Practical Driving Test

In 1934 there were 1.5 million registered motor cars in the UK. That relatively small number of vehicles, however, where busy causing approximately 7000 road fatalities per year! That equals one road death per year for every 200 vehicles; or, every five years you could expect one person to be killed for every 40 vehicles registered!

There are now over 30 million cars alone on UK roads, covering far greater distances annually at far higher speeds, and total fatalities have fallen to below 3000. A lot of that improvement can be attributed to the UK driving test which was introduced the year after those 7000 deaths were recorded, in 1935.

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is the executive agency of the Department for Transport in charge of driving testing in the UK and their examiners conduct the category B car test.

To pass the test you will need to have passed a theory test, pass a simple eyesight test, demonstrate a basic level of car maintenance knowledge by answering one “show me” and one ‘tell me” question which an instructor will prepare you for, and demonstrate a high standard of competence in a range of driving skills and situations.

Passing the driving test means that the government is satisfied that you have the driving skills, knowledge and judgement required to drive safely and in a way that reasonably minimises environmental damage. Whether you do or not once you have passed your test is up to you. Your driving instructor will work with you in your lessons to ensure that the standards you set for yourself in respect of safety and the environment are ones you can be proud of. The standards you set yourself last; they are the ones that keep you and the people you drive safe throughout your driving life.

Book your driving test in consultation with your instructor. The UK driving test is one of the most exacting in the world. Your instructor has the experience necessary to guide you through it.


The Test

(Sleep well, eat breakfast and wear your favourite driving shoes.)

Your driving instructor will normally pick you up on your test day between one and two hours prior to your test time. After a warm-up drive and some brushing-up you’ll park at the test centre and you and your instructor will walk to the waiting room.

At your test time an examiner will call you, you will sign the test report form, do an eyesight test (read a licence plate from 20.5 metres), answer the “show me – tell me” questions and then start the test. The test lasts for forty minutes in total (you will be driving for about thirty-five of those). Your examiner will give you directional instructions throughout the drive apart from during the Independent Driving phase.

The Independent Driving phase involves following a set of three or four simple, diagrammed directions, or posted road signs towards a particular destination, or both. It lasts about 10 minutes. Your examiner will also ask you to do a “manoeuvre” and possibly an emergency stop.

Your test will conclude back at the test centre and your examiner will give you the result. They will then brief you on it – if you wish – with or without your instructor present (again this is up to you, your instructor will have waited for you at the test centre unless you have requested that they sit-in with you during the test). Fifteen or fewer minor faults (known as driver faults) with no serious or dangerous faults will earn you a pass – any more than this will not.

If you pass the test you will be issued with a pass certificate. If you have a photocard driving licence issued after 1 March 2004, the examiner will, if you wish, take your provisional licence and send off for a full licence which should arrive by post within four weeks.

If you fail you will need to reapply for a test, the date of which must be at least ten working days after the failed test.

The national pass rate currently stands at around 47%, in other words, just over half the people who take a test go home disappointed. Choose your instructor thoughtfully and ensure that your driving is better than average when you arrive on test day. Read our naturally unbiased advice on choosing an instructor.