Demystifying The Driving Test

Written by
Luke Davies
16th of January, 2019

The Practical Driving Test

So, you’re learning to drive. You’ve learnt your cockpit drill, how to master the clutch (manuals only of course), know your mirrors-signal-manoeuvre, and perfected all your manoeuvres. Your theory test plus hazard perception are done and dusted.  Next up… the its time for the big test itself!

The practical driving test!

Everything you’ve done in your lessons and your learning journey has led to this point. It’s crunch time!

Nervous? Well that’s understandable, any such exam or test is going to play on your anxieties, but if you’ve mastered everything your instructor has taught you passing the test should be a walk in the park, and you’ll be ripping up your L-plates in no time.

But what exactly is the practical test? Is it an analysis of your competency in operating a motor vehicle within the traffic environment? Well, yes, technically, but ultimately, it’s just a test to see that you’re safe to be let out on the road by yourself.

The driving test has been around for quite some time, first being introduced in 1935 as the government noticed that the number of motor vehicles on British roads was ever increasing, and over the time the standards have increased to accommodate both the increasing number of vehicles on the roads along with the increasing speeds of said vehicles.

The Driving Test is carried out by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (or DVSA for short!), who are also the firm that you will contact to book the test. This not the same as the DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency), who merely produce and distribute the licenses.

The link for booking the test can be found here:

Currently about 1.6 million people every year take a practical car test, with a pass rate around 43%. This of course varies from centre to centre.

The current driving test lasts about 35-40mins, in which the examiner will observe you driving whilst marking down a sheet which about 23 different categories on it (excluding individual subcategories). On the sheet they’ve three different types of fault they can mark you down for, Minor driver faults  , Serious driver faults, and Dangerous driver faults. Minors are still important, but it’d take an excess of 15 of those incurred during the test to fail, however incurring just one Serious or Dangerous fault will result in your test being a failure! This is because these are things that would likely result in an accident on the road and therefore, in the eyes of the DVSA, show that the candidate cannot be allowed to drive by themselves.

You can find an example of the sheet here:

It’s also worth noting that incurring more than 3 minors in one category may also result in failure, but that’s far from definite.

During the test you’ll be asked to perform two of the manoeuvres that you’ll have spent practicing (see here for the full break down of the new driving test as of Dec 17 ), so make sure you’ve mastered all the relevant skills! You may be asked to perform an emergency stop, but again that’s far from definite. The BSM syllabus will teach you all the skills and manoeuvres you need to pass your test and beyond – giving you the skills to be a safe driving for life.

There will be some Show Me, Tell Me questions at the start of the test as well, but these can only account for two minors at the most and therefore are nothing to worry too much about

Your instructor will teach you everything you need to know to get you test level, and in fact will only take you to test if they deduce that you are up to standard (always check with them before booking), so if they’re taking you to test, then that means you are, at least within any reasonable analysis, perfectly capable of passing. The DVSA advise new pupils have, on average, 40-45 hours of professional tuition before booking in for the test, although this does differ from person to person. In fact, the very first lesson you have with your instructor will be them assessing just that, how many hours of tuition you’ll likely need before they can get you to test standard.

Does all this sound a bit daunting? Well, it’s not meant to be. The DVSA just need to make sure that people who get let out onto the roads are safe to do so. Again, with the ever-increasing number of vehicles on the road, combined with their ever-increasing speeds, this isn’t something they can afford to be slack about. But just remember, all those cars you see on the road? They all had to do it too, and they all managed to pass the test, as do many people every day (granted a lot of those motorists may have done it back when the test was easier), so while it’s not a cakewalk, it’s far from insurmountable.

Remember, practice during the lessons, listen to your instructor, make sure they reckon you’re test ready, and try not to let your nerves overwhelm you, and that test will be passed before you even know it!

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