take your driving licence, your theory test pass certificate, any prescription glasses you need for driving and your car. Most people will use their driving instructor’s car, but you can use your own so long as it meets all the rules.

Your examiner will ask whether you want someone to come with you during the test. If you do, you can have your instructor or a friend or relative sit in the back of the car (they must be over 16). Your examiner will also ask if you want someone to be with you when you find out your result and get feedback.

What’s involved in a driving test?

The test itself will usually last around 40 minutes and it’s the same for a manual or automatic car. The test is made up of five parts:

  • An eyesight check
  • ‘Show me, tell me’ safety questions
  • General driving ability
  • Reversing your vehicle
  • Independent driving

Eyesight check

You’ll be asked to read a number plate – the distance you’ll need to read it from will depend on the style of number plate. If it’s an old-style number plate, you’ll need to read it from 20.5 metres away. If it’s a new-style plate (two letters followed by two numbers such as PA55 IST) you’ll be expected to read it from 20 metres away.

If you fail the eyesight test, you’ll fail the driving test– so make sure you take your glasses with you.

‘Show me, tell me’ safety questions 

Your examiner will ask you two questions, sometimes called ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
With a ‘show me’ question, you’ll need to demonstrate how you’d carry out a check, such as: ‘show me how you’d use the windscreen washer and wipers’.

A ‘tell me’ question will require you to explain how you’d carry out a check, such as: ‘tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey’.

The questions aren’t meant to flummox you, but to show that you understand how to carry out basic safety checks. There are 19 possible questions that you might be asked, so as long as you’ve familiarised yourself with them, there shouldn’t be any surprises.

General driving ability 

You’ll be given driving instructions and at some point you’ll be asked to pull away (such as from behind a parked car) or pull over (such as to the side of the road). You may be asked to do a hill start and you might have to do an emergency stop (the examiner will give you a warning before he asks you to do this).

Reversing your vehicle

Your examiner will ask you to do one of the following: reverse around a corner, turn in the road or reverse park (this could be into a proper parking bay or to parallel park).

Independent driving 

This part of the test is to show that you can follow directions, either verbal or by traffic signs (or both). To help you, your examiner can show you a diagram of the route he’ll ask you to follow.

During this part of the test, your examiner won’t ask you anything; you are, of course, allowed to ask questions. Don’t stress if you don’t follow the map exactly or you can’t remember the directions, you can ask the examiner to reconfirm them. Driving off route won’t necessarily affect your test result, so stay calm.

Have I passed my driving test?

You’ve passed if you don’t make more than 15 driving faults (sometimes called minors) and have made no serious or dangerous faults (sometimes called majors). If you think you’ve made a mistake, don’t get flustered as it might not affect the result.

Whether you’ve passed or failed, your examiner will give you feedback. It’s advice to help you improve for your next test if you’ve failed and to ensure you remain a good driver.

What can make me fail my driving test?

These are the top ten reasons for failing a driving test. The more practice you have, the less chance you’ll have of making any of the following mistakes:

  1. Not looking properly at junctions or showing poor judgement.
  2. Not using mirrors properly or making bad decisions on what you’ve seen or not seen.
  3. Lack of steering control and making a move too early or too late.
  4. Incorrect positioning at a junction when turning right.
  5. Incorrect positioning during normal driving
  6. Not moving away safely.
  7. Poor control when pulling away.
  8. Failure to respond to traffic lights.
  9. Not looking properly when reverse parking or a lack of control.
  10. Failure to respond to road markings

How can I get a good deal on my car insurance?

You’ve done the hard bit by passing your test; now we’re here to help you get a good deal on your car insurance. All you need to do is tell us a bit about you, your car and what you need, and we’ll show you policies based on price, policy cover level, add-ons or annual or monthly payment terms. Simples!

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