A simples guide

The practical driving test

Most of us have been there – the sleepless nights worrying about your driving test, hoping that you’ll pass first time – for the kudos you’ll get from your friends and because, let’s face it, it’s an expensive business. So to put your mind at rest, we’ve put together this practical driving test guide so you know exactly what to expect.


When will I be ready?

That depends on you – learning to drive’s one of those things that you might naturally be brilliant at, the rest of us might need a little more time. The important thing is not to rush it. In most cases, your instructor will tell you when you’re ready. On average it takes about 45 hours of driving lessons and the more practise you can get outside of your lessons; the better.

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) have worked out that the younger you are, the quicker you’ll learn and pass your test – in fact, you’ll need to add another two hours of driving tuition for every year you get older. The DSA have also shown that pass rates decline with each decade of life – so great news if you’re 17 (but perhaps ignore this bit if you’re over 50?).

But whatever age you are, you’ll need some fundamentals like passing your theory tests. Once you’ve got that under your belt you’ll need to take and pass your driving test within two years, if you don’t then you’ll need to re-sit the theory tests. You’ll also need to understand the Highway Code - you might be reluctant but it’s there for everyone’s protection so make sure it’s on your reading list.

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 most importantly – 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 you whether you want someone to come with you during the test. If you really want to then 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 you if you want someone to be with you when you find out your result and get feedback.

man looking under the bonnet of a car

The test… cue drumroll

The test itself will usually last around 40 minutes and it’s the same test whether you’re learning in a manual or automatic. The test is made up of five parts:

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

The eyesight test

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 older style number plate, you’ll need to read it from 20.5 metres away. If it’s a new style number plate (the one with the two letters followed by a number such as PA55 IST) you’ll be expected to read it from 20 metres away.

If you fail this part of the test you won’t let you into the car – so make sure you take your glasses with you.

The ‘show me, tell me’ questions

Once you’ve passed the eye test, your examiner will ask you two questions sometimes called the ‘show me, tell me questions’.

With a ‘show me’ question you’ll need to demonstrate how you’d carry out a check, such as if you were asked: ‘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 the 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. Take your time and think about the answers, there are 19 possible questions that you could be asked so as long as you’ve familiarised yourself with them, there shouldn’t be any surprises.

Tips for practical test

The general driving ability part

You’ll be given some driving instructions and at some point you’ll be asked to pull out (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 be made to do an emergency stop but the examiner will give you a warning that he will ask you to do that.

The manoeuvres bit

You’ll need to show your examiner you can reverse your car and you’ll be asked to do one of these exercises – reverse around a corner, turn in the road, reverse park (this could be into a proper parking bay or to parallel park).

The independent driving part

This part of the test is to show that you can follow directions, either verbal or from traffic signs (or both). To help you, your examiner will show you what the industry calls an ‘independent driving route diagram’ – but us normal folk like to call it ‘a map’.

During this part of the test, your examiner won’t ask you anything so don’t worry if they suddenly go all quiet but you are of course, allowed to ask them questions if you want. 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?

You’ve passed if you don’t make any 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 by them, they may not affect your result so don’t give up because you think you’ve blown it.

If you’ve passed, then hurrah! Well done, you can now look forward to giving your mates a lift everywhere and doing the shopping for your mum.

Whether you’ve passed or failed, your examiner will give you feedback. Always take it on the chin regardless of the result; the advice is there to help you improve for next time and to ensure you remain a good driver.

And now we get to the good bit – car insurance – always make sure you’ve got the right cover for your needs. Afterall, you’ve done the hard bit, so getting the right insurance will just help you stay on the road, no matter what.


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