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Practical test for cars explained

The driving test is designed for you to show you know and understand the Highway Code and the theory of driving safely. Throughout the test your examiner will be looking for an overall safe standard of driving, including when you are carrying out the set exercises.

The car practical driving test

Watch a video about the practical driving test

The driving test is straightforward and has been 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

After meeting your examiner, the next two stages are:

  • an eyesight check – if you fail this, your test will not continue
  • your examiner will ask you two questions about carrying out vehicle safety checks

You'll be asked one 'show me' and one 'tell me' question. One or both questions answered incorrectly will result in one driving fault being recorded.

You can find source material in the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) publication 'The official guide to driving - the essential skills' and 'The official DSA guide to learning to drive'. Advice and information on how to carry out vehicle safety checks can also be found in the manufacturer's handbook.

Driving ability

The driving part of your test will last about 40 minutes. You'll be examined on your general driving and ability to reverse your vehicle safely. One exercise will be chosen from:

  • reversing around a corner
  • turning in the road
  • reverse parking

You may also be asked to carry out an emergency stop exercise.

Throughout the test you should drive in the way your instructor has taught you. If you make a mistake, don't worry about it as it might be a less serious driving fault and may not affect your result. However, if at any time your examiner considers your driving to be a danger to other road users your test will be stopped.

Your practical driving test will include approximately ten minutes of independent driving. This is designed to assess your ability to drive safely while making decisions independently.

Vehicles you can't use at the practical test

If you plan to use your own vehicle at the practical driving test, there are some vehicles that can't be used for safety reasons. You'll need to check that a recall or safety notice does not affect the vehicle.

Taking someone with you on your driving test

Watch a video about taking someone with you

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) encourages you to take someone with you on your driving test. They:

  • will usually be the person who has taught you to drive
  • could be a relative or friend
  • must be over 16 years old
  • cannot take any part in the test
  • will be able to see how you perform during the test

To get the most benefit, ask your instructor to go with you. They can then give you advice on how to improve your driving, whether you pass or fail.

The examiner's supervisor

The examiner's supervisor may come along as well. You shouldn't worry about this as they will be watching the examiner's performance, not yours. The supervisor will not have a say in how you are tested or in your result. If you don’t allow the examiner’s supervisor to go with you:

  • you might lose your test fee
  • your test might not go ahead

Your driving test result

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 feedback with you. The examiner will tell you whether you passed or failed and will explain how you did during the test. They will also give you helpful feedback about how eco-efficient your driving is.

If you don't pass your test, you can take another after ten working days.

Driving test standards

All examiners are trained to carry out the test to the same standard, they do not have pass or fail quotas. So as long as you demonstrate the standard required you will pass your driving test. Test routes are designed to be as uniform as possible and will include a range of typical road and traffic conditions.

Driving tests in bad weather

Watch a video about driving tests in bad weather

DSA does not conduct tests in bad light or in adverse weather conditions for the safety of the candidate and the examiner.

DSA will arrange another appointment at no further cost. However, DSA does not pay any other expenses

You should call the telephone number on your appointment email or letter to check whether your test will go ahead. If your test is early in the morning, call as soon as you can on the day. If you call the day before, the test centre won’t be able to tell you if your test will go ahead. If your test is in the afternoon, call the test centre later in the morning. The test centre is more likely to know if the roads will be suitable for your test.

Vehicle problems

If you or your vehicle prevents your driving test from being completed, you'll have to take another test at your own cost.

Provided by the Driving Standards Agency

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Additional links

Help for learner drivers

Talk to other learner drivers and share your experiences about learning to drive and driving tests

Driving test fees

Find out the cost of theory and practical driving tests when you book on Directgov

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