Learning to drive is like learning any new skill: it takes time, effort, and patience. On this page you can find out exactly what the UK Category B (GOV.UK) 🗗 Practical Driving Test involves, with a bunch of tips and extras to help you pass driving test first time. Don’t rush it, enjoy it, and good luck!
The UK Driving Test is a test of your driving ability. Essentially, you need to persuade the examiner that you’re a safe, competent driver, who is worthy to drive on the UK roads and deserves a licence.
The test is around 40 minutes, and has 5 parts to it:
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
If you fail the eyesight check, the test will not continue and you will fail.
'Show Me, Tell Me' Vehicle Safety Questions
General Driving Ability
There are 3 types of faults you can make:
If you pass your test, the examiner will tell you what faults you made (if any), give you a pass certificate, and ask you if you want your full licence to be sent to you automatically. If you want it to be sent automatically, it’s at this point you’ll say your goodbyes to your provisional licence, and hand it over to the examiner! Alternatively, if you don’t want it to be sent automatically, you’ll be able to keep a hold of this licence and you have 2 years from that day to apply for your full driving licence (GOV.UK) 🗗.
Contact DVLA (GOV.UK) 🗗 if your full licence hasn’t arrived 3 weeks after you applied for it.
You can start driving as soon as you've passed your test - you don't need to wait for your Full UK Licence to arrive.
Don't quite have the drive to start learning? Click here to read how you can increase your motivation to do anything - including learning how to drive!
So, do you need an instructor?
Willing relatives or friends are often good candidates to help you learn to drive, and while this can help increase your driving time and seem like a cost-effective option at first, bare in mind a few things…
According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), it takes most people 45 hours of professional lessons to learn how to drive, plus 22 hours of practicing.
Firstly, your friends/relatives car most likely does not have dual controls, so isn’t as safe to learn in. If you make a mistake, there’s no-one else who can stop the car other than you.
Secondly, they aren’t trained further in driving or teaching, and may not be up-to-date with test procedures. Can they teach you exactly what certain road signs, on-road situations, and test requirements you need to know? If not, you may suffer further down the line. For this reason, relying solely on friends and relatives to help you learn how to drive rarely leads to a 1st time pass.
Thirdly, you have to consider the posibility of having to spend more time, energy, and money on a re-test if you aren’t successful the 1st time. But, perhaps even more significantly, you’ll have to spend more time, energy, and money on more lessons from a qualified Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) who has to break your bad habits you’ve likely developed (and are the reason why you failed the test) from not learning from an actual instructor… and once bad habits are formed, they’re very hard to break!
Learning with a qualified instructor on the other hand, you will benefit from:
Maybe you'd like to
Watch some driving videos?
Book a lesson with an Approved Driving Instructor?
Check your mirrors (obviously!)
Believe it or not, the examiner has a bit of a difficult job to do. Not only must they assess the driving ability of the driver (and test candidate), they also need to be looking ahead and around the vehicle. It’s therefore fair to say they can’t have their eyes on your eyes. the whole time. To make it easier for them, make your mirror checks obvious by turning your head! They’ll know you’re checking your mirrors and keeping both of you nice and safe.
Look for learning opportunities
This one’s more for when you’re newer to driving, however may still prove useful in later stages as long as the person you’re watching is a good driver themselves!
As a passenger put yourself, figuratively at least, in the driving seat. At junctions or roundabouts run through your mirror, signal manoeuvre steps just as you would do during a driving test. Take note of when the person driving is braking. Do you feel like they’re braking early enough? What gear are they in and when are they changing it? Are they checking the most appropriate mirror/glancing over their shoulder before changing direction? Are they reacting to hazards efficiently on roads with a lot going on (other cars, pedestrians, zebra crossings, cyclists) by noticing them early, and dealing with them appropriately? Are they giving enough clearance between the left side of your car, and parked cars on the left?
The more you do these types of exercises, the more self-aware you will become of your own driving, thus meaning you can not only identify your own weaknesses, but then do something about them!
These are all things which an instructor will be able to help you with. However, you can just research it yourself aswell! Then, when you get a safe and legal chance to drive a car (either with an instructor, or a friend or relative), you can create goals for yourself e.g. “I’m going to move, stop, and steer the car in first gear and stop safely without stalling five times in a row”. Or “for twenty minutes I’m going to drive with good clearance on the left, and be prepared to give way to oncoming vehicles – especially if it’s their right of way”.
Talk to the examiner
Are you feeling worried about being “watched” by an examiner, or like the environment in the car will be hostile and uncomfortable? Try and make chit-chat!
Yes, the examiner will be watching how you drive, but feel free to engage in light conversation with the examiner. As long as you don’t get distracted from driving, it’ll feel more like a casual drive, build rapport which is only a good thing, and prevent you from overthinking your actions in the silence – all of which will help you drive better!
You need fuel as much as your car. By ensuring you are hydrated and nourished will, in turn, help to energise you, ensuring optimal levels of concentration and performance. If you like bananas, have 1 or 2 before your test as they are high in potassium which has calming effects on your mind and body.
Maximise your efficiency
The 'Fast Lane' Myth
Sure it’s a “test”, but don’t even think of it as a “test”. Think of it as someone else (as opposed to your driving instructor) coming along as a passenger in your car to watch you drive for 40 minutes. Your job is to drive as safely and competently as you can (like you hopefully normally do anyway!), in an attempt to persuade the examiner that you’re a competent and safe enough driver to deserve a Full Licence.
Drive in the test area beforehand
By the time you take your test, you should fairly confident about driving almost anywhere in the UK. With that said, would you rather take your test on roads you’ve never seen before, or would you rather feel a little comfortable and be somewhat familiar with the most popular test routes for that area? An instructor will be able to show you the areas which are most commonly visited in tests for that specific centre.
The 'Fast Lane' Myth
Doing a mock test or two with your instructor will give you an insight as to how the test will feel like, what it involves, and the level to which the marking is given. If you can pass a mock test, you will have a higher chance of passing the real one 1st time!
There are no wrong turnings
On this test you’re being marked your ability to drive safely and competently. However, perhaps strangely, you will not get marked down for taking a wrong turning, at any point in your test. If you realise you’re in the wrong lane to take a certain turning, or it’s simply not safe/possible to go where the examiner or satnav is asking you to go, take any alternative route and listen for more directions. It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you’re doing it safely and properly!
Have regular lessons with a professional instructor
An instructor will teach you how to drive safe for life, and how to pass your test. Having this knowledge and assistance at regular intervals, helps keep you on-track and get it done! Having lessons for instance at the same time every week gives you a chance to reflect in between, then come back and improve every single time. When the goal is set, plans can be made, which leads to success.
Read our page 'How to Learn Anything'
Become a superhuman
If you make an early mistake, don't assume you've failed
You’ll be surprised at the amount of times a candidate thinks they’ve messed up their test early on, only to find out at the end that they failed for something which happened after the incident! Almost every time this happens, the leaner made the subsequent mistakes because they were stuck in their head, overthinking their mistake, and giving up hope… and it was either just a minor fault (which you’re allowed 15 of!), or not a problem altogether!
So, moral of the story: always drive your best and never give up. You’ll surprise yourself.
Pulling up on the left exceptions
During your test, your examiner will ask to you pull up somewhere on the left at least three times. This is to ensure you’re picking somewhere safe, legal, and convenient every time, and that you can move away safely.
Because the UK is a busy place, sometimes the “good” places to pull up on the left are few and far between. So sometimes, the examiner might say something like “pull up on the left, you can ignore the driveway on this occasion”. If they say that, only pretend the driveway isn’t there for that one occasion! Every other location you choose to pull up should be safe, legal, and convenient.
Just because the examiner writes, it doesn't mean you're wrong
If your examiner is marking something on their tablet, don’t get paranoid it’s because you’re doing badly! They might just be marking off one of the mandatory pull up on the lefts they have to ask you to do, or something else entirely!