What is the Practical test?

 

The Practical test is your chance to prove to an examiner you know what you're doing behind the wheel - and that you're safe and confident on the roads.

What's the test like?

 

If you're well prepared, the test should be very straightforward. It'll last around 40 minutes and is conducted by a DSA examiner. They'll tell you where to drive and what exercises to do. The test will include both driving round a course and on normal roads.

What you're tested on - First off, the examiner will test your eyesight by asking you to read a number plate from a distance. Before setting off, they'll also ask you a couple of questions about the car so you can prove you know it's safe to drive. But mostly the test will be about showing you can drive competently and safely - and complete one of the manoeuvres you have been taught.

What happens on test day?

 

Knowing what to expect when you get to the test centre can boost your confidence and your chances of passing. Here's how the Practical test works.

Preparing for the test

 

Immediately before your test you should have at least an hour's lesson with your instructor to warm up and feel comfortable in the car. It'll also help to calm any last minute nerves.

Remember to bring along confirmation of your test, provisional driving licence (both parts). Check online to confirm no changes have been made.

What happens on test day?

 

First off, the examiner will ask you to sign a form and show your ID. Then they'll ask you to point out the car you'll be driving and read another car's number plate from the required minimum distance. You'll also answer one 'show me' and one 'tell me' vehicle safety question. Both answers need to be correct, or one driving fault will be recorded.

During the Practical test

 

The examiner will be looking to see that you're a competent and safe driver - responding to situations sensibly and making sound judgments.

Apart from general driving, such as which direction to go, where and when to turn and stop; your examiner will ask you to carry out one of the exercises you have been taught: reversing around a corner, turning in the road or reverse parking. You could also be asked to do an emergency stop.

Your examiner wants you to do well

 

The examiner won't say much in case it puts you off. Put any mistakes behind you and just concentrate on what's happening in the present. One minor error doesn't mean a fail.

Despite what you might have heard - there's no quota for test passes or fails. If you've reached the required standard, you'll pass your test. It actually takes 15 driving faults or one serious or dangerous fault to fail the test.

Getting your result

 

As soon as your Practical Test is over, the examiner will tell you whether you've passed or failed.

If you passed, well done. You can now enjoy driving yourself around without the need to have someone else in the car. Your examiner will ask for your provisional licence, which he or she will send off to the DVLA to apply for a full licence. In the meantime, you'll get a pass certificate as well as a report that highlights any minor faults you made during the test.

If you failed, bad luck . Your examiner will spend a few moments with your instructor and you to explain why. They'll also give you a test report that highlights what went wrong. But don't get down about it - you can reapply for a test straight away and only have to wait 10 working days for a retake. Your instructor will drive you home - so use the time to quiz them about how to pass next time.

Independent driving - For about 10 minutes of the test you'll be asked to drive on your own without any help from the examiner while the car is moving. The examiner will ask you to park the car and then will give you up to 3 directions to follow such as "Take the next left, 2nd right then 3rd right". They may alternatively just ask you to drive to the nearest train station or an area of the city that will be sign posted. You do not need to know the area, read maps or use a sat nav. Any locations you're asked to drive to will be signed. This has been designed with dyslexia and other conditions in mind do don't worry if you have to ask for more help.

Another way it will be done is a mixture of directions and instructions such as "Take the 3rd left, 2nd right and then follow road signs to Kings Norton railway station". For some of these directions you'll be given a very basic diagram such as shown below to help recognize the layout of the roads you'll come across. The examiner can write down the place name so you know how it's spelt on signs, if you want them to do this then just ask.

After each set of directions you'll be asked to pull over and given another set.

You are not marked on going the wrong way. It doesn't matter how many wrong turns you make or if you end up in completely the wrong place. The worst thing you can do on this part of the test is to suddenly change your mind. Let's say you're approaching a left turn and at the last minute you see the sign saying that's the way you want to go. Carrying on will just mean you take a different route, suddenly braking and swerving can cause chaos. You are only marked as normal so hitting a kerb, swerving etc is still bad but your destination is irrelevant.

If you start to go the wrong way, just carry on and then the examiner will help you get back on track. If you're coming up to a roundabout and you miss the sign, just say you haven't seen the sign and go left or continue in whichever lane you're in. You will not fail; you will not be marked down. The whole idea of this part of the test is to simulate being on your own and there will be plenty of times when you miss signs or go the wrong way, it doesn't matter!

So to sum up, the only real difference is that instead of being given step-by-step directions you'll just have to remember up to 3 per time for a short section of the test. Most instructors have done this for years anyway; it's not unusual to give pupils a few directions to remember.

Manoeuvre changes - You will only do one manoeuvre on a test instead of two. Current test routes are based on having to stick around quiet housing estates so there are enough opportunities to do manoeuvres. This will give you the chance to travel much further away from the centre so you may well drive in areas you have never seen before which will prove you are not just memorising test roads and routes.

Tests will now include more things like high streets, right turns and crossroads, as there is more time to cover them. As with the independent driving though, this makes no difference if you have learned to drive properly as you should already be able to handle these things.

Check out the DSA video on You Tube at wwww.youtube.com/dsagov