UK driving tests — what you need to know
An Overview of UK Driving Tests
Passing your driving test is one of the most exciting moments in your motoring career - the freedom and independence! Before you get that shiny new driving license though, there’s the not-so-small matter of your driving test to pass.
It can be an overwhelming prospect, regardless of whether you’re a confident learner or just plucking up the courage to book your lessons. Knowing what to expect will allow you to prepare better, so allow us to guide you through what you need to know about UK driving tests…
How can you prepare for a driving test?
Before you tackle the practical element of your test, you’ll need to have had enough lessons (either with a professional or a trusted friend or family member that possesses a full license), and you’ll need to have passed your driving theory test.
When can you get a provisional license?
You’re able to apply for a provisional license at the age of 15, although it’s only valid when you turn 16. When you’re aged 17, you’re able to begin learning to drive.
What is your driving theory test for?
A driving theory test is based on your knowledge of the road and how you direct your attention, testing your hazard perception and reactions. A theory test on its own is not enough to legally be able to drive, but without it, you cannot take your practical driving test.
How many driving lessons should you have?
There isn’t a stipulation as to how many lessons, or hours of lessons, you need to have under your belt before you’re able to take both your theory and your practical test. However, it makes sense to be as prepared as possible, and on average in the UK, learner drivers need 20 hours of practice and 45 hours of driving lessons in order to successfully pass.
Of course, everyone learns at a different pace, and many will find that they’ll rack up more or fewer hours than that before they feel ready to head to the test centre - everyone is different.
How are driving tests structured?
When you turn up to your driving test (ideally on time, having left yourself plenty of breathing space and possibly some time for a lesson beforehand too), you’ll need to show the test centre your provisional driving license, and your test theory pass certificate. Don’t forget them!
Next, you’ll head to the car you’re using for your test with the examiner - this is usually the car you’ve learned to drive in. This is usually your instructor’s car but if your own car meets the criteria, you can use that.
What are the 5 parts of a driving test?
UK driving tests are split into five parts. They are as follows:
1. An eyesight test
The first thing the examiner tests is your eyesight, as you should be able to see clearly on the roads. They’ll ask you to read a number plate from 20 metres away for vehicles with a new-style number plate. For the old-style number plates, this changes slightly to 20.5 metres.
If you’re unable to tell the examiner what the number plates are, your test will need to end; you’re unable to go any further.
2. Show me, tell me
Before any driving starts, the examiner will ask you a question that requires you to ‘tell’ them the answer. Then, once you’re off and driving, the examiner will ask you to ‘show’ them something. This is usually something like showing them how a certain control works within the car.
3. Your driving ability
This is the bit you’ve spent all those hours preparing for; the actual driving element! The examiner will direct you on a route that takes in different road conditions, in order to assess your general driving competence. There is the exception of motorway driving; whilst a big bit of everyday driving for some, you’ll not be asked to drive on a motorway as part of your test.
Driving tasks you may be asked to do could include stopping at the side of the road, pulling out from behind a parked car, and driving off from being parked on a hill. You could be asked to do an emergency stop too.
4. Reversing your car
You won’t be able to pass your test without doing some reversing; this could be in the form of a parallel park, reversing around a corner, or reversing on the right side of the road for approximately 2 car lengths, then rejoining traffic.
5. Independent driving
While the examiner will direct you for some of the test, there will be a 20 minute period in which you will be expected to drive independently. This is so that your ability to follow road signs or a sat nav can be assessed, although you won’t be marked down for taking a wrong turn.
What’s the difference between a major and a minor fault on a driving test?
You can pass your test with up to 15 minor faults. Minor faults are mistakes, but they’re not considered serious. A major fault, however, is a mistake that’s considered serious, or even dangerous - only one of these is required for you to fail.
How much are driving tests?
For those learning to drive a car, a theory test will cost you £23. The practical driving test costs £62.
How long does a driving test take?
A driving test will usually take around 40 minutes to complete - that’s driving time, not inclusive of the admin on either side.
What happens if you pass your driving test?
If you pass your test, you’ll be informed at the end when you finish driving and you’re parked up - you’ll receive your pass certificate there and then too! You can technically start driving straight away - your driving license can be received automatically, but you don’t have to wait for it to arrive before you can start driving.
You do have to be taxed and insured on the vehicle you’re driving, so don’t get ahead of yourself and start driving before this has been sorted.
What happens if you fail your driving test?
As crushing as it can feel, lots of people fail their driving test, and you should try not to feel too disheartened. The examiner will wait until the end of the test to inform you, regardless of when the offending faults took place. You can book another test, as long as it takes place at least 10 days after the one that you failed. You’ll need to pay for it again at the point of booking too.
If you think that your examiner didn’t abide by the law, and you can prove it, you can appeal your driving test failure.
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