How To Prepare For The Practical Driving Test!

Preparation for the practical driving test is essential


On the day of the practical driving test you will be picked up by your instructor one hour before your practical driving test is due to begin. You will need to bring with you, your theory test pass certificate, and both parts of your provisional driving licence. You need the plastic card and the paper counterpart when you attend for the practical driving test.

Try not to be too nervous about the practical driving test. Easier said than done I know. Remember though that you have completed the full syllabus as laid down by the examining authority and you have already proven to your instructor that you can put this knowledge into practice. You will be properly prepared for your practical driving test.

Your instructor will use the hour before the practical driving test to take you through each of the manoeuvres once. They will run you through the show me tell me questions and answers for the final time. They will spend the remainder of the time reminding you of important local details that are important; but too numerous to reach in one hour.

If you wish it then your instructor is permitted to come with you on your practical driving test. The choice is yours. It is your practical driving test. If you do want them to come with you then they will sit in the seat directly behind you, out of your sight, and they will perform a very convincing imitation of a statue.

For most people it is an easy decision to make. If you think that you will feel better throughout your practical driving test with your instructor in the car then they will be there. If not they will wait in the test centre.

If you fall into the category of people who cannot make up their mind, do not worry. You can change your mind at any time until you leave the waiting room with the examiner. Nobody minds at all.

What to expect at the practical driving test centre

There are a few formalities that have to be completed before you take your practical driving test


You will arrive at the practical driving test centre a few minutes early and wait in the waiting room. At the proper time the examiners will come out and one of them will call out your name. They will ask you to sign in a box at the top left hand corner of your test report form. This is a declaration that you are providing a properly insured vehicle for the purpose of the driving test and that you have been a resident of this country for the required amount of time. You will be using the same driving school car that you have taken your lessons in so the insurance angle is covered. While you read and sign the declaration the examiner will check your paperwork.

If you have decided that you do wish for your instructor to accompany you on your practical driving test then this is the time to say so. As a courtesy you should say to the examiner something along the lines of, “I would like my instructor to come with me please”. The driving test examiners do not mind in the slightest. It is your practical driving test after all.

Once outside the practical driving test centre the first thing that the examiner must do is check that your eyesight meets the minimum requirements. To do this they will ask you to stop on the pavement and read a car number plate for them. The distance is approximately sixty seven feet. As long as you can do so your practical driving test may continue. To assist you please refer to our Eye sight test simulator

Practical Driving Test – Show Me / Tell Me questions

These are a reasonably new addition to the practical driving test


The practical driving test examiner will ask you to lead the way to your vehicle. Once there the driving test examiner will ask you two show me / tell me” questions which may need you to raise the bonnet of the car. After these you may get into the car. There are currently thirteen “show me / tell me” questions. These are listed in full along with explanations on the show me / tell me page.

When you get to the car you will get comfortable and wait for the examiner. You will have been driving the car for the hour previous to your practical driving test so it is already set up for you. The driving test examiner has to check the outside of the car and fill in the vehicle details boxes on the form.

Once seated the driving test examiner will give you some information about the practical driving test itself. They will tell you that the practical driving test is approximately thirty five to forty minutes in duration during which they will expect you to perform one of the standard manoeuvres and possibly an emergency stop. They will also reassure you that if an emergency stop is to be requested they will pull you in to the kerb and tell you first. The examiner does not want you to misinterpret a hand movement for an emergency stop signal. You will then be told to start the engine and follow the road ahead unless directed otherwise by either the examiner or road signs.

Your practical driving test examiner will give you clear instructions on approach to junctions, when they wish for you to pull in by the kerb, move off again or perform a manoeuvre. The examiner will gladly repeat the instruction for you if you ask them to. Remember that until your driving test DOES NOT end until your practical driving test examiner ask you to switch your vehicle engine off and states that you practical driving test has been completed.

After the practical driving test has been completed the driving test examiner will require a minute or so to complete the paperwork before they tell you whether or not you have passed. If you have failed they will give you an explanation of the driving faults that you have committed. If your instructor is not in the car they will ask you if they may listen to this debrief. It is best that they do, as they will have more time after the test to give you a fuller explanation.

Practical driving test errors and what the differences are

The way that your practical driving test will be marked

On your practical driving test report form your errors, and everyone makes some, will be recorded. They will fall into three categories.

Practical Driving Test – Driving fault.


Driving faults are almost inevitable. Try not to acquire more than necessary. Practical driving Test.
A driving fault mistake is usually a mistake on procedure that the examiner judges to have had no bearing on the safety of the drive.

For example: You are asked to follow the road ahead at a roundabout. As you go around it the timing of your left signal to leave it is late.

You have made an error in procedure certainly. There has been no effect on other road users though and the junction was otherwise taken correctly. The fault would be recorded as a driving fault.

Practical Driving Test – Serious fault.


A serious mistake is one that is serious enough to mean an instant fail for your test. This will be an error that the examiner judges could lead to confusion of other road users or even a potential crash.

To use an example of going ahead at a roundabout. The roundabout has traffic on it and your positioning is not as it should be. Because of your positional error other traffic has to change speed or direction to avoid you. You have committed an error that effects others directly.

The error is serious because potentially it could have lead to a collision. A serious error generally speaking is one which would lead to the confusion of other road users or lead to them having to change speed or direction as a result of your driving.

Practical Driving Test – Dangerous fault.


Says enough really doesn’t it.

No example necessary.

If the examiner has to take physical action to prevent an accident from occuring during your practical driving test then the error will certainly be recorded as a dangerous one.

One serious fault is enough to fail a practical driving test.

You will not be taken straight back to the test centre. The examiner will continue to conduct the driving test until the end as long as it remains safe to do so. It is only at the end of the practical driving test that you will learn whether or not you have passed.

Practical Driving Test – Fault not recorded.


This does not receive much in the way of discussion but I think that it is important that you should know. The driving test examiners have the option to not record your error. You probably did not know that. Quite a few driving instructors do not know that but it is true non the less. If you make a small mistake that is a one off they may just decide that it is not worth recording.

While you are driving around on your practical driving test you will realise that there have been small inconsistencies in your driving. If you think of every one of them as a driving fault then you would start to worry about the outcome of your driving test. Don’t. These are the faults that at the end you may find have not been recorded.

Remember one thing for me throughout your practical driving test. You are not qualified to judge. Leave any mistakes behind you and concentrate on what you should be doing.

Practical Driving Test – To Pass.

The hurdle that you have to clear to pass your practical driving test


To pass the practical driving test you have to score less than sixteen driving faults with no serious or dangerous faults at all being recorded. It is possible to pass the practical driving test on fifteen faults but the decision is at the discresion of the driving test examiner. Fifteen or less is a definate pass.

If you have been unsuccessful at this attempt at your practical driving test then there will be a debrief by the driving test examiner.

If your instructor was not in the car then the driving test examiner will ask you if you would like them to listen to the debrief. Say YES! It is a great advantage for your instructor to listen to the examiners debrief. They always give useful information which will help your instructor firstly to debrief you properly as to what went wrong, and secondly for them to understand what went wrong under pressure and what to do about it. This remedial action is what they will be concentrating upon in future driving lessons.

Practical Driving Test tips

Some advice to help you prepare for your practical driving test

Throughout your practical driving test the examiner is looking for a safe and accurate drive. If you remember to follow all of the procedures as they have been taught to you everything will be fine. Your driving instructor will have made sure that you are very well prepared.


If for example, the driving test examiner gives the instruction, ‘at the roundabout I would like you to turn right please taking the fourth exit’, you should remember the direction and exit number. People do forget though. If you find yourself exiting the roundabout at the exit before the one that the examiner asked you to take, do not worry about it. The correct thing to do is to finish exiting the roundabout safely. The examiner will change the test route accordingly and no mistake will be recorded on the report form. If you realised and jerked the wheel round to get to the correct exit you would have made several errors at the same time and will probably fail.

If you think that you have made an error that is serious enough to be judged as serious, and therefore a practical driving test fail; do not give up on the spot. You may quite easily be wrong. The driving test examiner is the trained judge, not you. Before now I have had a pupil return from a test for the examiner to comment that everything had been going well up to a certain point. Beyond that point the pupil drove indifferently and committed many errors. I found out after the examiner had left that the pupil had spotted a mistake that the examiner had judged as minor but the pupil had thought of it as a serious error and not been bothered after that point. How daft is that?

Changes to the Practical Driving Test

The Practical driving Test has evolved over time and will continue to do so

The evolution of the practical driving test has taken decades. In the beginning there was no requirement to have a driving licence, simply buying a car was enough. This seems ridiculous now. The first driving licences were issued in 1903. There were no examiners until 1930 when the driving test was introduced. There have been many changes to the practical driving test over the years and they are designed to reflect the changes in driving in every day life.

When announcing the introduction of the driving test Leslie Hore-Belisha said, ‘Driving is an art in which those who are engaged should, in the interest of their own and of the public’s safety, take the greatest pains to make themselves proficient’.

Decades later this still holds true and is summed up in the Driving Standards Agency’s maxim, ‘Safe driving for life’.

Recent changes to the practical driving test have included the introduction of the ‘theory test’ and ‘hazard perception test’ which have to be completed on the same occasion. The ‘show me / tell me questions’ were included and the last change to be introduced was the independant driving section of the practiccal driving test, but time will bring more changes. As driving conditions and the technology that cars contain changes the practical driving test will have to adapt.

Practical Driving Test – Interpreters

Can I bring an interpreter along on my Practical Driving Test?


You may bring an interpreter along to your practical driving test as long as they are older than sixteen and are not a driving instructor. You are totally responsible for arranging the interpreter and paying for their services.

While the practical driving test is taking place the interpreter MUST refrain from giving any other information other than EXACTLY what the driving test examiner said.

If your practical driving test examiner feels that you are receiving any helpful hints or suggestions from the interpreter then they have to fail you.

Any passenger accompanying a candidate on their practical driving test needs to follow some simple rules as set out by the Driving Standards Agency:

  • Sit behind the driver – your presence will not distract the driver as much if you are directly behind them and also it is easier for the driving test examiner to keep an eye on you! If you sit behind the passenger then the driver can see you in the rear view mirror. This can distract them.
  • Do not move! – your best statue impression is required even if you are an interpreter. Physical signals of any kind at all are seen as inappropriate during the practical driving test. Throughout the practical driving test the test examiner will notice if any ‘tapping’ or ‘knocking’ is going on at useful times.
  • Be silent – you are not allowed to talk at all throughout the practical driving test. If you are an interpreter then your pupil should have made the test examiner aware before leaving the driving test centre that you were coming. Only if this is the case will you be allowed to interpret during the practical driving test.

Practical Driving Test – Special Needs

What is taken into consideration with regards to special needs?

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is committed to equal opportunities for all. They provide a number of facilities for candidates with special needs or physical disabilities. When booking your practical driving test, please let them know if you:

  • are deaf or have severe hearing difficulties
  • are in any way restricted in your movements
  • have any physical disability

No matter how serious your disability might be, you will still take the same practical driving test as every other test candidate. However, more time is allowed for the test. This is to allow the examiner to talk to you about your disability and any adaptations fitted to your vehicle.

Although there is more time allowed, the driving time and competence requirements are the same as normal length tests. If you use a specially adapted vehicle for the test, your licence will be restricted to vehicles with that specific adaptation.