What happens during the test
There are 5 parts to the driving test:
- an eyesight check
- ‘show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions
- general driving ability
- reversing your vehicle
- independent driving
The test is the same for both manual and automatic cars.
‘Show me, tell me’ questions
You’ll be asked 2 vehicle safety questions known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
You’ll be asked the:
- ‘tell me’ question at the start of your test, before you start driving
- ‘show me’ question while you’re driving
Pulling over at the side of the road
You’ll be asked to pull over and pull away during your test, including:
- normal stops at the side of the road
- pulling out from behind a parked vehicle
- a hill start
You might also be asked to carry out an emergency stop.
You’ll have to drive for about 20 minutes by following either:
- directions from a satellite navigation
- traffic signs
The examiner will tell you which you have to follow.
They’ll set the satellite navigation up for you. You cannot use your own satellite navigation.
If you make mistakes during your test
You can carry on if you make a mistake. It might not affect your test result if it’s not serious.
The examiner will only stop your test if they think your driving is a danger to other road users.
How long the test lasts
You’ll drive for around 40 minutes.
You’ll drive for around 70 minutes if you’re taking an extended driving test because you’ve been banned from driving.
You’ll have to read a number plate from a distance of:
- 20 metres for vehicles with a new-style number plate
- 20.5 metres for vehicles with an old-style number plate
You’ll fail your driving test if you fail the eyesight check. The test will end.
Your general driving ability
You’ll drive in various road and traffic conditions, but not on motorways.
The examiner will give you directions that you should follow. Driving test routes are not published, so you cannot check them before your test.
Reversing your vehicle
The examiner will ask you to do one of the following exercises:
- parallel park at the side of the road
- park in a parking bay - either by driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out (the examiner will tell you which you have to do)
- pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for around 2 car lengths, and re-join the traffic
If you cannot see traffic signs
If you cannot see a traffic sign (for example, because it’s covered by trees), the examiner will give you directions until you can see the next one.
Going off the route
The examiner will not give you a fault for taking a wrong turning.
They’ll help you get back on the route if you do.
Picking an instructor
The most important thing when picking an instructor is choosing someone who makes you feel comfortable and happy in the driver's seat, remember you may be spending potentially 40 hours in a car together!
Should I take an intensive course?
Intensive courses (otherwise known as the poorly named 'crash course') will give you the best chance of passing your driving test in the shortest amount of time.
These are normally flexible courses of extended one-on-one tuition with the aim of passing you in as little time as possible. They typically work to your schedule with an instructor devising a lesson plan or offering you a range of pre-designed plans suited to your budget and availability.
How many lessons should I have?
According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), it takes most people 45 hours of lessons to learn how to drive, plus 22 hours of practising.
An intensive courses could help you discard your L-plates after just 10 hours of instruction - but that's the exception, not the rule.
This is only an average though and shouldn't be something you feel you have to compare yourself to.
Some take fewer and some take longer to feel comfortable and ready to take their test - the important thing is to take the test when you are ready, not being the first one out of your friends to pass.
Your instructor will let you know when you are ready, but most of the time you will feel it too - when the time comes you can both come to the decision together and then discuss how best to prepare for your test.
Can teach people to drive in as little as a week from complete novice.
Within the package, most costs for intensive courses will cover everything, including your theory and practical tests
They are perfect if you are in a rush or on a tight schedule, for instance when trying to pass before leaving for university or starting a job
Many courses offer a free retest should you in fact fail the practical test
Are usually flexible and will work to your schedule
Some offer residential intensive courses, to ensure there are no distractions to provide complete focus on learning to drive
Some people may feel rushed and aren't comfortable learning in this type of environment
They do involve a high initial price outlay
You need to ensure you have a free block of time to complete - most people have other commitments like work or college to consider
Some people feel pressured to pass under these constraints which affects their ability to perform to the best of their abilities
Do not offer as much flexibility as planning your weekly lessons yourself
They are hard work and require a great deal of focus, commitment and dedication