Frequently Asked Questions About the Practical Driving Test
The practical driving test is designed to see if you:
- can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions
- know the Highway Code and can show this through your driving ability
As long as you show the standard required, you’ll pass your driving test.
There’s no minimum number of lessons you must have or hours you must practice driving before you take your test. There are no pass or fail quotas.
You’ll need to have passed your driving theory test before taking your practical test.
Documents You Must Take to the Test Centre
You must bring:
- your theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) if you’re not exempt from taking the theory test
- both parts of your driving licence – the photocard and the paper counterpart
You must take your signed driving licence and a valid passport if you have an old-style paper licence.
Your test will be cancelled and you’ll lose your fee if you don’t bring the right documents.
Lost driving licence
You’ll need to apply for a replacement driving licence if you lose yours. This could take up to 15 days.
You may have to rearrange your test if this happens.
Lost theory test certificate
Contact the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) with your name and driving licence number as soon as possible. DSA doesn’t issue replacement certificates, but will send you a letter containing your certificate number.
DSA – theory test enquiries
Telephone: 0300 200 1122 (English), 0300 200 1133 (Welsh) Textphone: 0300 200 1166
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm
What Happens During the Practical Driving Test?
Before you start the driving ability part of your test, you’ll have an eyesight check and be asked 2 vehicle safety questions.
You’ll have to read a number plate from a distance of:
- 20 metres for vehicles with a new-style number plate
- 20.5 metres for vehicles with an old-style number plate
You can write down what you see if you can’t speak English or have difficulty reading.
New-style number plates start with 2 letters followed by 2 numbers, eg AB51 ABC.
You’ll fail your driving test and the test won’t continue if you can’t pass the eyesight test.
Vehicle safety questions: ‘show me, tell me’
You’ll be asked 2 vehicle safety questions. These are also known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
The examiner will ask you one ‘show me’ question, where you’ll have to show them how you’d carry out a vehicle safety check.
You’ll also be asked one ‘tell me’ question, where you’ll have to explain to the examiner how you’d carry out the check.
The driving ability part
The driving part of your test will last about 40 minutes. Throughout the test your examiner will be looking for an overall safe standard of driving.
If you’re taking an extended test pass because of a driving disqualification, the test will last 70 minutes.
Your general driving ability
During your test the examiner will give you directions that you should follow. You’ll drive in various road and traffic conditions. You should drive in the way your instructor has trained you.
It should include:
- normal stops
- an angle start (pulling out from behind a parked vehicle)
- a hill start
You might also be asked to carry out an emergency stop.
Reversing your vehicle safely
You’ll have to show how well you can reverse your vehicle. The examiner will ask you to do one of the following exercises:
- reversing around a corner
- turning in the road
- reverse parking – either into a parking bay, or parallel parking at the side of the road
Independent driving section
Your driving test will include around 10 minutes of independent driving. It’s designed to assess your ability to drive safely while making decisions on your own.
If you make mistakes
Carry on if you make a mistake, because if it’s not a serious mistake it might not affect your result.
Your examiner will stop your test if they think your driving is a danger to other road users.
Taking someone with you
Your examiner will ask if you want your instructor, or another person, to:
- sit in the back of your car during your driving test
- be with you after the test for the result and feedback
This person will usually be your driving instructor, but it could also be a relative or friend.
They must be over 16 and can’t take any part in the test.
The examiner’s supervisor
The examiner’s supervisor may come along as well. They will be watching the examiner’s performance, not yours. The supervisor won’t have any say in how you’re tested or in your result.
Your test might be cancelled and you could lose your fee if you don’t let the examiner’s supervisor go with you.
Independent Driving in the Practical Driving Test
Find out what independent driving is and how you’ll be assessed during your test.
Your practical driving test will include around 10 minutes of independent driving. It’s not a test of your orientation and navigation skills.
How the test works
During your test you’ll have to drive independently by either following:
- traffic signs
- a series of directions
- a combination of both
To help you understand where you’re going when following verbal directions, the examiner can show you a diagram.
You can’t use sat nav because the independent driving section tests how you make your own decisions.
Forgetting the directions
It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember every direction, or if you go the wrong way.
Driving independently means making your own decisions – this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation about where you’re going.
The examiner will confirm the directions to you if you ask for a reminder of them.
Going off the independent driving route
It won’t affect the result of your test if you go off the independent driving route, unless you make a driving fault.
The examiner will help you get back on the route if you go off it or take a wrong turning. You can then continue with the independent driving.
Poor traffic signs
The examiner will give you directions until you can see the next traffic sign if there are poor or obscured traffic signs. You won’t need to have a detailed knowledge of the area.