1. Overview

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.

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) have merged to form the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

2. Documents to bring to your test

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 being 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 Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) with your name and driving licence number as soon as possible. DVSA doesn’t issue replacement certificates, but will send you a letter containing your certificate number.

DVSA - theory test enquiries
Telephone: 0300 200 1122 (English)
Telephone: 0300 200 1133 (Welsh)
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm
Find out about call charges

3. What happens during the test

Before you start the driving ability part of your test, you’ll have an eyesight check and be asked 2 vehicle safety questions.

Eyesight check

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.

4. Independent driving section of the 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

Your test result won’t be affected 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.

5. Your driving test result

You’ll pass your test if you make:

  • 15 or fewer driving faults
  • no serious or dangerous faults

When the driving test has ended, you can call your instructor over if they didn’t go with you on your test. This is so they can listen to the result and help you with any feedback afterwards.

The examiner will:

  • tell you if you passed or not
  • explain how you did during the test

The different types of faults

There are 3 types of faults that can be marked:

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

If you pass your test

The examiner will give you a pass certificate if you pass the test. They will also ask you if you want your full licence to be sent to you automatically.

Once you have passed your test you can start driving straight away - you don’t need to wait for your full licence to arrive.

If you don’t pass

You have to wait another 10 working days before you can take another test if you don’t pass. Working days don’t include Sundays and public holidays.

Feedback on how eco-efficient your driving is

The examiner will also give you feedback about how eco-efficient your driving is.

6. Special needs

When you book your practical driving test you should say if you have any special needs or disabilities.

There are a number of facilities to help. You still take the same driving test as everyone else, no matter how serious your disability is.

You can’t take a foreign language interpreter with you on your driving test. You have to take the test in English, Welsh, or British Sign Language.

Booking your practical driving test

When you book your test you’ll be asked if you’ll be bringing a sign language interpreter with you.

You’ll also be asked if you have:

  • any condition which affects your movement
  • any missing limbs
  • any special learning needs
  • arthritis
  • dyslexia
  • epilepsy
  • paraplegia
  • any other special needs

You’ll also be asked if you’re:

  • deaf - either profoundly or not
  • heavily pregnant

Getting more time to take your test

More time might be allowed for your test if you have certain special needs. It will give the examiner time to talk to you about your disability and any adaptations fitted to your vehicle.

Hearing difficulties

The examiner will tell you what will happen by using written notes at the start of the test if you are deaf or have hearing difficulties. They will also look at you to help you lip read what they are saying if you find that helpful.

The examiner will usually give directions to you as hand signals. These will be explained and shown to you using written cards before your test starts.

Using a sign language interpreter

You can bring your own interpreter for your practical driving test if you use sign language.

They must be at least 16 years old. Your approved driving instructor can be your interpreter.

You will need to arrange your own interpreter and pay any fees that they charge.

If you’re pregnant

You can take a driving test at any stage of your pregnancy. However, you must be able and willing to do an emergency stop.

Taking the eyesight test if you have reading difficulties

At the start of the practical driving test, you will have an eyesight test. The examiner will ask you to read the number plate on a parked vehicle.

You can write down what you see on the number plate if you have learning difficulties or do not speak English.

The independent driving section of the test

Your examiner will know what kinds of reasonable adjustments to make for the independent driving part of your test if you said you have special needs when you booked your test.

They might ask if you would prefer to follow traffic signs.

You might be able to choose to follow a set of directions, supported by a diagram. In this case there will normally be a maximum of 3 directions, although in some cases this can be just 2.

7. Cancelled or stopped tests and bad weather

Sometimes the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has to cancel or stop driving tests because of bad weather, vehicle problems or other reasons.

DVSA will email you if your driving test is cancelled.

Your test will usually be automatically rebooked for you at no further cost if it’s cancelled by DVSA.

Bad weather

Practical driving tests aren’t held in dangerous weather conditions, for example when the roads are icy or if there is flooding, high winds or thick fog.

Call your test centre if there is snow or ice in your local area on the day of your test.

When to phone your test centre

You should call the test centre:

  • as soon as you can on the day of your test if it’s booked for early in the morning
  • later in the morning if your test is in the afternoon

No answer from the test centre

If nobody answers the phone, and the conditions in your area aren’t looking too bad, it’s likely that the driving examiners are:

  • checking the local roads to see if driving tests can go ahead
  • taking driving tests because the conditions are suitable

However, this isn’t a guarantee that your test will go ahead.

Call the test centre again or go there in time for your test.

If your test can’t go ahead

A new appointment date will usually be sent to you within 3 working days. This could take up to 7 days when the bad weather goes on for longer.

You won’t be able to claim for any out-of-pocket expenses.

Waiting times for a practical driving test

As well as causing cancellations, bad weather can sometimes lead to longer waiting times for practical test appointments.

Tests cancelled by DVSA for other reasons

You might be able to apply for a refund of out-of-pocket expenses if DVSA cancels your test at short notice.

Problems with you or your vehicle

You’ll have to take another test at your own cost if your test can’t be completed because of a problem with:

  • you - for example, if you feel unwell while taking your test
  • your vehicle - for example, if it breaks down during the test or is not suitable for the test

8. Candidate impersonation

It’s illegal to impersonate someone (pretend to be them) and take the practical driving test for them.

Impersonators and people who use their services have been convicted in the criminal courts and given prison sentences.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) investigates every case of suspected impersonation and works closely with the police to take offenders to court.

Report an impersonator

Report someone offering to impersonate you for your test to DVSA.

DVSA integrity team
0115 936 6051
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm