The Driving Test – What to expect

What to expect on the driving test

Based on the experience of qualified instructors, this article will explain in detail exactly what to expect on the driving test. By having a good understanding of what to expect, there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises on test day.

Day of the driving test

If you are with a driving instructor, they will usually pick you up around one hour before the test. This will give you a little time to warm up and get your driving skills up to scratch. If you are not with an instructor, take a drive around the test roads for 30 to 40 minutes to get your self accustomed to the conditions.

Ensure you take with you your provisional driving licence, this includes the plastic card and the paper counterpart. Without both of these, the examiner will terminate the driving test. Ideally, also take the test booking details. If they were emailed to you, print them out and also your theory test pass certificate.

The driving examiner will not ask to look at either of these, only your provisional driving licence, but it’s a good idea to take them just incase there are any problems.

Certain driving test centres don’t have on-site parking, some are combined with other local business addresses and may be a little difficult to get into. There may be security gates that need clearance for example, so arrive at the test centre 10 minutes early to ensure you get parked up and in the waiting room in time. Try not to arrive too early or you may be arriving as other test candidates are returning from the test. Blocking their access and generally getting in their way is not ideal. Try and find a parking position that will give you the easiest exit from the test centre. Many driving tests are failed simply leaving the test centre.

When you exit your car, before heading off to the waiting room, familiarise yourself on how to exit the test centre. Is the test centre exit obscured in anyway? Is there a pedestrian footpath before you reach the main road? Looking out for little things like this will give you a good and confident start.

Test centre waiting room

You have found yourself the best parking position to exit the test centre, familiarized yourself with the exit strategy, so it’s off to the waiting room. As with waiting for anything like this, this part seems the longest of all. Try to chat with your instructor or the person that accompanied you, so to feel less nervous. In the mean-time, get both parts of your provisional licence at hand, as the examiner will need to see these. When the examiner enters the room, they will call your name out and ask to see your provisional driving licence. They will ask you if the address details on it are correct. If they are not, they will ask you to fill out the correct details on the back and sign it. They will then ask you to read and sign a declaration that confirms you are fully insured for the vehicle you will be driving.

Then finally, the examiner will ask if you wish your instructor to accompany you on the test. It’s entirely up to you. Your instructor or the person accompanying you cannot say or persuade your driving in anyway during the test. If they do, the examiner may terminate the test. If by accompanying you, it makes you feel more at ease, then take them along. They must sit behind the driver side of the car. If you happen to be late for your test, the examiner will wait around 5 minutes for you in the waiting room. Any longer than this then the test will be cancelled and you will lose the test fee. Once all this is complete, the examiner will ask you to lead the way to the car.

The driving test eyesight test

Whilst leading the way to your car, the examiner will ask you to read a number plate off of a car of the examiners choice. This eyesight test will require you reading a new-style number plate from a distance of 20 metres or an old style plate at 20.5 metres. These number plates are likely to be further than 20 metres, so if you fail to read the first plate correctly, the examiner will ask you to read a second plate. If you fail to read this one correctly, the examiner will ask you to move forward to an appropriate distance (approximately 20 or 20.5 metres). If you fail this time, the examiner will choose a third number plates and measure the exact distance needed for that style of number plate. If at this point you fail to read the number plate correctly, the examiner will terminate the driving test and it will be marked as a fail.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses for the eyesight test, law requires that you must wear them for the actual driving test. The examiner will require you to sign a form stating that you failed to meet the minimum standards of the eyesight test and your licence will be revoked. You will need to re-apply for your provisional driving licence. See How to start learning to drive for information on how to apply for a provisional driving licence. The DSA may then inform the test centre to conduct a separate eyesight test on your second attempt.

Show Me Tell Me questions
Under the stress of test conditions, it can be easy to get these questions wrong or forget them. It’s only 1 minor if you get them wrong so forget about it and move on with the test. 


Driving test questions

Now that we have made it to your car, the examiner will require you to answer 2 driving test questions, commonly known as the ‘Show Me Tell Me’ questions and answers. There are 19 of these questions in total with around a combination of 12 questions they may ask.They are related to maintenance and safety of your car. It is obviously a good idea to read up on these and to fully understand the questions and possible answers. Don’t worry about what the combinations are, just know the answers to all 19 questions. Some of the questions are general and can relate to any car such as the legal tyre tread depth, but some are more specific to the particular car you are taking on your driving test. This type of question might be for example;

Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level.

In this case, you will need to know how the bonnet of your car opens, how to hold the bonnet in place, where the engine coolant is and what the minimum and maximum level indicator for it is.

If you do get one or even both of the questions incorrect, it will just go down as a minor. So don’t stress about it and just move on to the next part of the test.

Driving test procedure

Now the driving part of the test will begin. The type of roads taken during your test largely depend on where the test centre is situated. The examiner will require that you show a sound knowledge, regard to others and safety at such road systems as:

  • Roundabouts – These may include large, multi lane roundabouts and mini roundabouts.
  • Junctions – From small, difficult to manoeuvre junctions, to major junctions leading onto high speed roads.
  • Crossroads – Assessing your ability for making left and right turns.
  • If one-way-systems are present on the test routes then these may be implemented.

If the test centre is located in such an area, then rural country roads could be implemented in the test and also dual carriageway roads. Just because all these road types may be present close to your test centre, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will drive on them all. It is a good idea to get plenty of practice on all the road types just in case.

Driving test manoeuvres

During the test, the examiner will require that you demonstrate at least one manoeuvre. Generally, the independent part of the test had replaced one of the two manoeuvres previously required. Having said that, time permitting. the examiner may still ask you to demonstrate two manoeuvres. Possible manoeuvres are:

  • Turn in the road
  • Reverse around a corner
  • Parallel parking
  • Bay parking
Turn in the road tutorial
Reverse round a corner tutorial
Reverse parallel parking tutorial
Bay parking tutorial

Bay parking is only likely to be requested if there are bays present at the test centre. This manoeuvre will be requested at the start or the end of the test if applicable. If another test centre within appropriate range has bay parking available, it is also likely that you may drive to this test centre to perform the manoeuvre.

Generally, the turn in the road and reverse around a corner manoeuvres are the most common. Practice all of them to perfection however as this is the area of the test where the examiners are at their most lenient.

Driving test changes – independent driving

The driving test now incorporates the independent driving element. This will involve the examiner asking you to park on the left. They will then inform you that the independent part of the test is about to begin. This part of the test lasts around 10 minutes. The examiner will show you a basic diagram or map that they would like you to follow.

Independent driving map

For example, in relation to the map above, the examiner will point out where we are, which is the arrow at the bottom of the map. They will then say something similar to: “I would like you to move off and at the end of the road I’d like you to turn left. At the end of that road I would like you to turn right. At the roundabout, I would like you to turn right, third exit.” They will then ask you if you understand and if you would like it repeated.

The independent part of the test isn’t to test your ability at navigation, it is about you following road signs safely. If you forget where you are supposed to go, simply ask the examiner to repeat, they will then have to. If you take a wrong turn, it doesn’t matter providing you do it safely. If you get really muddled and confused as to where you are going, the examiner will simply give you directions to put you back on course.

Emergency stop

There is around a 1 in 3 possibility of the examiner asking you to demonstrate the emergency stop procedure. The examiner will ask you to park up and will then explain that he wants you to demonstrate the emergency stop. They will explain clearly what the command is for you to stop. The examiner will ensure that it is safe for you to perform this procedure.

At the end of the driving test

Once you have stopped, secured the car and turned the engine off at the test centre, the examiner will inform you if you have passed or failed the driving test. They will produce a test report and call your instructor over if they didn’t go with you on the test. The examiner will describe to you and your instructor any errors you made and if applicable, why you failed.

If you passed, the examiner will provide you with a test pass certificate that will entitle you to drive immediately. They will also ask if you would like to have them send you your new licence. If so, they will require that you hand them your provisional licence as it is no longer valid. If you attended the test with a driving instructor, the instructor will usually drive you back home. The driving test will last for around 40 minutes.