Passing the New UK Practical Driving Test to Get Your License – Everything You Need to Know

There have been a lot of changes to the practical driving test already, but more changes are coming at the end of the year. The new changes take effect on 4 December, 2017. If you take your practical driving test before then, there will be no changes. If you are just getting started, you may want to look at taking an intensive driving course so that you are sure to be ready to pass the test in time before the rules change.

But if you aren’t ready to start your learner driving lessons now, odds are that you will be taking the test after the changes take effect. You want to pass your driving test, and we want to help. Here’s everything that you need to know to successfully pass your test once your lessons are completed.

Same Total Time, But More Independent Driving

Currently the practical driving test lasts about forty minutes. This isn’t changing, so you can count on the test lasting about the same amount of time. What is changing is how that time is divided up.

Presently, the “independent driving” part of the practical driving test lasts only about ten minutes. But after 4 December, this part of the test will last a full twenty minutes. This means less time with parking lot maneuvers, questions from the instructor about the car itself, and following spoken instructions to maneuver the car.

So, why shift the time around?

The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency – the ones in charge of organising the various requirements for passing the driving test – realised that all the most important aspects of driving safety occur while operating the car is in real-world situations when the driver is required to not only drive, but to think and navigate at the same time.

In fact, vehicle collisions are the number one killer of young people in the UK, accounting for just over 25% of the total. This is the age group that covers most new drivers. It makes total sense that the overwhelming majority – dare we say “all” – of automotive fatalities among young people don’t happen in the parking lot or while following simple instructions … they happen out on the open road at speed.

And this is predominately an issue with 16 to 20 year olds – just when people are learning to drive for the first time. In all other age ranges, vehicle accidents are way down the list. So it makes sense that the new practical driving test should focus on the drivers skill out on the open road.

Navigating Your Car Via Signs or SatNav

The examiner now has three options when asking you to navigate from one point to another:

  • Listening to Satellite Navigation (SatNav) instructions
  • Reading and following highway signs
  • Following the examiner’s verbal instructions

Even though the SatNav option is new and is getting a lot of press, the truth is that you could end up with any of these navigation types. If the examiner is going to ask you to navigate via SatNav, you do not have to have a car with SatNav installed. Even if you have a SatNav in your car, the examiner will bring one for you (everyone tests on the same kind of device). The examiner will enter the destination and start the navigation. Your job will be to listen while driving and follow the navigation instructions.

SatNav will be used on most of the practical driving exams – up to 80% of the driving tests will use this option. This is because the government estimates that 52% of drivers have some form of satellite navigation in their cars now, and this number is likely to go up. So even if you don’t have SatNav in your car now, odds are you will sometime soon.

The examiner could also choose a route with ample, clear signage and simply tell you to follow the signs to your destination. Seems simple enough if you are paying proper attention.

If the examiner choses verbal instructions, he or she will tell you where to go and the path to follow. Keep in mind that you can ask the examiner to repeat the instructions if you need them to (it’s not a memory test).

But here’s what’s really important: no matter which navigation test you get, this portion of the test in NOT about following navigation instructions at all!

You can miss you turn and have to circle back, you can get confused and have to ask questions, and you can even go completely the wrong way and still pass. The key is to be able to cope with the distractions of navigation while still driving in a safe manner. If you get confused and miss your turn, just say so and then come back around for another go or ask questions. If you can do that safely, you get all points.

NEW! Performing Reversing Maneuvers or Parking in Your Driving Test

This part of the test has changed a bit. Two new maneuvers will be added, and two of the previous testing maneuvers will be cut.

Reversing maneuvers can unsettle even experienced drivers, but if you practice a bit, you should do just fine. Starting 4 December, the examiner will choose one reversing of these maneuvers for you to complete safely:

  • Parallel Parking – by pulling forward next to another car at the curb and then angling the car into a spot between cars or cones while in reverse (new).
  • Parking – pulling into a normal parking spot and then backing out (new).
  • Parking – backing into a normal parking spot and then driving forward out (same as before).
  • Right Side of the Road – pulling off the road onto the right side of the street against the curb, then backing up a bit before returning safely into the traffic lane (same as before).

The point is not to do it fast, but to perform any of these maneuvers safely and effectively.

Answering Safety Questions Before, While Parked, and While Driving

You will be asked two safety questions during your test, and at least one of them will be while you are driving – so don’t be surprised when it happens. These are not super complicated, but they are the kinds of things that you should know in order to operate your car safely.

There are two kinds of safety questions: “tell me” and “show me.” Your driving school instructor will familiarise you with the kinds of questions you will be asked. Previously, examiners asked one of each kind of question at the very beginning – before the driving portion of the exam started. Now, the “tell me” question will be asked at the beginning and the “show me” question will be asked during the driving portion – so you will need to perform the “show me” action while driving when it is safe to do so.

Sample “Tell Me” Questions

  • Tell me how you’d check that the headlights and tail lights are working?
  • Tell me how you’d check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth?
  • Tell me how you’d check that the engine has sufficient oil?

These exam questions cover some basic knowledge of the car in general.

Sample “Show Me” Questions

  • Show me how you’d wash the front windscreen?
  • Show me how you’d demist or heat the rear window?
  • Show me how you’d open and close the windows?

As you can see, these are simple operations. But they require you to recognize icons and operate controls in the car while it is moving and safe to do so.

Importantly, this may be a type of car that you are not familiar with. So, we always recommend that when you sit in the driver’s seat to take your driving exam, take a moment and look around to locate all of the controls before things get started.

What’s NOT Changing in the Practical Driving Test

It’s still a driving test, and some things never change:

  • Common items like lane safe lane changes, speed control, signaling turns, and merging with traffic will still be tested.
  • The total amount of time for the practical exam stays at 40 minutes.
  • The cost remains the same.
  • The pass/fail score remains the same – you can have 15 minor faults and still pass. Having 16 minor faults or one major fault means that you will need to retake the exam.

To Review – Here Are the Top Five Changes to the Practical Driving Test

Starting on 4 December 2017:

  • The time spent independent driving increases from 10 to 20 minutes.
  • The reversing maneuvers have been adjusted with two new ones.
  • The “show me” and “tell me” questions are mostly the same, now they occur at different times in the exam.
  • Four out of five exams will require navigating via SatNav.

You CAN Pass Your Practical Driving Test

We will continue to keep track of these things for you and ensure that our intensive driving instructors have all the information they need to give you a great learner experience. In the meantime, sign up for an assessment lesson and we’ll get you more information. Or contact us on social media or send us a message and we’ll gladly answer your questions.