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How to Become an Approved Driving Instructor in the UK

Louise Kirkpatrick owns a driving school in the East Midlands region of England.

Facts, advice and information for those considering a career as a driving instructor.

Facts, advice and information for those considering a career as a driving instructor.

Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Driving Instructor

Are you thinking of becoming a driving instructor? Are you fed up with your current job? Want more money? Have you been made redundant? Want to work flexible hours?

We've all come across adverts on social media urging people to "Become A Driving Instructor." The adverts always feature smiling instructors, nice shiny cars and promises of high earnings, flexible hours and the freedom to fit the job in and around your life.

These adverts are starting to crop up more and more as the economic implications caused by the coronavirus pandemic start to bite and they can sound very appealing to those whose jobs have been affected by the fallout from COVID-19. They are inevitably filled with reassuring statements such as:

"No previous experience required"

"Train for a recession proof career"

"Change your career and change your life"

According to the adverts, it's all so easy to achieve! There's no previous experience required, all you need is a driving licence and their driving instructor training courses (which you're told you can take in your spare time while fitting your training around your current job) and a carefree, secure, well-paid, flexible, busy career and a better life will be yours!

But is it really as easy as that?

There's an awful lot the social media adverts don't tell you and won't tell you as it's not in their interests to do so. Read on to find out what you really need to know before making the decision to train as a driving instructor.

If you're thinking of taking a driving instructor training course, you owe it to yourself to know a great deal more about what you're letting yourself in for than the adverts and the sales pitches will tell you!

Find out the truth about training and qualifying as an ADI, how much driving instructors can earn and whether driving instruction really is the right job for you.

Everything you need to know about becoming a driving instructor.

Everything you need to know about becoming a driving instructor.

What You Need to Know About Driving Instruction as a Career

The reason I've written all this is simple. I run a driving school myself, and I've encountered a disturbing number of people, in real life and on the internet, who've been misled or had bad experiences with certain driving instructor training companies. I want to try to let people have as much information as possible about what's really involved so that they don't end up having similar experiences which can prove both distressing and costly.

My aim here is a simple and honest one: to provide the facts about becoming a driving instructor and to list as many useful information resources as I can so that those contemplating ADI training can make an informed decision about what they are doing.

The Basics

You can't just "become a driving instructor" by sticking some L plates on your car, and you're all set to make your fortune! It is illegal for anyone except a properly qualified and officially licensed driving instructor to charge money to teach anyone to drive, or even to receive gifts, gratuities or services in lieu of actual money-changing hands. There's a process to go through if you want to work as a driving instructor.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are part of the Department for Transport (DfT) and they regulate the driver training industry. Part of their responsibilities includes maintaining the Register of Approved Driving Instructors. They make sure that anyone wanting to become a driving instructor is a "fit and proper person" and they administer the application, qualification and licence renewal process.

You cannot start training to be a driving instructor until the DVSA has approved your application and you have undergone a criminal record check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

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The basic facts about being a driving instructor

The basic facts about being a driving instructor

Abbreviations used on this page:

  • ADI - A fully qualified driving instructor is called an Approved Driving Instructor - this is often shortened to the abbreviation "ADI."
  • PDI - A person who is training to be a driving instructor but who has not yet passed all three parts of the qualification process is called a Potential Driving Instructor or PDI
  • DVSA - The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. An agency of the Department for Transport (DfT) who regulate the driver training industry and who are in charge of registration, testing and licensing of driving instructors. Formerly known as the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) until April 2014 when the DSA and VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) merged to become the DVSA - you may still find references online and in print to the DSA.
  • ORDIT - The Official Register of Driving Instructor Trainers.

Becoming a Driving Instructor: Things to Consider

Before deciding to train as a driving instructor take some time to do plenty of research before signing up for a driving instructor training course

Driving instructor training involves:

  • A significant amount of money
  • A lot of time
  • A great deal of self-commitment
  • 3 exams within 2 years
  • Over 90% of trainees fail or drop out
  • No guarantee of enough work if you qualify
  • Earnings may be a lot lower than expected

Make an informed decision, not a hasty one...

Reality Check: Read the 10 facts below before you consider starting training to become a driving instructor.

Reality Check: Read the 10 facts below before you consider starting training to become a driving instructor.

10 Essential Facts You Need to Know About Being a Driving Instructor

1. Qualifying as a Driving Instructor Isn't Easy

There are three exams to pass separately within a two-year time limit. In the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency's own words:

"The qualifying process is not easy, and the pass rates are not high..."

Pass rates for each of the 3 parts of the ADI exams in 2019/2020 were:

Part 1 - Theory test: 46.2%

Part 2 - Test of driving ability: 60.6%

Part 3 - Test of instructional ability: 35.1%

These figures mean that:

  • Under half of those who start training pass Part 1 and go on to Part 2.
  • Of those that take Part 2, just over half pass and progress to Part 3.
  • Of those that take part 3, just over one-third pass and become qualified ADI's.

You will need to study independently a great deal and to take a lot of practical training (at least 60 hours "hands-on" with a trainer) plus practice in your own time. Training to be a driving instructor requires a considerable commitment in terms of time and energy

There are limits on how many times you can fail exams too - you get as many goes as you need at Part 1, but a maximum of only three attempts at both Part 2 and Part 3...if you fail Part 2 three times, you have to start all over again...if you pass Part 2 and then fail Part 3 three times, you have to start all over again...from the very beginning.

If you do not pass Parts 2 and 3 of the qualifying exams within two years from the date you pass Part 1, you will have to start all over again.

Source: DVSA/DfT figures published 24 June 2020

2. Becoming a Driving Instructor Isn't Cheap

Among the things, you will have to pay for are the following:

  • Practical training and/or training materials for Part 1 - (costs of training & materials vary depending on what you choose)
  • Fee for the Part 1 Test - £81.00 (payable again if you fail an attempt)
  • Practical training and training materials for Part 2 - (costs vary depending on how much training you need, but training sessions are likely to cost in the region of £25 to £40 per hour)
  • Fee for the Part 2 Test - £111.00 - (payable again if you fail an attempt)
  • When you pass the Part 2 test, you can then apply for a 6-month trainee licence (PDI licence) if you wish. - (The cost of a trainee licence is currently £140.00)
  • Practical training and training materials for Part 3 (costs vary depending on your choice of training provider. A reputable, experienced ADI Part 3 trainer may charge in excess of £30 per hour. You are likely to need at least 60 hours training for Part 3.
  • Fee for the Part 3 Test £111.00 (payable again if you fail an attempt)
  • When you pass Part 3, you then have to apply to join the register as an ADI and receive your ADI licence. This costs £300.00, and you will have to pay a further £300.00 every four years to renew your ADI registration.

All fees quoted above correct as of August 2021 (Source: GOV.UK Approved driving instructor (ADI) fees)

It can cost thousands of pounds to train to be an ADI depending on how you go about it and how much training you need.

3. Training as a Driving Instructor Isn't Quick

Forget any ideas of getting from zero to ADI in a few weeks - it will take you between 6 months to 2 least.

4. Working as a Driving Instructor Is Self-Employment

With very few exceptions, driving instructors are self-employed, so they don't get a regular steady weekly wage or a monthly salary.

The "guaranteed jobs or placements" mentioned in driving instructor training company adverts refer to taking out a self-employed franchise with a driving school, not a salaried job.

A driving school franchise means that the instructor has to pay the driving school a fee every week or every month and in return, the driving school will find customers (usually referred to in the industry as "pupils") for them. There is more often than not, a clause in the contract that pupil supply cannot be guaranteed. The franchisor (the driving school) allow the instructor to work under their company name and sometimes will provide the instructor with a vehicle in which to teach. The franchisee (the driving instructor) is responsible for their own accounts, tax, national insurance, business expenses, fuel costs, etc.

It is important to be aware that being self-employed means no paid holidays, sick pay, pensions or any other "perks" that people who are employed might get.

If you are used to working as an employee and knowing how much money you're going to get every week or every month, you'll need to be able to adapt to the uncertainty of self-employment, where regular work cannot be guaranteed and therefore neither can a regular, steady income.

5. Driving Instructors Have to Work Hard and They Have to Work "Anti-Social" Hours

Teaching someone to drive requires a great deal of concentration and mental effort. It is not just about sitting in a car all day, chatting to your pupils while driving around enjoying the must be alert and "on the ball" at all times. This can be exhausting.

Some customers can be challenging, and the job can be very stressful at times.

You will find yourself with "dead-time," i.e., the time taken to travel from one pupil to the next. Unless you teach in a big city or town where pupils are located geographically close together, you may find yourself travelling quite long distances throughout the day, crisscrossing the area you operate in. This can make for a long day - and you will not get paid anything for the time you spend travelling.

You might want to work when it suits you, but in reality, you'll have to work when your customers are available. Most of them will have restrictions on their time due to other commitments, and if they are only available at 7:00 am or 9:00 pm, that's when they will want you to be working.

You must be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time on work-related tasks when you are not physically out on the road teaching, e.g. doing your accounts, managing your appointments (your driving instructor "diary"), phone calls, text messages or emails to pupils, keeping your car clean and well maintained etc - all this has to be done in your "free time" when you are not out on the road teaching.

6. There Is Not a Shortage of Driving Instructors

Claims made by driving instructor training companies that there is a shortage of driving instructors are FALSE!

There are a LOT of driving instructors out there already and more in training. In March 2021 there were 38,370 ADIs on the register with an additional 1,472 trainee licences current at that time (source: GOV.UK INS0101: Approved driving instructor (ADI) register statistics)

7. Driving Instructor Training Companies Want to Sell You Their Training Courses - They Do Not Offer Impartial Careers Advice

Driving instructor training company adverts and sales pitches may lead you to believe all sorts of things which turn out to be very different from the actual situation.

They're all trying to sell a dream...a dream of a well-paying career, a nice car, flexible working hours and job security. Things were exactly the same back in the mid to late 2000s when I originally wrote this page. Back then, it was no coincidence that as the worldwide financial crisis started to hit home, and people started being made redundant, often from jobs they had held for many years, that suddenly that there were a series of RED Driving School driving instructor training adverts on the TV promising that becoming a driving instructor would ensure you a "job for life". Time has moved on and the adverts have moved on to Facebook and other social media sites, but the principle behind them is the same - in a recession, people need to make a living and consider new careers. That part is fine, what's not fine is not giving people enough information for them to make an informed choice about whether retraining as a driving instructor is right for them before they start paying out money they can ill afford on driving instructor training courses.

The "guaranteed job" or "guaranteed placement" that training companies mention in their adverts brings them in even more of your money...what they actually offer is not a job in the sense that most people think. There's no "guaranteed" work, or a salary or contract of employment - what they're actually providing is a franchise with them. That's why phrases such as "new driving instructors urgently needed" are used in adverts for driving instructor might think it's because there is loads of reality instructors are "urgently needed" by these companies for the income they bring in to them by means of the franchise fees they pay!

Please understand that these companies are not offering you "impartial careers advice," or even to train you in a new skill prior to giving you a "job" with them. They are trying to sell you their product, a driving instructor training course. They are offering this training because it is a way of making money, for them.

The people who you talk to at induction meetings are sales-people, and they will use sales pitches and sales tactics to sell you their product (the training course). They will more than likely flatter you...tell you that "you're ideally suited" or "exactly the sort of person" they are looking for. They will big up the positives and neglect to tell you about the negatives. You may be taken out on a "test drive" - I've only heard of two people not passing this bit with flying colours, and even then they were told that whatever they had done wrong could be "ironed out with a little bit of work" and the rest of the sales pitch was carried on regardless!

You may well also be offered some kind of inducement to sign up for the course there and then...there'll be a discount offered which just so happens to be "only available today" or the sales rep will go away and negotiate a "deal" for you with his/her manager if you sign up on the spot...sometimes "by chance" an ADI who has been trained by the company will "just happen to drop in" and in the course of conversation will be only too pleased to tell you how easy it all is and how much money they are making!

Please don't get carried away by attractive your research and always bear in mind the saying:

"If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is."

8. It May Be Hard to Get Enough Work to Make a Living

The economic downturn last decade affected everyone and there is little doubt that the economic implications of COVID-19 will be similar, yet some training companies make claims such as "driving instructors are recession proof". The usual justification for these claims was that "people will always want to learn to drive" - this is probably true, but "wanting" and "being able to afford to", are two different things!

In the worst years of the recession of the 2000s, even long established driving instructors with excellent reputations and years of experience struggled to make a living, or simply gave up due to the fact that the demand for driving lessons fell, while the supply of driving instructors kept on increasing (thanks to the TV and newspaper recruitment adverts by driving instructor training companies). The price of driving lessons then decreased as instructors competed for what customers there were.

Demand for driving lessons varies throughout the country as does the price charged. Generally speaking, in areas of high employment or affluence, demand is greater.

9. Driving Instructor Earnings Rarely Bear Any Similarity to the Figures Suggested By Training Companies

The amount any driving instructor can earn depends on how much work they can get and how many hours they are prepared to work.

The fees that pupils pay are not disposable income. If you charge say £27.00 per hour for driving lessons, this does not mean £27.00 per hour in your pocket for you to spend however you want! As a self-employed person, you will be responsible for running your own business and paying your own tax, national insurance and business expenses. You must know how to run your own business and aware of the responsibilities involved (or prepared to find out - this is an area which is often dealt with inadequately or even not at all, by training companies).

Unless you take out a franchise with an established driving school, you will need some means of sourcing customers and/or advertising yourself. This will cost money.

It takes time and effort to get a full diary of pupils and you may find that work is very sporadic in the early days and your income is accordingly low...unfortunately a low income does not go hand in hand with low expenses...

It takes a lot of time and effort to get a good enough reputation so that satisfied customers recommend you to others.

In many areas of the country, there may simply not be enough work available for the number of driving instructors working in those areas.

10. There Are Few "Perks" in Being a Driving Instructor

No paid holidays, no sick pay, no company pension, no Christmas bonus, no healthcare schemes, no staff discounts, no coffee breaks, no canteen, no gym, no incentive schemes, no 9 to 5 Monday to Friday routine, no fancy job titles and no "prestige"...hell, there's not even a toilet when you need one!

Even though you run your own business, you are still under the watchful eye of the DVSA, who, while they do not employ you as such or even pay you, do play a significant part in your livelihood in as much as they are the ones who issue the licence which permits you to teach in return for money!

Passing all three parts of the ADI qualification process does not mean "a job for life" either, as at least once every four years, you will need to pass a Standards Check in which a senior DVSA examiner will observe you whilst you teach and assess whether or not you still meet the standards to keep your ADI licence. Having a Standards Check is not a mere "formality". It is an in depth assessment of the way you do your job and from this you receive a grading of either A (the instructor has shown a high standard of instruction) or B (the instructor has shown a satisfactory standard of instruction) which you then retain until your next Standards Check. If you do not reach a "satisfactory" standard during the Standards Check, you will Fail (the instructor’s performance is unsatisfactory.) If you fail, you will then be given a further two attempts to pass the Standards Check. If you fail three times, you will be removed from the Approved Driving Instructors (ADI) register. If you then still wish to work as a driving instructor, you will have to retake the ADI tests to join the ADI register again.

You are also required to pay a fee (currently £300) to the DVSA to renew your ADI licence every four years. As well as the DVSA Standards Check, you must always act in a way that will not fall foul of the DVSA considering you to be "a fit and proper person" and failure to do so, can result in revocation of your licence.

All that gloomy stuff aside though, the joy on the face of a pupil who has just passed their test does kind of make up for it all...a bit!

Read on to find out everything else you need to know before you decide that trying to become a driving instructor is the right choice for you...

Here is some more information you need to know if you want to become a driving instructor.

The Register of Approved Driving Instructors (The ADI Register)

In order to trade and accept money for giving driving tuition, you must be on the Register...more about how to actually get listed there later, for now, you just need to know about its existence!

The Register of Approved Driving Instructors (ADI) was set up in the interests of road safety in order to maintain and improve the standard of car driving instruction available to the general public.

It also ensures that the public can expect an acceptable standard of tuition from those registered as driving instructors. It is administered by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), an Executive Agency of the Department of Transport, under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

This Act makes it illegal for anyone to charge (either money or monies worth) for instruction in driving a motorcar unless:

  • their name is on the Register of Approved Driving Instructors
  • they hold a trainee's "Licence to give instruction" issued by the Registrar

The legal requirements are contained in The Road Traffic Act 1988 and The Motor Cars (Driving Instruction) Regulations 2005.

What the law says you must and must not do (or be) before you can try to become an instructor

You must:

  • be over 21 years of age
  • hold a full UK or European Union (EU/European Economic Area (EEA) unrestricted car driving licence
  • have held that licence for a total of at least four out of the past six years prior to entering the Register after qualifying
  • not have been disqualified from driving at any time in the four years prior to being entered in the Register
  • be a "fit and proper" person to have your name entered in the Register. All convictions, motoring and non-motoring, will be taken into account when the DVSA assess suitability to be entered on the Register. You will be required to have an enhanced level criminal record check. The information from this check will be used by the DVSA to assess the suitability of persons applying for inclusion on the Register of Approved Driving Instructors.
  • Read a number plate at a distance of 27.5 metres or 26.5 metres depending on the width of the lettering (with glasses or contact lenses if normally worn for driving)
  • Pass three examinations - (one theory, one practical test of driving ability and one practical test of instructional ability) - the two qualifying practical examinations must be passed within two years of passing the theory examination
  • Apply for registration within 12 months of passing the final part of the examination.
Personal qualities and skills needed to be a driving instructor

Personal qualities and skills needed to be a driving instructor

Skills and Personality Requirements

What personal qualities do you need to be a driving instructor?

Just because you know how to drive doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to teach others how to do it!

It's not as easy as sitting next to someone and telling them when to switch on their indicators, brake, change gear or turn left...there's a great deal more to it than that!

I often come across people who say:

"I want to be an instructor because I love driving and I like people."

That's a good start, but there's a lot more to consider!

"Loving driving" is great, but as an ADI, YOU won't be doing that much driving! You'll be in the passenger seat concentrating hard on someone else doing it. Will you "love" doing the same sort of thing over and over again, day in and day out? Turns in the road, reversing round corners, spending most of a lesson trying to help a pupil get the hang of turning right, an hour spent going round and round all the roundabouts in the town centre from all the different approaches...there's not much "pedal to the metal" or freedom of the open road" in it for driving instructors!

"Liking people" is also great, but you won't be in a nice relaxed social situation, where you can do much chatting on a "getting to know you" basis. You'll be sitting next to a novice driver, who is in charge of a motorised metal killing machine travelling at speed...It's often pretty hard to like people who seem to want to kill you!

Not every pupil you have will be "likeable" by any means...nor will they necessarily do what you ask them...nor will they always appreciate what you do...unlike the TV adverts, "real people" do not often rush out to the car, smiling in eager anticipation of their forthcoming wonderful driving lesson with their wonderful driving instructor which will ultimately lead to even bigger smiles and lots of hugs of gratitude at the driving test centre when they pass. "Real people" don't always find learning to drive easy....real people get nervous and stressed and do things "wrong"....real people get emotional, lose their temper, don't always listen or do what they've been asked to do....real people scrape your tyres on the kerb or knock off other people's wing mirrors or go the wrong way round a roundabout...real people worry about the cost of their driving lessons...real people cancel driving lessons at short notice leaving you out of pocket....real people sometimes mess you around big time! other words, if you think the job is all smiles and charming, grateful pupils, then I'm afraid you're in for a bit of a shock!

"Loving driving and liking people" are "nice to haves", but there are far more important qualities needed...

  1. You may be able to drive pretty well, but do you possess the ability to TEACH others effectively?
  2. Do you have the interpersonal, verbal, motor and cognitive skills required?
  3. Can you, with complete confidence, KNOW that that you would be able to remain patient, calm and professional, either in a dangerous situation while out on the road, or with a person who could not or would not do what you asked them?

Driving instruction is self-employment, so you also need to possess all the skills required to run your own business, including:

  1. Mathematical skills - you need to handle money, keep accounts, pay your own tax and national insurance, organise budgets for advertising and personal training etc,
  2. Good communication skills - both verbally and in writing. You need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively on many different levels, with government departments such as the DVSA, the DVLA and HM Revenue and Customs, professionals such as accountants and driving examiners, parents of younger pupils and pupils of varying ages from 17 to 70 and from all walks of life, face to face and by telephone, letter and email,
  3. Organisational skills - you need to be able to manage your time by means of a diary system for pupil appointments and to control all the necessary "paperwork" that goes with running your own business,
  4. Knowledge of self employment - you need to know about being a "sole trader", self-employed franchises, or if you work as an independent driving instructor running your own driving school, you'll need to get your head around advertising and business administration.

There's a lot of skills and personal qualities required by driving instructors that the TV adverts and the sales patter don't bother to go into and which, for many people, seems to come as a surprise - often a nasty one.

You'll need to possess all of the following personal qualities too:

  1. Be articulate - you MUST be able to express yourself verbally both clearly and concisely. You need to be able to give easily understandable instructions very quickly. Driving instruction is NOT a job for those who like to waffle or for those who cannot get their point across to others. You must be able to speak English fluently - if someone cannot understand what you are saying, either because your command of English is poor or because they cannot understand your accent, it can lead to stressful and even dangerous situations...
  2. Patience - not everyone "gets it" first time, or second time, or even third time...
  3. Understanding - you need to be able to understand the needs and feelings of your pupils - being able to interpret "body language" is important too
  4. Calmness and self-control - you will frequently find yourself in stressful and difficult situations, but you must be able to deal with this in an adult and professional manner. Driving instruction is NOT the right career for those prone to losing their temper or getting stressed
  5. Reliability - your customers pay you to turn up on time and to give them your attention and professional expertise for the whole of their alloted lesson. There are lots of driving instructors out there and if you can't or won't be reliable, your pupils will soon find an instructor that will
  6. Diplomacy - tact and diplomacy will keep your pupil diary full...bluntly telling the pupil "That reverse bay park was absolute rubbish..why don't you listen and do as you're told?" won't...
  7. A sense of humour - humour diffuses stress and helps pupils (and you) relax. Lessons that are enjoyable and fun are more effective too
  8. An open mind - you will know very little about any of your pupils before they get into your car for the first time. If you have a tendency to harbour prejudices or irrational dislikes about any sector of society, this isn't the job for you
  9. Honesty & integrity - your pupils will be paying you large sums of money. Take care of it and keep proper accounts
  10. Business acumen - you will be self-employed, either on a franchise or working as a sole trader. You must have knowledge of what is involved in running your own business and the ability to do so
  11. Be prepared to study (a lot) and self-motivate - both when you train and even after you qualify. Good instructors keep up to date with training methods, legislation and gain additional qualifications.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that all (or any) of these personal qualities and vital skills are going to be adequately assessed by companies that offer instructor training. Many of them are far more interested in you handing over your money, than whether you're really a suitable person for this career. Even the ones that offer "induction days" or "candidate screening" often do this merely as a sales ploy to get you there in person to listen to their sales pitch and usually the "induction/screening tests" are little more than a formality. Nearly everyone manages to pass these so called "assessments" and for those that fall short, there are usually reassurances that whatever is lacking isn't really important and can be "sorted out" somehow. This is one reason why the ADI Exam Pass Rates are so low - people drop out of training when they realise that there's more involved than they were led to believe, or they fail to meet the standards required, usually after a LOT of time, expense and heartache.

My advice is to be brutally honest with yourself.

If you're easily flustered, impatient, don't express yourself very well, lack confidence, find it hard to "think on your feet", find the thought of handling money, paperwork or running your own business daunting, don't like studying or taking exams, have restrictions on your free time, want a "quick fix career", or think that being a driving instructor is "easy", then you're going to find things difficult.

Driving Instructor Qualifying Exams: What You Should Know

There are 3 separate exams for those wanting to be Approved Driving Instructors . . . and they aren't easy by any means!

The qualification process to become a driving instructor is in three parts:

  1. Part 1 - a computer-based theory and hazard perception test
  2. Part 2 - a practical test of your driving ability
  3. Part 3 - a practical test of your ability to instruct

You must take and pass all three parts of the driving instructor qualifiying exams in order as above and you must complete the second and third part within two years of passing the theory test. If you do not pass all three parts within this time you must start again from the beginning and pass each part again.

You can take the theory test as many times as you want but you are only allowed a maximum of three attempts at each of the practical tests within each two year qualification period. Additionally, you cannot start the qualifying process again until two years has passed since you last passed your theory test.

The Government website GOV.UK: Page 5 of the Guide to the approved driving instructor register (ADI14) from the Driving Standards Agency states the following:

"You should not embark upon this career lightly. The qualifying process is tough, the pass rate is low and it can be expensive and time consuming. You should expect the qualifying process to take many months to complete".

The pass rates for each of the three parts of the driving instructor examinations in 2019/2020 were:

Part 1 - Theory test: 46.2%

Part 2 - Test of driving ability: 60.6%

Part 3 - Test of instructional ability: 35.1%

source: DVSA/DfT figures published 24 June 2020

Training to Be a Driving Instructor

The Application Process to Become a Driving Instructor

OK...if you've got through the last few sections without being put off, the next step is to apply for acceptance onto the all-important Register - you can't proceed any further with training or exams unless you're accepted as suitable to join.

Having (hopefully) read all the previous sections here, you now fully understand what the Register Of Approved Driving Instructors is, what the legal requirements are for those wishing to become driving instructors, the skills and personal qualities that are required in order to be a driving instructor, that there are three separate qualifying examinations that are by no means straightforward and the fact that statistically very, very few of those who apply to commence driving instructor training actually manage to successfully qualify by passing all three qualifying exams...if not, or if you are in any doubt, please go back and read the previous sections again, as from this point in the process onwards, your ambition to become a driving instructor is going to start costing you money...

OK then, assuming you're happy with all the requirements, what do you do next?

You can't simply start studying and book an appointment to take the Part One Theory & Hazard Perception exam as you won't be able to book a Part One test unless you have been accepted by the DVSA as a suitable person to begin the ADI qualification process.

How to Begin

The first thing you should do is to read and inwardly digest the Guide to the Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) register on the official GOV.UK website. Read it thoroughly and if you are still sure you want to give trying to become a driving instructor a go, follow the instructions and links on the Guide which will take you through the whole process of the initial stages of your application.

Please be aware that even the initial stages take time. It will take several weeks for your criminal records check (called a "disclosure") to be completed and this has to be done before you can put in your application to the DVSA.

Once you the DVSA have accepted you as suitable to start the process, the hard bit begins - studying for, practising and passing the three parts of the Approved Driving Instructor qualifying process.

Is There Any Way of Keeping the Cost of Training Down?

Some companies offer Pay-as-You-Go-Training, so you pay for the training you require as and when you need it.

Other companies have set course fees and may require payment for the entire course in advance (which can often mean asking you for amounts in the region of between £2000 and £4000). Some of the latter companies also will not give any form of refund should you change your mind and decide to stop training for any reason. Always check whether a refund or partial refund is available and avoid companies that won't give them.

Training and Study Materials

Many training companies charge an awful lot of money for training materials - there's no need to pay the earth though as you can get excellent study materials for all three parts of the qualifying exams for very reasonable prices.

ADI Part 1 Theory Test

Generally speaking, for the ADI Part 1 Theory Test, most people don't need any "formal" training and can study for this part themselves using the wide variety of books, DVDs and software available commercially. In my experience, having done this myself successfully, perfectly suitable training materials can be bought for under £10.00 - then all you have to do is put the time in to study and pay the fee for Part One!

The total cost of getting through Part 1 training (including the test fee) need therefore be no more than £100.00 or so depending on which study materials you choose.....I have seen instructor training companies advertising Part 1 training for £500 or more! I can't begin to imagine how they justify that - OK so they may offer some kind of personal contact to discuss any queries or difficulties, but let's be brutally honest here, if you can't organise yourself to study for and pass Part 1 by yourself, you probably don't have the skills or commitment to get through the rest of your training and should seriously consider whether you're cut out for everything that being an ADI involves...harsh perhaps, but sadly true!

ADI Part 2 (Test Of Driving Ability)

The ADI Part 2 (Test Of Driving Ability) requires an advanced level of driving. Most good ADI's can get you to the standard required for ADI Part 2, as that's the standard they have achieved themselves, so you may be able to get away with not using a specialist training organisation (who usually charge higher fees) for this part. You'll definitely need to get hold of a copy of The Official DSA Guide to Driving: the essential skills, as this book describes the methods and style of driving you will be required to demonstrate on your Part Two test. You can purchase this book via Amazon or from good bookshops - it's a worthwhile investment at an early stage and it will be essential throughout your career as a driving instructor!

ADI Part 3 (Test Of Instructional Ability)

For ADI Part 3 (Test Of Instructional Ability) you really do need a competent ADI trainer though! Part 3 is by far, the hardest part of the qualification process to get through and skimping on good quality training for this part is likely to end in disappointment and additional expense in the long run. Experienced independent ADI trainers whose opinions I trust, tell me that most people grossly underestimate how much training is required for Part 3. I am told that most people should aim for around 60 hours of training and possibly more..

ORDIT stands for The Official Register of Driving Instructor Training

ORDIT stands for The Official Register of Driving Instructor Training

Driving Instructor Training Courses: What to Look Out for and How to Find a Good One!

How to Get Good Training

You won't get very far in researching how to go about getting Driving Instructor training without coming across the acronym.

The objective of the Official Register of Driving Instructor Training, otherwise known as "ORDIT", is to establish and maintain acceptable standards of driving instructor training. The Register is run by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

ORDIT is a voluntary register and at the present time there is no legal requirement to be ORDIT registered. Many VERY good driving instructor trainers are NOT ORDIT registered - they don't need to be!

The best way of finding a good trainer is to ask other ADI's for recommendations, so you could try contacting ADI's in your area - or if you don't want to do that, have a look at some of the helpful driver training forums on the internet and ask for advice there. Here are some links you may find useful:

BEWARE - some training companies (including some who are ORDIT registered!) may use "high pressure" selling techniques to persuade you to sign up for their instructor training course.

PLEASE THINK VERY CAREFULLY BEFORE SIGNING ANY FORM OF CONTRACT OR's best to go away without signing to give yourself time to think about what's been offered and check it out before agreeing to something you may regret!

Trainee driving instructor licence also known as a pink badge or pink licence

Trainee driving instructor licence also known as a pink badge or pink licence

Should I Take Out a Trainee Licence After Passing Part Two?

Trainee licence, pink badge, it worth it?

After you pass Part Two you may be tempted (or "persuaded") to pay for a trainee licence (colloquially known in the driver training industry as a pink badge, pink licence, "going on a pink" or a pinkie!) so that you can start to give tuition to pupils and receive payment for doing so.

There are some conditions you need to be aware of:

  • Before you can apply for a licence you must receive 40 hours of instructional training with a qualified ADI and at least 25% of this must be in-car training.
  • The trainee licence is only valid for 6 months (although in certain circumstances the DVSA can extend this period, but don't bank on it). This means that you must take and pass your Part Three test within that time.
  • You must either be supervised by whichever ADI sponsors you for 20% of the lessons you give, or within the first 3 months of your trainee licence being issued, you must receive a further 20 hours of instructional training with a qualified ADI. Proof of whichever option you choose must be supplied to the DVSA.

Remember that while you are allowed to charge money for giving driving tuition when you hold a trainee licence, you are not allowed to advertise yourself as a qualified driving instructor - you must make it clear that you are a trainee - and that fact can put potential pupils off. Without any paying pupils you won't recoup anything, so you need some way of sourcing pupils who will pay you to teach them. Many PDI's on trainee licences take out franchises with sponsoring driving schools. The school may or may not decide to tell the pupils they pass on, that the instructor they are referring them to is a trainee, which can lead to problems if the pupil is unhappy with this.

Many PDI's find that they are suddenly "thrown into the deep end" and expected to teach pupils with little or no support. In turn, pupils will object if they feel that the instructor doesn't seem to know what they are doing.

Always be clear about what support and supervision you will be getting if you take out a PDI licence.

You might think that taking out a trainee licence makes a lot of sense as you'll get valuable experience which surely must help you when training for Part Three, but research has shown that there is very little difference in Part Three pass rates between those who have taken out a trainee licence and those who haven't.

Also, many PDI's get so absorbed (or in many cases, bogged down) with the realities of teaching real pupils that they have little time or energy left to actually do "proper" Part Three training as they're too busy/tired/stressed, so a trainee licence can actually be counter-productive...

It's one thing teaching a few pupils to drive in your spare time while still allowing yourself sufficient time to concentrate on YOUR own training needs, and another matter to take on too many pupils in order to start earning some awful lot of people get a bit carried away with the "prestige" of being able to give driving lessons and forget that that they're still in training themselves...

Approved Driving Instructor - the octagonal green badge is your ADI licence to teach!

Approved Driving Instructor - the octagonal green badge is your ADI licence to teach!

What Happens After I Pass Part Three?

You're finally a fully qualified Approved Driving Instructor (ADI), that's what! But what should you do next?


After you pass the Part 3 test you can apply to join the Register. You cannot give paid for driving instruction until you are registered as an ADI and have received your "green badge", UNLESS you still have a valid trainee licence, e.g, if you pass Part 3 and have been teaching on a trainee licence while you were a PDI, as long as your pink licence hasn't expired, you can carry on teaching up to the expiry date of the PDI licence while you wait for your green badge to come through. If you didn't go down the "pinkie" route, or your trainee licence has expired, you must not give tuition in exchange for money (or monies worth, i.e gratuities or favours etc), until you receive your green ADI licence.

You must apply for your ADI registration within your one year of passing your Part 3 test, or your qualification will become invalid and you would have to apply to start the qualifying process again.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 LouiseKirkpatrick

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