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Driving test manoeuvres: how to reverse into a parking bay

One of the manoeuvres that you might be asked to perform on your driving test is to reverse into a parking bay.

If you’re asked to do this exercise, it’ll be at the start or end of the test, in the test centre’s car park – so if there’s no car park, you’re unlikely to be asked to perform the manoeuvre.

The only exception to this is if your driving route takes you past a nearby test centre that does have a car park; your instructor should be able to tell you if this is a possibility. 

Your task is to slide the car smoothly into the space without crossing the white lines either side

How it works

If you’re asked to reverse into a parking bay, you can usually choose whether to go in from the right or the left. Whatever you do, the examiner will be expecting you to drive smoothly and safely at all times, retaining control through the correct use of the clutch, brakes, accelerator and steering.

Your task is to slide the car smoothly into the space without crossing the white lines either side, all the time ensuring that you’re aware of other road users and vehicles around you. Start by indicating if necessary, before coming to a halt just past the bay, then weigh up where the lines are and how big the space is.

As with any manoeuvre, the key is to keep your speed down so you’ve got plenty of time to think, observe and keep the car on the right path. With this in mind, using your mirrors and having looked at the bay’s position, select reverse gear and slowly reverse into the bay, making sure you don’t force yourself into turning too tightly.

Dip your passenger side mirror if it helps you line the car up correctly; if you end up over the white line you’ll fail. If you do dip your mirror, don’t focus on it too much so you lose any awareness of what’s going on around you – and also don’t forget to move it back to the correct position after you’ve parked the car.

Once you’re in the bay you can’t drive out again to line everything up, so if you’re not confident that you’ll end up within the markings, do any shuffling before you’ve entered the bay. Also remember at all times to keep checking for other road users as you make your manoeuvre.

An overview of the Theory Test

What does the Driving Theory Test involve?

Before you can take your practical driving test you'll need to take your theory test. This consists of two sections; a series of multiple choice questions and a hazard perception session, on a PC. More than a third of the candidates who take their theory test fail to pass first time. Try to make sure you're not one of them, but if you are don't worry, there is no limit on how many times you can take a Theory Test, just keep in mind that the test costs £23. Also take into account the waiting times for the Theory Test could be a few weeks depending on what test centre you are using. 

You'll need to pass both the multiple choice and Hazard Perception parts of the test at the same session to pass your theory test.

How old do you need to be to take a theory test?

As long as you have a provisional licence you can book a Theory Test. So the minimum would be 17 years old, unless you receive mobility benefit which can be at 16.

Can I take my Theory Test before starting Driving Lessons?

Yes you can, there is no requirement to take any lessons before, however having some driving lessons under your belt will stand you in good stead for the Hazard Perception and help you build your knowledge around the Highway Code elements like Road Signs. That being said, you don't want to leave the Theory Test until it's late in your journey as even if you pass first time, there could be a lengthy wait for a Practical Test and therefore mean more expense on Driving Lessons to keep up to test standard.

How many times can you take the theory test?

Unlimited, just watch those costs. Also if you're learning to drive already, any delay could mean you need more lessons to keep up to test standard as you approach the Practical Test. If you fail the theory test, you can book another slot from the next day, but you'll have to wait at least three working days before you can actually take the test.

How long is the Theory Test pass valid for?

Your pass is valid for two years, during which time you'll need to pass your practical test. 

How quickly can you take your Practical Test and you pass your Theory Test?

Most test centres have a waiting list for Practical Tests, so you're realistically looking at 4-6 weeks, however this can be much longer during busy times in busy areas. You can also keep an eye out for cancellations, but the most important thing is to work with your Driving Instructor to make sure you're booking the Practical Test for when you both think you'll be ready for it.

How many times can you click on the hazard perception test?

There's an urban legend about how often you should click on each Hazard Perception clip. We've all heard stories of someone clicking every x seconds, but let's face it, the Hazard Perception test is there to help you prepare for the dangers and everyday things you'll come across when you pass your test. Our advise is to grab some study materials and work through some practice runs. Driving Lessons are also perfect practice as the Hazard Perception test is essentially a recreation of a real world driving situation. 

To prepare yourself as thoroughly as possible for your test, you'll need to stock up on some theory test aids.

See our hints & tips on how to pass your Theory Test

Make the most of your driving lessons

Driving lessons can eat up more cash than you think, so don’t waste any time you spend with your instructor. They’re highly skilled and you’re paying them to pass on as many of those skills as quickly as possible – without rushing things of course.

So when your instructor talks to you, take in what they’re saying rather than switching off and hoping you’ll just get things right somehow. To make your life easier, book your lessons for when you’re at your most alert. 

If you’re basically nocturnal, don’t book a lunchtime slot when you’re likely to be comatose

So if you’re basically nocturnal, don’t book a lunchtime slot when you’re likely to be comatose; go for an early morning slot or as late in the day as possible.

Whenever you book your lessons, try to ensure you’ve had a decent night’s sleep beforehand; partying until 4am won’t help your powers of concentration. It’s also worth grabbing some food and drink before your lesson; being distracted by hunger or thirst won’t help the learning process.

Of course you’re only one half of the equation; your instructor also has to be in good form and the two of you have to gel.

A good instructor will be clear about what they want you to do – and why. If you don’t understand anything, don’t be afraid to ask questions; you’re the customer, so if the instructor is difficult, make the position clear. Be assertive – but don’t overdo it! When you book your lessons, go for 90-minute or two-hour sessions if you can – you should get a lot more out of them.

You’ll have to concentrate that much more, but you’re probably better off having a two-hour session once a week than two one-hour lessons – you’ll have a much better opportunity to get into the rhythm.

It’s a fact

It’s not unusual to quickly pick up how a car’s controls work; what takes the time – and hence requires the most lessons – is figuring out how to use the roads. Getting to grips with other road users, junctions, roundabouts, the various types of road and all those signs is what’ll take the time.

So even if you’re a natural with a car’s controls, don’t assume you’ll be ready for your test very quickly – you might take ages to get to grips with everything else.