The Theory & Practical tests
The theory & hazard perception test
Before your child can take their practical test they must pass the theory test. Book via the official website at https://www.gov.uk/book-theory-test. There are third-party websites through which you can book, but they charge fees, while there’s no fee through the official site. However, third party websites often offer unlimited retests for free. With a pass rate of 49% for the theory test, you’ve got a one in two chance of having to retake, so you could save cash. Just check any terms and conditions.
To take the test your child will need to go to a suitable centre where they’ll be allocated a booth with a computer, along with instructions on how to use it. They will work their way through both parts of the test (multiple-choice questions then the hazard perception section) before being given the results for both tests at the end of the session. To give your learner driver the best chance of passing, encourage them to take the theory test seriously – they won’t be able to bluff their way through it.
As of 2014 it is now a requirement for candidates to be either an English or Welsh speaker. You are no longer permitted to use interpreters.
There’s a stack of aids to help your child get through their theory test. The apps here are a good start while Focus Multimedia also does some great stuff too – there’s more on this at www.drivingtestsuccess.com/. The official theory test questions aren’t published anywhere, but the DVSA does publish The Official DVSA Theory Test for Car Drivers, and a similar title for motorcyclists. These feature hundreds of official revision questions, plus case studies on every topic, along with info to help understand and remember the theory. There are loads of real-life photos and diagrams, plus links to online resources and videos where your child can learn more. Order your copy from www.tsoshop.co.uk.
Some of the best apps on the market -
· THE OFFICIAL DSA THEORY TEST KIT - Because this was created by the same people who set the theory and practical driving tests, you’re not going to find a more useful app, and at £4.99 it’s also something of a bargain.
· UK CAR DRIVING THEORY TEST - For just over half the cost of the DVSA app (£2.99) you could choose this independent effort by Webrich Software. It’s user-friendly, interactive and your child can challenge their mates for some added fun.
· DRIVING TEST SUCCESS - Practise every official revision question from the DVSA. Available on iOS, Android, Kindle, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. View the full range of apps at theorytestapp.co.uk
The practical test
What does the Practical test involve?
We’ve broken down the key things to be aware of, to make sure you can support someone going through this journey –
· The pass mark: Your child must make no more than 15 driving faults and no serious or dangerous faults, as before.
· The skills they need:
· The same things still count as faults, and the driving instructor will assess their driving in the same way as they would have in the past.
· The length of the test: Expect the practical test to take around 40 minutes.
· The cost: You’ll pay the same fee for the practical test as before – £62 on weekdays, and £75 during the evening, at weekends or on bank holidays. You’ll also likely have to pay to use your driving instructor’s car during this time and at least an hour before.
· How to book: Arrange their test online at https://www.gov.uk/book-driving-test to avoid admin fees, which might be charged by other 3rd party websites. It will only take you a few minutes.
Give yourself the best opportunity to showcase your skills and pass the test with our Practical Test Checklist -
A POSITIVE ATTITUDE - An instructor wouldn’t encourage your child to take the test if they weren’t ready, so tell them to believe in their driving abilities.
GOOD TIMEKEEPING - Allow plenty of time for your child to reach the test centre. Stress levels will go through the roof if running late.
THEIR PROVISIONAL LICENCE - How hard would you kick yourself if your child turned up without their provisional licence? Remind them to take their theory test pass certificate too.
SENSIBLE CLOTHES AND FOOTWARE - Candidates should wear comfortable clothes, and shoes which make it easy to operate the pedals safely.
BE READY TO LEARN - Just over half of practical tests end with a thumbs down from the examiner. Don’t be surprised if this happens to your child, even if they’ve been flying in lessons. They’ll be told why you have failed at the end of the test so they can do better next time.
A nervous wreck?
There’s no point in pretending your child won’t be nervous as their tests loom. But there are steps you can both take to prevent nerves taking over.
AVOID PEER PRESSURE - If having friends asking about their driving test will make your child nervous, encourage them to keep the test date to themselves.
PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE - Talk to your instructor and your child about the manoeuvres they have been practising, in particular the skills they need to improve upon. Then make time so they can practise with you in the passenger seat. Getting a manoeuvre right time after time without the safety net of dual-controls will really help their confidence.
THINK SUCCESSFUL THOUGHTS - The instructor wouldn’t put your teenager in for their test if they didn’t think they were ready. Encourage your child to remember all the times they have successfully tackled tough manoeuvres. If they’ve done these things well before, they can do them again. 5: GO EASY ON THEM - However well they are driving in lessons, your child could still fail. Make sure they understand this isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it will probably make them a better driver in the long run.
REMEMBER, WORRY MAKES IT WORSE - The trouble with worry is that it interferes with concentration. The mind focuses on what might go wrong instead of what needs to be done next. Encourage your child to block negative thoughts and give driving their full attention every time they get behind the wheel.
What changes have been introduced recently to the Practical Test?
· More independent driving: The independent driving section of the test now lasts 20 minutes rather than 10, so it’s roughly half the test. The examiner will ask your child to follow road signs to a particular destination, a series of directions, or a combination of both. It doesn’t matter if they take a wrong turn, so long as they are driving safely and legally.
· Following directions from a sat nav: During four out of five practical tests, drivers will have to follow directions from a sat nav as part of the 20 minutes of independent driving. The examiner will set up the sat nav for the driver, and they can ask the examiner for confirmation of where they are going. If a sat nav isn’t used they’ll follow traffic signs instead.
· The reversing revolution: Say goodbye to reversing around a corner or turning in the road. These no longer form part of the practical test, although driving instructors are still encouraged to teach them. The three reversing manoeuvres your child could be tested on are parallel parking at the side of the road, parking in a bay (either driving in and reversing out or reversing in and driving out), or pulling up on the right-hand side of the road before reversing for two car lengths and re-joining traffic. It’s worth practising these between lessons.
· ‘Show me’ while driving: Every test includes ‘show me, tell me’ questions as before. The difference is the ‘show me’ question (asking your child to show how they would carry out a safety task) will be asked while they are driving. They could have to show they can wash the windscreen using the car’s controls and wipers, for example.
What to do if they fail their Practical Test?
GIVE THEM HELP - If your child didn’t pass their theory test, help them come back stronger by using learning aids such as apps to improve their knowledge. If they’ve failed the practical, discuss what went wrong and help them improve on any areas of weakness.
GET THEM BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL - Failing the practical test can be a real blow to a young driver’s confidence, and they may be tempted to take a break from learning. Don’t let them take more than a few days off. They shouldn’t be allowed to get rusty, or to put off facing their nerves indefinitely. Be supportive, understanding and encouraging. It will give them a lift to know you are in their corner.
THE LONGER THEY LEARN, THE BETTER THEY WILL BECOME - Anyone who passes first time is very proud of the fact. But did you know there’s plenty of evidence that people who fail their first practical test actually go on to be better, safer drivers? That’s because the extra practice and instruction will improve their skills, and delay the moment at which they are exposed to the risks of independent driving. So failing may seem like a big deal at the time, but help your child understand that, statistically, it’s going to make them a safer driver.
BOOK THE NEXT TEST SOON - Instructors don’t set their pupils up to fail, so if they felt your child was good enough before they should be ready for a re-test. Allow time to work on weaknesses but book another test soon.