The Practical Driving Test


Once the theory test has been passed, the next stage is the practical driving test. Before the test begins the examiner will conduct an eyesight test which must be passed in order for the test to proceed.

Unless you are converting a foreign license, it is necessary to have passed both components of the theory test before sitting this exam.


The practical driving test is taken on the road, with a professionally trained DSA examiner directing the candidate around a pre-determined route.

The examiner marks the candidate for driving faults, serious faults, and dangerous faults. A candidate will fail the test if he or she accumulates any serious or dangerous faults, or more than fifteen driving faults. If a candidate accumulates several driving faults in the same category, the examiner may consider the fault habitual and mark a serious fault in that category.

The test usually lasts 38 to 40 minutes in a standard test, or approximately 70 minutes when the candidate is taking an extended test after having had their licence revoked.


Before getting to the car, the examiner will ask the candidate to read a car's number plate at a distance. The distance required is 20.5 metres for an old-style plate (A123 ABC) and 20 metres for a new style plate (AB51 ABC).[12] If the candidate needs glasses to do this then these must be the ones worn whilst completing the rest of the test.

If the candidate fails to read the first number plate correctly, then the examiner asks the candidate to read a second number plate. If the candidate cannot correctly read the second number plate, then the examiner must use a tape measure to measure the correct distance between the candidate and a third number plate.

If the candidate cannot read the third number plate, then the candidate is deemed to have failed and the test will not continue.


Before the candidate is taken out onto the road, the examiner asks two questions about car maintenance and safety. These are phrased in the form "Show me..." and "Tell me..."; as such, this component of the test is often known as "Show me, tell me". For example:

Show me how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.

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

A failure to answer one or both of these questions correctly would result in a driving fault being marked against the candidate. The questions that may be asked are changed from time to time. 


The controlled stop, more commonly referred to as the "emergency stop", is an exercise which determines the ability of the candidate to stop the vehicle promptly yet under control during a simulated emergency.

The simulation is performed by the examiner raising his or her hand and saying, "STOP!". The exercise should be carried out on approximately one out of every three tests, but must be carried out on every extended test. During dangerous weather conditions, such as rain and snow, this test can be left out for safety reasons.


During the test, the examiner will ask the candidate to carry out one manoeuvre from the following list:

"Turn the vehicle to face the opposite way, using forward and reverse gears". This is colloquially known as a "3 point turn", although more than 3 positions may be used.

Reverse around a corner

Reverse park into a space either parallel (on road), oblique or right-angle (in a marked bay in an off-road car park)

Manoeuvres are selected at random by the examiner depending on the route chosen and conditions on route.


Generally, the candidate must demonstrate an ability to drive in various road and traffic conditions  and react appropriately in actual risk situations. The conditions typically encountered on test include driving in urban areas as well as higher speed limit roads where possible; this includes dual carriageways but not motorways as motorways in Britain can only be used by full licence holders.

The object of the test is to ensure that the candidate is well grounded in the basic principles of safe driving, and is sufficiently practised in them to be able to show, at the time of the test, that they are a competent and considerate driver and are not a source of danger to themselves or to other road users.

The drive will include two or three normal stops at (and moving away from) the side of the road on level roads as well as on gradients, in addition to a demonstration of moving away from behind a stationary vehicle. The regulations state that the on-road driving time must be no less than 30 minutes.

If at any point during the test, the examiner has to intervene with any controls, this will usually result in failure and could be marked on the test report as a dangerous fault.


The practical driving test includes a 10 minute section of ‘independent driving’. 

During the independent driving section, candidates have to drive by either following:

a series of directions,traffic signs ora combination of both
To help candidates understand where they are to go, the examiner may show them a route diagram. It does not matter if candidates do not remember every direction, nor if they deviate from the intended route unless they commit a driving fault.

If there are poor or obscured traffic signs, the examiner will give the candidate directions until they can see the next traffic sign. Candidates will not need to have a detailed knowledge of the area, but will not be allowed to use satellite navigation for this part of the test.

We hope you found this quick guide helpful, if you have any questions or would like to book lessons get in touch with our friendly team today.