Practical Test

The Practical Driving Test is not designed to be difficult. Most people who pass the test will tell you it was simple, straightforward and fair.

That’s because it is.

They will also say ‘I thought I’d failed’ (or at least that’s what they usually say to me after they’ve passed) because the standard you will be tested to is not incredibly high. All the driving test examiner is interested in is whether or not you are safe to go on learning on your own. They don’t expect you to be the perfect driver, just to be reasonably safe and aware of what is going on around you.

There are no tricks or traps so if you keep your nerves under control and can drive to the required standard there is no reason why you shouldn’t pass.

If you want to you can drive barefoot on your test and you can also have the radio on to calm you down as long as it is quiet enough not to interfere with the Examiner’s directions. If you want to open a window, reset the mirrors to help with a manoeuvre or write ‘L’ and ‘R’ on your hands to help you decide where left and right are that’s fine too.

The Driving Test Examiner.

Driving test examiners are trained to carry out the test fairly and objectively. They are interested in the standard of your driving and nothing else. In all my years of teaching people to drive I’ve never once seen a case where a driving test examiner has made up a fault so the result of your test depends solely on what you do on the day.

They may stare at you as you drive and especially when you arrive at a junction or are carrying out a reversing manoeuvre. Get used to the idea because that is what they are trained to do. They are checking that you look properly before you move and that you carry on looking as you complete the junction or manoeuvre.  Some people find that having the examiner stare at them is unnerving but try to view it as a good thing, if you see them staring at you it means that they have seen you using your mirrors and looking around.

Examiners need to make the directions they give as standard as possible. They are often tested on the way they conduct the test and need to be aware that for some test candidates, English may not be their first language. For this reason and because they want the test to be as consistent as possible their directions will tend to be clear, easy to understand and given in plenty of time. If what they say to you sounds a bit like a script it’s because they may be conducting as many as seven tests a day so try not to be put off if it all seems a bit formal sometimes.

Some examiners are quiet and some like a chat. If they ask you questions it will be something like ‘What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this today’? If they do chat to you it will be when you are on a long, straight stretch of road or when you are stopped at traffic lights for a while so that they don’t distract you. Remember that YOU are the driver so don’t wait for the Examiner to tell you to put the wipers on if it’s raining or set the demister controls if the windows mist up, just do it.


Faults will be marked according to how serious they are.

A driving (or ‘minor’ ) fault will be given for something that may not be good driving but isn’t serious enough to fail the whole of the test. You are allowed 15 of these before you would fail so don’t worry if you think you’ve made a mistake, try to correct it if you can but if you can’t, still try to carry on and do your best.

A serious or dangerous fault would mean a fail.

A ‘Serious’ fault will be something that might possibly cause an accident or cause problems for other road users and a ‘Dangerous’ fault will be given for something that could have caused an accident because there was actual danger to your own vehicle or another road user. The fault could be the same in each case but could be given as a ‘Driving’,  ‘Serious’ or ‘Dangerous’ depending on the circumstances. A stall for instance would usually be a minor fault provided that you correct it and carry on without too much fuss. Sometimes it may not even be marked. Rolling back after a stall might result in a minor, serious or dangerous fault depending on how far back you go and whether or not there was another car behind you.

Let the examiner worry about all that. Keep going on your test and do your best EVEN IF you are convinced you’ve failed. The examiners are not incredibly strict and you may be doing better than you thought you were.

AND DON’T LOOK DOWN AT THE MARKING SHEET! You’ll find out the result soon enough.

The Test.

The examiner will check your licence, ask you to sign a form and then ask you to lead the way out to the car. On the way they will ask you to read the number plate of a parked car. If you can do that OK then you will be asked a couple of ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ questions about the car you will be taking your test in. Take a look at the videos here and on Youtube and especially at the ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ page on this website for pictures relating to the car you are learning in.

They may also ask you if you want your instructor to come along with you on the test. It’s your decision. I don’t generally accompany tests unless my pupil especially wants me to ride along because I feel that the last thing my pupil would need on test is to see my head in the rear view mirror every time they make a mirror check. It’s also very difficult for me to see anything useful from the rear seat since I can’t see mirror checks, the speedometer or how the pedals are being used as well as not having a rear view mirror to see what’s behind.


Interested in the history of the Driving Test?  Click on the link below;

History of the Driving Test


The examiner will make a brief check of the car and then sit in with you and explain what they want you to do next. Sometimes another examiner will sit in on the test. This could be a senior examiner checking that the test is carried out fairly and consistently or it could be a new examiner learning the routes. Either way, they will take no part in the test and will be as unobtrusive as possible while you drive.

On your test you will be asked to pull in and instructed to complete one manoeuvre chosen from; Bay Park, Left Reverse, Turn In The Road and Parallel Park. As a separate exercise you may also be asked to do an Emergency Stop Exercise ( done on 1 in 3 of all tests).

There will be a short section of ‘Independent Driving’ where the examiner will ask you to pull in by the side of the road and give you a series of directions which they will want you to repeat back to them. When they ask you to drive on then all you have to do is follow those directions. If you aren’t sure or forget which way to go then you can ask the examiner. It’s a test of whether or not you can drive not what you can remember. Because I often ask people to drive without any help from me on lessons my learner drivers are telling me that it’s the easiest part of the test.


Take a look at the rest of the video material on the DSA Youtube channel. There are videos about the Theory and Practical Tests as well as about Independent Driving and Pass Plus course for when you’ve passed your test.