Helping L Drivers

The Practical Driving Test

Practical test

Booking a Driving Test

When the driving instructor judges that the learner driver is ready and has enough experience, they will recommend booking a test. Don't be tempted to book a test too soon; the learner needs to be able to perform consistently in a wide range of road and traffic situations.

The practical car driving test can be booked online at the link above or by calling DVSA booking support on 0300 200 1122. Candidates with special needs should declare this when booking, so that appropriate arrangements can be made, if possible, to help them during the test.

To book your test you will need your driving licence number and your Theory Test Pass Certificate number (and your driving instructor’s personal reference number if you want to check they’re available). To book online

Do not use an unofficial website to book your Theory Test, as you may pay more than necessary, and your test might not even be booked.

On the day of the test, the candidate must take their photocard driving licence and their theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) with them. If they only have an old-style paper licence, they must take their signed driving licence and a valid passport. If they do not take these documents, they will not be able to take the test and will lose their fee.

The Driving Test Changed on 4 December 2017 - details here

On the Test Day 

On the day of the test, the candidate must take their photocard driving licence and their theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) with them. If they only have an old-style paper licence, they must take their signed driving licence and a valid passport. If they do not take these documents, they will not be able to take the test and will lose their fee.

The practical driving test takes place on public roads in typical road and traffic conditions and lasts about 40 minutes. It is designed to see if the candidate can drive safely, knows the Highway Code and can demonstrate this through their driving. During the test the examiner will be looking for an overall safe standard of driving in various road and traffic conditions. This will include normal stops, an angle start (pulling out from behind a parked vehicle) and a hill start.

The examiner will ask the candidate if they want their instructor, or another person, to sit in the back of the car during the test and/or be with them for the result and feedback. They must be over 16 years old and cannot take any part in the test.

The test begins with an eyesight test (if the candidate fails, the test will not continue). In good daylight, drivers must be able to read a vehicle number plate, made after 1 September 2001, from 20 metres. If the learner needs glasses or contact lenses to read the number plate, they must wear them whenever they drive.

All drivers must meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving.

The practical driving test takes place on public roads in typical road and traffic conditions and lasts about 40 minutes. It is designed to see if the candidate can drive safely, knows the Highway Code and can demonstrate this through their driving.

Vehicle safety questions: 'show me, tell me'

Safety check

The examiner will ask two vehicle safety questions during the driving test, known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions. At the start of the, before the candidate starts driving, the examiner will ask the candidate to explain how they would carry out a safety task (this is a ‘tell me’ question). While the candidate is driving, the examiner will ask them to show how they would carry out a safety task while driving, such as wash the windscreen using the car controls and wipers (this is a ‘show me’ question). For further details, see the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.

During the Test

The examiner will give directions that the candidate should follow. The test will include:

  • Pulling over at and away from the side of the road
  • normal stops at the side of the road
  • pulling out from behind a parked vehicle
  • a hill start
  • and possibly, an emergency stop.

The candidate will be asked to do one of three possible reversing manoeuvres: 

  • parallel park at the side of the road
  • park in a bay, either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out. The examiner will tell you which you have to do.
  • pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and rejoin the traffic.

'Independent Driving'  

The driving test now includes about 20 minutes of 'independent driving' (roughly half the test), during which the candidate has to drive without turn-by-turn directions from the examiner. During this part of the test, most candidates will be asked to follow directions from a sat nav which the examiner will provide and set up. Candidates cannot use own sat nav, but must use the one supplied by the examiner, who will also set the route. The candidate can ask the examiner for confirmation about the route if they are not sure, and they will not be given a fault mark if thy go the wrong way, unless they make a fault while doing it.

One in five driving tests will not use a sat nav; the candidate will have to follow traffic signs instead.

More details about the independent driving section of the test can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/car-show-me-tell-me-vehicle-safety-questions/car-show-me-tell-me-vehicle-safety-questions.

Driving Test Faults

There are three types of faults that can be marked in the test:

  • A dangerous fault - involves actual danger to driver, the examiner, the public or property
  • A serious fault - could potentially be dangerous
  • A driving fault - not potentially dangerous, but if the same fault is made throughout the test it could become a serious fault

Candidates can make up to 15 driving faults and still pass the test - but over 15 faults will result in the test being failed. If one serious fault or one dangerous fault is committed, the candidate fails the test.

At the end of the test, the examiner will tell the candidate whether they have passed and explain how they did during the test. They will also give feedback about the eco-efficiency of their driving. The candidate's instructor can listen to this if they wish.

If the candidate has passed the test, the examiner will give them a pass certificate, and ask if they want their full licence to be sent to them automatically. They can start driving straight away, without waiting for their licence to arrive. If the candidate has not passed, they must wait another 10 working days before they can take another test.

After Passing the Driving Test

Passing the driving test is just the first step in a driver's career. This is when the new driver faces their greatest risk, especially during their first year of driving. There is much that you can do to help your new driver stay safe on the roads - visit the After the Test section to find out more.