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About the practical test

Your instructor thinks you're ready – so here's how to prepare for and book your practical test.

Before you apply for a test

You need to be 17 or older, hold a valid provisional licence, and have passed your theory and hazard perception tests. You should also have had a number of driving lessons. Driving Standards Agency research suggests that people need an average of 45 hours of tuition before they're ready to pass the practical test.

Why are driving lessons so expensive?

This is because you're getting tuition from an expert in the exact skills and manoeuvres that you need to pass your test, along with relevant support materials and online resources. If you're stuck for how to pay for them, bear in mind that one year of Saturday work should pay for all the lessons you need.

What happens in the test?

The test lasts 40 minutes. First your eyesight will be checked and you will have to read a number plate that is 20m (66ft) away. If you fail the eyesight check then your test will be cancelled. After this you will be asked two questions about your car (see 'What is Show me, tell me' below) and then be examined on your driving skills and manoeuvres; including reversing, parking, and perhaps an emergency stop. You will also spend a period of time as an independent driver (see 'Independent driving' below).

Independent driving

Since October 2010, you are also required to spend a period of your test driving independently. The examiner will ask you to drive without junction-by-junction directions to assess if the skill of driving independently has been learned. The examiner will continue to assess your driving skills but will not be assessing your ability to remember a route, so you can still ask the examiner to confirm which direction you should be going in. Your driving instructor will help prepare you, for both the test and your future driving.

What is 'Show me, tell me'?

These are questions about basic checks that a driver should do to ensure a car is safe. For instance you may be asked: "Tell me how to check the tyre pressure" and "Show me how you would check the headlights are working".

How does the examiner decide if you've passed?

To pass, you will have to complete the test with less than 15 minor errors. You will then be given a pass certificate and asked if you want a full licence to be issued to you automatically.

What do I do about nerves?

Everyone gets nervous, so the best thing to do is concentrate on what you're doing, and drive and behave as you would on a lesson. Focusing on your breathing can also help to relax you before your test.

What if I fail?

You can repeat your practical test without having to retake your theory and hazard perception tests as long as your theory certificate is still valid (it lasts for two years). Always ask for feedback from the examiner so you can see where you went wrong. The current national average practical pass rate is 43%.*

What do I have to bring to the test?

Bring your theory test certificate, your appointment letter, and both parts of your photo card licence. You risk your test being cancelled if you forget any of these items.

How much does a practical test cost?

A weekday practical test costs £62, and an evening or weekend test costs £67. To book, phone 0870 0101 372, or apply online at www.gov.uk/book-practical-driving-test. There will be a waiting time of between two and twelve weeks, depending on where you live. To cancel your test you must give ten clear working days notice so you don't lose your fee.

*Driving Standards Agency June 2005

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