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How long is a driving test and what is involved?

You’ve taken the driving lessons, passed your theory and now you’re feeling confident that you can safely navigate the roads, which means you’re ready to take your test. Preparing for your practical driving test can be nerve-racking as you’ve already invested a lot of hours perfecting your driving ability.

In 2017, driving tests changed to meet the growth in technology by testing you on how well you can use a sat nav to reach a destination during one segment of the test. With this in mind, here’s all the information you need on what your driving test involves, from driving test faults to manoeuvres to what happens after you pass.

How long is a driving test?

The driving test will take around 40 minutes depending on any traffic and will include 20 minutes of independent driving. To ensure that each test is fair, every examiner will need to follow a strict driving test structure.

What are driving test faults?

During your test, you’ll be evaluated on the number of driving faults you make. You are allowed up to 15 driving faults, known as minors, and zero serious or dangerous faults, known as majors. For example, if you end your test with 5 minor faults, you’ll pass. But, if you conclude with one major fault, you’ll fail your driving test.

A dangerous fault is any behaviour or action that involves actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property. This could be driving too close to a vehicle in front of you, speeding or poor lane discipline.

A serious fault is driving behaviour that’s potentially dangerous. For example, this could be failing to use your mirrors when required.

A driving fault (minor) is an action or behaviour that is not potentially dangerous. For example, excessive hesitating at a junction. If you keep on making the same fault during your test, it could turn into a serious fault (major). So, if you continued to hesitate and chose to pull out at an unsafe time, your minor would turn into a major fault and you would fail.

What happens during a driving test?

  1. Eyesight check
  2. Safety questions about the vehicle
  3. Driving ability is assessed
  4. Reversing is examined
  5. Independent driving is evaluated

During your driving test, you will need to complete five important sections which will assess your eyesight, knowledge of the car and driving ability. Here are the main sections of the UK driving test explained.

The eyesight check

Once you’ve met your examiner and completed any necessary paperwork, you’ll make your way over to your driving instructor’s vehicle. From the car, you’ll then continue to perform the eyesight check.

Your examiner will point out a car and ask you to read the number plate. This will be from a distance of either 20 metres for vehicles with a new-style number plate (introduced in 2001), or 20.5 metres for vehicles with an old-style number plate. This is the first important section of your driving test and if you fail the eyesight check, your test will end. That means if you need glasses to improve your vision, it’s really important that you wear them.

Vehicle safety questions

Often referred to as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions, you’ll be asked two vehicle safety questions. You’ll tackle the ‘tell me’ question first, after the eyesight check. This is where you need to explain how you would carry out a safety check. An example question could be “Tell me how you’d know if there was a problem with your anti-lock braking system”.

The ‘show me’ question will happen when you’re driving as it would be something you'd come across on the road. You’ll need to show them how you would carry out a safety task. They could ask something like “When it’s safe to do so, show me how you’d demist the front windscreen?”.

Typically your examiner will not tell you if you’ve passed or failed these questions. If you get one answer or both answers wrong, it will result in one minor fault against you.

Assessing your general driving ability

Finally, you’ve made it to the point in your test you’ve been most anticipating: the driving section. In this part, you’ll drive along various types of roads, depending on your location. Your examiner will give you directions to follow through a number of traffic conditions to see how you perform in a variety of situations. These conditions will not be on motorways - however, a change in the law in June 2018 has allowed learner drivers to practice driving on the motorway, so there’s every chance motorway driving could be introduced into the test.

During this main driving section, you’ll need to pull over to the side of the road safely and rejoin the road from behind a parked vehicle. You’ll also be asked to perform a hill start and you may be asked to carry out an emergency stop.

Reversing your car

When your examiner assesses your general driving ability, they’ll also expect to see how well you can reverse your vehicle. You’ll be asked to perform one of the following tasks:
● Parallel park at the side of a road.
● Park in a parking bay by either driving in and reversing out or reversing in and driving out.
● Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for two car lengths and rejoin the traffic.

Independent driving

With the new changes, the independent portion of your driving test has been extended from ten minutes to twenty minutes. The extra time is to give the examiner a better picture of how you are as a driver.

You’ll now have to follow directions from a sat nav, as well as traffic signs. Your examiner will provide and set up a sat nav for you and tell you what signs you’ll need to follow. But don’t worry if you miss a turn or can’t see a traffic sign because it’s covered by overgrown bushes. Your examiner will usually be fair and give you extra directions to help you get back on route. It’s good to remember that as long as you don’t panic and don’t drive dangerously, you won’t get a deduction for missing a turning.

What happens after I’ve passed my driving test?

Once you’ve made your way back to the test centre and parked up, the examiner will assess their notes, tally up your score and tell you if you’ve passed or failed. If you’ve passed, they’ll explain the minor faults you’ve made, if any. They’ll also give you a pass certificate. If you would like your full licence to be sent to you automatically, the examiner will take your provisional licence from you to send off to DVLA. Your pink-coloured, full driving licence will arrive by post within the next three weeks.

If you’ve unfortunately failed this time, you can try again and book another test after at least ten working days. You will have to pay for the test again and you may want to consider booking some lessons for extra practice before your next test.

Great news!

You don’t have to wait for your licence to arrive to start driving. As long as you have car insurance you can get onto the open road as soon as you like. To find out more about affordable insurance and how you can stay safe on the road, read our guide on telematics insurance.

Posted on June 14, 2021
Category Learner Driver

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