Practical driving test tips: what to expect and how to pass

The last thing standing between you and your full driving licence is the practical test. To prepare properly, it helps to know what’s going to happen. Here’s what to expect, and some handy practical driving test tips…

How long is the driving test?

You’ll spend around 40 minutes behind the wheel, driving on a variety of roads.

What happens before I start driving?

First of all, you’ll need to show you can see well enough to drive. That means reading a numberplate from 20 metres away (or 20.5 metres if it’s an old-style numberplate). If you can’t, the test will be over before it has really started. So here’s the first of our practical driving test tips – don’t forget your contact lenses or glasses if you need them to see clearly!

You’ll also be asked a ‘tell me’ question, such as “How would you check the headlights and tail lights are operating correctly?” You don’t need to make the check, just prove to the examiner that you know how it’s done. (In case this one comes up, the answer is you would turn on the switch with the ignition on if necessary, then walk around the car.)

If you get the ‘tell me’ question wrong you’ll have notched up a driving fault, but you won’t automatically fail the test.

What can I expect when I am driving?

For 20 minutes out of the 40 you’ll be driving independently. That means following road signs or sat nav to a destination. You won’t have to enter the destination into the sat nav – the examiner will do that for you. Don’t worry if you take a wrong turn, what’s really important is that you drive safely and legally.

You’ll be asked a ‘show me’ question while you’re driving. It could be as simple as showing how you would turn on the rear demister, or wash and clean the windscreen.

As well as making a hill start, pulling out from behind a parked car, and making a normal stop at the side of the road, you may need to make an emergency stop. You’ll also need to carry out one of three reversing manoeuvres, so get in plenty of reversing practice before your test.

At some point you may mess up. If that happens, remember our next practical driving test tip – think about what you must do next, rather than what you have just done. Stay in the moment and don’t get down if you think you have made a mistake.

How good do I need to be to pass the practical driving test?

You need to prove that you are safe and competent – the examiner is not expecting perfection. You can pass with up to 15 minor faults, although just one major fault means failure.

If you don’t feel ready for the test, contact the DVSA to put it back. But don’t delay just because you are feeling nervous – that’s normal!

What happens after the test?

Whether you have passed or failed, the examiner will talk you through any faults. If you made the grade, you’ll be given a pass certificate. If you didn’t pass and you’re feeling really down, it may be better to have your instructor drive you home. But let’s hope you pass!

How can I give myself the best chance of passing?

There are no guarantees, but these practical driving test tips will help…

  • Be positive. Your driving instructor believes in you, so believe in yourself!
  • Avoid peer pressure. Don’t tell mates the date of your test if this will make you more nervous.
  • Stay in the here and now. Thinking “I wonder how many mistakes I’ve made?” doesn’t help. Concentrate on what you need to do next, and the big picture should take care of itself.

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