Practical driving test - how it works

The Practical Test - How it works

With your theory test pass in the bag, you can progress to the final stage in your quest for freedom and independence – your practical driving test. Get through this and you've got your full driving licence. As long as you've prepared correctly, there's nothing to be afraid of.

How long does the Practical Test take?

The practical driving test lasts around 40 minutes and it shouldn't contain anything to faze you. You'll need to take along your theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) if you're not exempt, and don't forget your photocard licence.

Fail to take these items along and you may be refused the opportunity to take your test – and you'll lose any money you've paid to do so. If you've lost your provisional driving licence, you'll have to apply for a replacement from the DVLA – which may mean rearranging your test.

How early should you arrive?

Clutching your various documents, get to the test centre in good time, as if you're late you'll lose your slot and you'll have to apply for another test on another date. To kick things off, your examiner will ask you to sign a declaration that your car is insured, and if you can't or won't sign the form, the test will be cancelled.

Can your Driving Instructor sit in on your Practical Test?

You'll be asked if you'd like anybody to accompany you on your test, then you'll go to your car. You should discuss this with your instructor before you arrive, but most people prefer not to.

What are the legal requirements for driving & the test?

Before getting in, you'll be asked to read a number plate. You need to be able to read a standard number plate from a distance of 20 metres. You'll get two chances to read the number plate correctly – fail both times and the examiner will give you a third chance, having measured with an official tape. Fail this third time and you've failed the test before you've even sat in the car.

What is the Show me tell me?

Next comes the tell me question, when you'll be asked to explain how you would perform a simple safety-related task, such as checking tyre pressures.

What does the on-road section of the Practical Test involve?

The examiner will check your car for damage and that your L-plates are displayed correctly, then you'll go out on your drive (we've covered this in more detail separately).

With the drive out of the way, you'll return to the test centre where you'll be told whether or not you've passed. You'll get a certificate either way. A pass certificate (DSA10) has to be signed and sent to the DVLA in Swansea, together with your provisional licence which you exchange for a full licence.

If you fail you'll be given a Statement of Failure form (DL25C) on which the examiner will have indicated why you failed your test. Along with this you'll also be given a form to apply for another test.

If you failed, the examiner will give you an opportunity to hear why. Your instructor can listen in too, or you can choose to listen in alone – of course your instructor may have been sat in the back of the car for the duration anyway.

Hopefully the examiner will give you the thumbs up, but don't get down if you fail first time. There's plenty of evidence that people who fail at first go on to be better drivers in the long run. Learn from your mistakes and come back stronger.

Can you take the test in your own car?

If you take the test in your own car it must be specifically insured for you to use for this purpose. The car you take your test in, it'll need to display L-plates. Your vehicle must also have a seatbelt and head restraint for the front passenger plus an interior mirror for the examiner's use,.

Read our guide on how to prepare for your practical test