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How to Pass the UK Practical Driving Test (Cars) (Category B)

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

The UK practical driving test is conducted by driving examiners from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). There are over 370 driving test centres in the UK and the test can be taken at a centre of your choice.

The UK practical driving test is conducted by driving examiners from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). There are over 370 driving test centres in the UK and the test can be taken at a centre of your choice.

UK Driving Test: Category B (Cars)

The practical driving test is a test of the ability to drive a car without assistance from an instructor or accompanying driver.

Driving tests last for around 40 minutes and candidates are tested by driving examiners employed by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), part of the Department for Transport.

Driving tests are conducted on public roads, with the driving examiner directing the candidate around one of several test routes selected for that particular test centre. The UK driving test covers a range of different types of road and driving conditions and test candidates will be required to pass an eyesight check, answer vehicle safety questions and demonstrate a range of driving skills including independent driving and a reversing manoeuvre.

On passing the Category B practical driving test, candidates are granted a full UK driving licence. If the driving test is passed in an automatic car, the full driving licence will be restricted to allow the licence holder to drive automatic cars only, whereas driving tests passed in manual cars give entitlement to drive cars with both manual and automatic transmission.

Read on for more detailed information about the UK driving test.

The advice given on this page is intended only for UK drivers and those taking the UK Practical Driving Test.

Please be aware that road traffic legislation and what is considered good driving practice varies throughout the world!

What Happens During The Driving Test?

The practical driving test lasts for around 40 minutes in total and consists of five parts:

  1. An eyesight check
  2. ‘Show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions
  3. General driving ability
  4. Reversing your vehicle
  5. Independent driving

You are allowed to commit up to 15 driving (minor) faults during the test and still pass the test, but no serious or dangerous faults. Repeated instances of the same driving fault would be classed as an habitual problem and be declared a serious fault.

More information about the Practical Driving Test can be found on the GOV.UK website at:

Did You Know? Fun Driving Test Facts

  • In 2017/18, the DVSA conducted 1,718,519 car tests, of which 795,892 were passed (source: Department for Transport).
  • In 2017/2018 the national average pass rate for the Practical Test was 50.0% for males and 43.0% for females (source: Department for Transport).
  • "On average, those who pass have had 47 hours of professional instruction and 20 hours of private practice" (source: Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)).
  • Compulsory driving tests were introduced in 1935.
  • Mr J Beene was the first person to pass the UK driving test, at a cost of 7/6d (that's the equivalent of 37p in today's money!)

How To Prepare For Your Practical Driving Test

Before you can take a Practical Driving Test, you MUST pass the Theory Test and thoroughly prepare for what you will be required to demonstrate on the driving test.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have stated:

"On average, people who pass their driving test have had 47 hours of driving lessons with a driving instructor and 20 hours of private practice."

Professional driving tuition is the most effective way to make sure that you are fully prepared to take your Practical Driving Test.

If you are having private practice with a friend or family member, get together with your instructor and the person who will be helping you to practice in order to discuss the best ways of helping you to learn to drive and avoid the passing on of bad habits or conflicting ideas.

In addition, a wide selection of driving test books, software and DVDs can help reinforce the skills you learn during your driving lessons.

Where Can I Take My Test?

Driving tests are conducted by the DVSA at over 370 test centres throughout the country.

You can choose to take your test at whichever test centre you like! Waiting times for driving test appointments vary.

Here are the locations of all the test centres in the UK and the estimated waiting list for each test centre.

How Much Does It Cost to Take a Driving Test?

Practical driving test fees 2021

Type of TestDaytime Monday to FridayEvenings and Weekends

Practical Test

£62.00

£75.00

Extended Driving Tests (following disqualification)

£124.00

£150.00

How to Book a Test

You can book your driving test online at the official GOV.UK website.

You will need:

  1. A valid UK driving licence
  2. Your Theory Test pass number (from the test result print out you were given when you passed your Theory Test)
  3. A debit or credit card for payment

At the official site, you pay ONLY for the test and there's no extra booking fee. Avoid "test booking services" on the internet who will book a test for you. They charge you a hefty booking fee on top of the test fee.

What happens at the driving test centre on the day of your driving test?

What happens at the driving test centre on the day of your driving test?

Make sure you are at the test centre in good time for your test. However, as most test centres are very busy and their limited parking is reserved for test candidates only, it's courteous to other candidates to not park in the test centre car park until 5 minutes before the scheduled time of your test.

Before you go to the test centre, make sure that you have the following;

  1. A suitable vehicle in which to take the test. It is the responsibility of the test candidate to provide a suitable vehicle. The driving examiner will NOT provide a vehicle for you to take the test in. The vehicle used must be appropriately insured and licensed, display L- Plates, and comply with the minimum test vehicle requirements set out by the DVSA. If you have been having driving lessons with a professional driving instructor, then you will almost certainly be taking the test in the car in which you have learnt to drive. If you don't provide a vehicle, or if the vehicle you provide does not meet the minimum requirements, your test will be cancelled and you will lose the test fee.
  2. Your Theory Test pass certificate (if you have one), or the Theory Test pass confirmation print out you were given at the Theory Test centre when you passed.
  3. Your provisional photocard driving licence.

If you have mislaid your Theory Test pass certificate this should not by itself stop the test going ahead, but if you do not take your photocard driving licence or if you fail to supply a suitable vehicle, your test will not take place and you will lose your fee.

You are allowed to take your driving instructor with you on the test if you wish, but they will not be allowed to speak or distract either you or the examiner in any way. They must sit silently and still in the back of the car. You must tell the examiner before the test commences that you would like your instructor to accompany you.

Most people are understandably nervous before their driving test, but trying to keep as calm as possible and retaining a sense of perspective will help with the "ordeal." Driving examiners understand that test candidates are often very nervous and will do their best to put you at your ease. If pre-test nerves are concerning you, it might help to read my page about Driving Test Nerves.

When it is nearly time for your test, go into the test centre waiting room and wait for the driving examiner who will be conducting your test to call your name. The examiner will then ask to see your driving licence and Theory Test certificate and ask you to read and sign a declaration.

The examiner will then ask you to lead the way to your vehicle and the test will begin.

The Five Parts of the Practical Driving Test

1. Eyesight Test

The first part of the driving test is a test of your eyesight to make sure that it meets the minimum requirements for driving.

At the start of your driving test, you will be asked to read the number plate of a stationary vehicle from 66 feet (20 metres).

If you were only able to read a number plate using glasses or contact lenses, the law requires that you wear them throughout your driving test and whenever you are driving.

If you have broken or forgotten your glasses, or brought the wrong ones with you to your driving test, you should tell your examiner at the start of the test.

2. Vehicle Safety Questions (Show-Me-Tell-Me)

Test candidates are asked two vehicle safety questions, based on basic safety checks that a driver should carry out to ensure the vehicle is safe for use.

The examiner will ask you one:

  • "Tell me" question at the start of your test, before you start driving. You will need to verbally explain how you’d carry out a specified safety task.
  • "Show me" question while you’re driving. You will need to physically carry out a specified safety task.

One or both questions answered incorrectly will result in one driving fault (minor fault).

The vehicle safety questions are sometimes referred to as "Show-Me-Tell-Me", as some of the questions require the candidate to actually demonstrate a procedure or indicate where a particular component is, while other questions simply require a verbal explanation. Although some checks may require the candidate to open the bonnet to identify where fluid levels would be checked, candidates will not be asked to touch a hot engine or physically check fluid levels.

If you are taking your driving test in your instructor's car, then your instructor will go through all the questions with you and make sure you know where everything is, both inside the car and under the bonnet. If you are taking the practical test in your own car, familiarise yourself with the layout and operation of your vehicle with reference to the manufacturer's handbook if necessary.

3. General Driving Ability

You will then be asked to get into your vehicle and the driving part of the test will commence.

In this third and longest part of the driving test, you have to demonstrate your ability to control and drive the car safely and perform a reversing manoeuvre. In addition, one in three test candidates will also be asked to do an emergency stop.

You will be driving the car for around 35 to 40 minutes. The routes used for driving tests are all designed to be as uniform as possible and all of them take in a range of typical road and traffic conditions.

The examiner will assess your driving and test you on most of the topics you will have covered with your instructor.

During the test, the examiner will tell you what they would like you to do and give you directions. If you feel that you may have made a mistake, please don't panic! It's not the end of the world and it doesn't mean you've failed. Keep calm and concentrate on driving correctly.

If you are not sure what the examiner wants you to do, don't be afraid to say so. The examiner will understand that you are nervous and will be happy to repeat or clarify any instructions given.

You will be asked to pull over several times. Don't worry, this doesn't mean you have done anything wrong; the examiner is just testing your ability to stop in a convenient place and move away again safely under a variety of conditions. These might include normal stops at the side of the road, pulling out from behind a parked vehicle, and a hill start. They will also ask you to stop in a safe place, before asking you to perform an emergency stop or before beginning the next parts of the test (reversing the car and independent driving).

4. Reversing Your Vehicle

You will also be asked to carry out one out of a possible three exercises which will involve reversing the car:

  • Parallel Parking at the side of the road.
  • Parking in a parking bay—either by driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out (the examiner will tell you which you have to do).
  • Pulling up on the right-hand side of the road and then reversing for around 2 car lengths before rejoining the traffic.

In addition, one in three test candidates will be asked to demonstrate an emergency stop.

5. Independent driving

The independent driving section of the driving test will test how you make your own decisions when driving. The examiner will ask you to drive independently for around 20 minutes by either following directions from a sat nav or traffic signs. The examiner will tell which you will have to follow and will supply and set up a sat nav if they wish you to use this (you cannot use your own sat nav).

As the test progresses, the examiner will fill in relevant details on a report sheet (DL25).

The drive will last for around 40 minutes and will end back at the test centre car park.

The examiner will then total up any faults recorded on the DL25 and inform you of the result of your test.


Driving Test Faults Explained

While you are driving, the examiner will note any driving faults on the driving test report form (DL25). Faults are categorised into "driving faults", "serious faults " and "dangerous faults".

Definition of driving test faults

Dangerous Faults are errors in driving technique which result in actual danger to the driver, passengers, other road users or nearby property. A dangerous fault means that the test is automatically failed and the examiner has the option to immediately terminate the test.

Serious Faults are errors in driving technique which result in potential danger to the driver, passengers, other road users or nearby property, including instances where the candidate repeatedly makes the same driving error or is unable to perform one of the set manoeuvres correctly. One serious fault will lead to automatic failure, although the candidate will be permitted to complete the test.

Driving Faults (often referred to as "minor" faults) are errors in driving technique or inappropriate reactions to a hazard or developing situation on the road—in other words less serious errors that do not cause any actual or potential danger to other road users. Typical examples include harsh use of the brakes, crossing of hands on the steering wheel and excessive hesitation at a junction. Don't forget that you can pick up a driver fault before you even start the engine, through an incorrect answer in the "Show Me/ Tell Me" section.

Did You Pass?

You are allowed to commit up to 15 driving (minor) faults but no serious or dangerous faults. Repeated instances of the same driving fault would be classed as an habitual problem and be declared a serious fault.

If you commit even one serious or dangerous fault you will fail the test.

Your Driving Test Result

Pass or fail? The moment of truth...

At the end of the test, the examiner will inform you of the result before he or she gets out of the vehicle.

If you would like your driving instructor to be present to hear what the examiner has to say, you must let the examiner know.

If you have passed, you will be given a test pass certificate and a copy of the DL25 (the driving test report form the examiner has been filling in during the test). The examiner will take your provisional driving licence and a full driving licence will be sent to you by post. You will be entitled to drive quite legally in the meantime while you wait for your full driving licence to arrive (but keep the pass certificate VERY safe in case you are required to prove your entitlement to drive while you wait for your updated licence!)

Less than half of the people who take driving tests pass. Should you be unsuccessful, you will be given a verbal explanation of where you went wrong along with a copy of the DL25. This will help you, in conjunction with your instructor, to work on the aspects of your driving that let you down to give you a greater chance of passing the next time.

Top 10 Reasons Why People Fail the Practical Driving Test

  1. Junctions (observation)
  2. Mirrors – (change direction)
  3. Control (steering)
  4. Junctions (turning right)
  5. Move off (safely)
  6. Positioning (normal driving)
  7. Move off (control)
  8. Response to signals (traffic lights)
  9. Reverse park (control)
  10. Response to signals (Traffic Signs)

Source: Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)

Best Driving Skills Book

Driving: The Essential Skills is the official guide to driving, published by the DVSA, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (known until 2014 as the DSA). The DVSA is the government department responsible for the Practical Driving Test, and put simply, if you drive in the way they set out in Driving: The Essential Skills, you are likely to stand a very good chance of passing your driving test!

This is the book that driving instructors use on a daily basis and recommend to learner drivers—it really is that good! Available from Amazon for a very reasonable price (usually cheaper than you can get it from a shop), it's a wise investment for anyone who wants not only to pass their driving test, but to be a good, safe and considerate driver!

Extended Driving Test

What is an extended driving test?

If you pass your driving test but get disqualified from driving, the court can order that you take an extended driving test if you want to get your driving licence back.

Retesting disqualified drivers is not a punishment, but is a road safety measure aimed at checking the driver's competence.

Courts can impose an extended driving test on anyone who is:

  • Convicted of dangerous driving offences
  • Convicted of other offences involving obligatory disqualification

At the end of the period of disqualification imposed by the court you revert to learner driver status. This means that the normal rules for learner drivers are applicable. For example:

  • You have to reapply for a provisional driving licence
  • You can drive only when supervised by someone who is over 21 and who has had for a minimum of three years a full licence for the category of vehicle you wish to drive.
  • You can only drive a vehicle properly insured for use by a learner driver and displaying L-plates on the front and rear.
  • You have to take the Theory and Practical tests again.

If you have been ordered to take an extended driving test, this means that you will be taking a test that is about 70 minutes long instead of 40 minutes, which will cover your ability to drive in much more depth, taking in a wider variety of road and traffic conditions including dual carriageways.

Because an extended driving test takes longer than a "normal" driving test, you have to pay a higher fee to take one.

After You Pass Your Driving Test: Further Skills Training

After you pass your driving test, further training is available to help you stay a safe and considerate driver. Better driving benefits society.

  • Around 3,000 young drivers are killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads each year.
  • It is estimated that as many as one in five of all serious road accidents involve drivers under the age of 21.
  • Every day in the UK, 23 young people, under the age of 25, are killed or seriously injured in vehicles. Most of these collisions are caused by bad driving—not the vehicle, the road, or the conditions.
  • One in five drivers crash within their first year of driving.
  • Young drivers are more likely to be involved in high-speed crashes, single-vehicle crashes involving losing control, crashes in the dark and crashes when overtaking and negotiating bends.

Those statistics make frightening reading, but the following range of further training can help you to become a safer driver.

1. Pass Plus

You can become a safer driver and possibly reduce the cost of car insurance by taking the Pass Plus course. Pass Plus is a training scheme specifically aimed at new drivers. Designed by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) with the help of insurers and the driving instruction industry, Pass Plus will build upon your existing skills and knowledge and teach you how to anticipate, plan for and deal with all kinds of hazards, which will help you to become more confident on the roads.

By gaining further driving experience in a variety of road conditions and situations, you can significantly improve your chances of avoiding involvement in a road accident and you may even reduce your insurance premiums.

You can take Pass Plus within your first year of passing your practical driving test.

practical-driving-test

2. Advanced Driver Training

Advanced driver training courses will improve your driving skills after you pass your practical driving test.

Why not think about joining one of the many organisations that encourage improved standards of driving and road safety?

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) was formed in March 1956 with the primary objective of promoting road safety. It now has a total active membership of more than 100,000.

Since then other organisations have been set up, such as RoADA - RoSPA Advanced Drivers Association and High Performance Club, all of which conduct a form of "Advanced Driving Test".

Through the Advanced Driving Test, these organisations aim to raise driving standards by increasing the competence of drivers. It was determined in a Transport and Road Safety Laboratory Report published in December 1972 that Advanced motorists have between 50% to 70% lower accident rate.

For detailed information about all of the organisations mentioned above and about advanced driving in general, please see the following very comprehensive and informative websites:

Advanced Driving UK

2Pass- Advanced Driving

Safer Motoring - Advanced Driving Skills And Courses

New Drivers Act

Now that you've got your licence, don't lose it! Make sure you know and understand the requirements of the New Drivers Act. It imposes a 24-month probationary period on those who have just passed the test.

The New Drivers Act applies for two years after you pass your driving test. If you get 6 or more penalty points in those two years, the DVLA will revoke (take away) your driving licence and you will have to take both the Theory and Practical driving tests again!

Penalty points are valid for three years, so any points you already have on your licence before you pass the Practical Test count towards the total of six.

Anyone with six or more valid penalty points on their provisional licence when they pass the test for the first time will be granted a full licence in the normal way, but any points earned after that will trigger automatic revocation. If this happens you will have to;

1) Apply for a provisional licence again,

2) Pass the theory test again,

3) Pass the practical test again

Passing the test again does not remove the penalty points which remain on the new licence until the three-year period expires. If the total of valid points reaches twelve, the driver risks disqualification.

If all this seems unfair please consider the following;

Statistics show that new drivers are more likely to have an accident in the first two years of passing their test than at any other time in their driving career.

Age doesn't matter—it's basically down to a lack of driving experience.

Further information about the New Drivers Act:

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.

© 2008 LouiseKirkpatrick