Based on the experience of qualified instructors, this article will explain in detail exactly what to expect on the driving test. By having a good understanding of what to expect, there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises on test day.
Day of the driving test
If you are with a driving instructor, they will usually pick you up around one hour before the test. This will give you a little time to warm up and get your driving skills up to scratch. If you are not with an instructor, take a drive around the test roads for 30 to 40 minutes to get your self accustomed to the conditions.
Ensure you take with you your provisional driving licence photocard. Without this, the examiner will terminate the driving test. Ideally, also take the test booking details.
If they were emailed to you, print them out and also your theory test pass certificate. The driving examiner will not ask to look at either of these, only your provisional driving licence, but it’s a good idea to take them just in case there are any problems.
Certain driving test centres don’t have on-site parking, some are combined with other local business addresses and may be a little difficult to get into. There may be security gates that need clearance for example, so arrive at the test centre 10 minutes early to ensure you get parked up and in the waiting room in time.
Try not to arrive too early or you may be arriving as other test candidates are returning from the test. Blocking their access and generally getting in their way is not ideal. Try and find a parking position that will give you the easiest exit from the test centre. Many driving tests are failed simply leaving the test centre.
When you exit your car, before heading off to the waiting room, familiarise yourself on how to exit the test centre. Is the test centre exit obscured in anyway? Is there a pedestrian footpath before you reach the main road? Looking out for little things like this will give you a good and confident start.
Test centre waiting room
You have found yourself the best parking position to exit the test centre, familiarized yourself with the exit strategy, so it’s off to the waiting room. As with waiting for anything like this, this part seems the longest of all. Try to chat with your instructor or the person that accompanied you, so to feel less nervous. In the mean-time, get both parts of your provisional licence at hand, as the examiner will need to see these.
When the examiner enters the room, they will call your name out and ask to see your provisional driving licence. They will ask you if the address details on it are correct. If they are not, they will ask you to fill out the correct details on the back and sign it. They will then ask you to read and sign a declaration that confirms you are fully insured for the vehicle you will be driving.
Then finally, the examiner will ask if you wish your instructor to accompany you on the test. It’s entirely up to you. Your instructor or the person accompanying you cannot say or persuade your driving in anyway during the test. If they do, the examiner may terminate the test. If by accompanying you, it makes you feel more at ease, then take them along.
They must sit behind the driver side of the car. If you happen to be late for your test, the examiner will wait around 5 minutes for you in the waiting room. Any longer than this then the test will be cancelled and you will lose the test fee. Once all this is complete, the examiner will ask you to lead the way to the car.
The driving test eyesight test
Whilst leading the way to your car, the examiner will ask you to read a number plate off of a car of the examiners choice. This eyesight test will require you reading a new-style number plate from a distance of 20 metres or an old style plate at 20.5 metres.
These number plates are likely to be further than 20 metres, so if you fail to read the first plate correctly, the examiner will ask you to read a second plate. If you fail to read this one correctly, the examiner will ask you to move forward to an appropriate distance (approximately 20 or 20.5 metres). If you fail this time, the examiner will choose a third number plates and measure the exact distance needed for that style of number plate. If at this point you fail to read the number plate correctly, the examiner will terminate the driving test and it will be marked as a fail.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses for the eyesight test, law requires that you must wear them for the actual driving test. The examiner will require you to sign a form stating that you failed to meet the minimum standards of the eyesight test and your licence will be revoked. For further information, see:
You will need to re-apply for your provisional driving licence. See How to start learning to drive for information on how to apply for a provisional driving licence. The DVSA may then inform the test centre to conduct a separate eyesight test on your second attempt.
Driving test questions
Now at the car, the examiner will ask you one of the two ‘show me tell me questions’. There are 21 questions in total, of which 7 are ‘show me’ questions and 14 are ‘tell me’ questions. The question that the examiner will ask you at the car will be a ‘tell me’ question, the second question will be whilst you’re driving. They are related to maintenance and safety of your car. It is obviously a good idea to read up on these and to fully understand the questions and possible answers.
Some of the questions are general and can relate to any car such as the legal tyre tread depth, but some are more specific to the particular car you are taking on your driving test. This type of question might be for example;
”When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d switch on your dipped headlights?”
In this situation, you’ll need to know where the headlights switch is located on your car. See Show Me Tell Me driving test questions for a complete list along with answers.
Now the driving part of the test will begin. The type of roads taken during your test largely depend on where the test centre is situated. The examiner will require that you show an excellent knowledge, regard to others and safety at such road systems as:
- Roundabouts – These may include large, multi-lane roundabouts and mini roundabouts.
- Junctions – From small, difficult to manoeuvre junctions, to major junctions leading onto high speed roads.
- Crossroads – Assessing your ability for making left and right turns.
- If one-way-systems are present on the test routes then these may be implemented.
If the test centre is located in such an area, then rural country roads could be implemented in the test and also dual carriageway roads. Just because all these road types may be present close to your test centre, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will drive on them all. It is a good idea to get plenty of practice on all the road types just in case.
Driving test manoeuvres
During the test, the examiner will require that you demonstrate one of these possible manoeuvres. These are:
Reversing into a bay is only likely to be requested if there are bays present at the test centre. This manoeuvre will be requested at the start or the end of the test (if at all requested). If another test centre within appropriate range has bay parking available, it is also likely that you may drive to this test centre to perform the manoeuvre if your test centre has no bays. The forward driving into a bay manoeuvre will however be undertaken in supermarket and hotel car parks.
Independent driving will involve the examiner initially asking you to park on the left. They will then inform you that the independent part of the test is about to begin. This part of the test lasts around 20 minutes.
From every 5 driving tests conducted, 4 of the tests will require the candidates to follow directions from a sat nav. Those that don’t will be required to follow road traffic signs.
Examiners will secure and set up the route using their own sat nav device (a TomTom Start 52) and you’ll not be able to use your own device. You can confirm with the examiner which route you are taking.
Though you will be following a route from a sat nav, the independent driving section is not a test of your ability to follow directions. It doesn’t matter if you take a wrong turn or get lost – just make sure you do it safely. The examiner will help you get back on track if you get confused as to your location/direction.
There is around a 1-in-3 possibility of the examiner asking you to demonstrate the emergency stop procedure. The examiner will ask you to park up and will then explain that he wants you to demonstrate the emergency stop. They will explain clearly what the command is for you to stop. The examiner will ensure that it is safe for you to perform this procedure. For further information, see the tutorial of:
At the end of the driving test
Once you have stopped, secured the car and turned the engine off at the test centre, the examiner will inform you if you have passed or failed the driving test. They will produce a test report and call your instructor over if they didn’t go with you on the test. The examiner will describe to you and your instructor any errors you made and if applicable, why you failed.
If you passed, the examiner will provide you with a test pass certificate that will entitle you to drive immediately. They will also ask if you would like to have them send you your new licence. If so, they will require that you hand them your provisional licence as it is no longer valid. If you attended the test with a driving instructor, the instructor will usually drive you back home. The driving test will last for around 40 minutes.
Driving test information and details
Listed below are some tips and advice about what exactly the test examiner is expecting from you. It is expected that you make mistakes, after all, you are still a learner.
Many learner drivers make mistakes on the driving test. The examiner is expecting this and it is quite normal. What many learners do however, is focus on this mistake thinking all is lost. This puts their mind elsewhere, concentration goes and all is lost. The examiner is looking for general good control of the car, for example not driving on pavements and a good deal of safety, such as not pulling out in front of an oncoming vehicle. If you make a mistake, unless it’s an obvious fail like going through a red light, then chances are it’s just a minor. Let it go and concentrate on the rest of the test.
Driving test manoeuvres
Essentially, the examiner is looking for you to do them safely. If you are required to demonstrate the turn in the road for example and you feel you can’t make it in 3 turns, turn it into a 5 point turn. Or the parallel park manoeuvre, if you feel you may hit the kerb whilst reversing, pull forward to correct yourself. Just inform the examiner what you are doing and you may receive a minor in some cases for over-correcting, but providing you do it all safely, there shouldn’t be any problems. This applies to all four manoeuvres.
Although it may be tempting to drive very slow, this is in fact dangerous as it can make vehicles behind you impatient and try to over-take. Again, it’s all about safety from the examiners point of view. Generally, keep up with the traffic in front of you unless of course they are speeding.
However, as a learner you aren’t going to be as experienced. So when approaching difficult and hazardous systems such as roundabouts, junctions and crossroads, approach them a little slower than everyone else. This will give you a little extra time to look out for other traffic, pedestrians, road markings and traffic lights. It’s better to get 1 or 2 minors for being too hesitant than a serious for being unsafe.
Having good all-round observation will give you confidence on the driving test. Many learners when they drive, feel like they are in their ‘little bubble’. This is because they are not confident with their surroundings and how they are interacting with it. Having frequent looks in your mirrors will give you the confidence to drive better as you will feel safer and more confident with your surroundings. The examiner is of course expecting you to make frequent checks in your mirrors.
Generally speaking, anytime your car changes direction or speed, there should be mirrors involved. Don’t worry if you miss one here and there in your test, they don’t expect perfection, although it’s nice. Just as long as it isn’t frequent and at a particular time when it is essential, then all should be good.
Taking a wrong turn
The driving test isn’t about your skills as a navigator. If you are unsure where you are supposed to be going at any point, even during the independent part of the test, ask the examiner. They are more than happy to repeat. The amount of times a learner gets to a junction or roundabout for example and panics because they don’t know where they are going. Even if you don’t ask and realize you have taken the wrong turn or exit, it doesn’t matter. Providing you ‘get lost’ safely, then that is all the examiner is looking for.
Examiner tests you, who tests them?
It’s worth noting and being prepared for an extra and unexpected passenger during your driving test. Like driving instructors, examiners must undergo training and pass certain tests before enrolling as a DVSA examiner. Throughout their career, an examiner must also undergo check tests. This is essentially the examiner being tested to ensure they are doing their job correctly.
During the driving test, you may find yourself in the car with the examiner in the passenger seat, along with a member of the DVSA in the back of the car testing the examiner – and if you have decided to take along your driving instructor, that’s going to be a full car indeed.
You don’t get a choice whether you take along the DVSA check test individual, but your examiner will inform you of this just before you get into your car. Your examiner will also explain that you should ignore them as they are only interested in testing the examiner and not you.
You may well find this extra person in the car off-putting, but try your best to ignore them as they really are not interested in how well or bad you do on your driving test. The chances of this happening on your test is remote as check tests are infrequent, although it’s best to be prepared just in case.