The complete guide to the ADI tests: part 1, part 2, part 3

The driving instructor training process

Total Reading Time: 20 mins 26 secs; Author: The AA; Last Updated: 3 January 2024

Becoming an approved driving instructor (ADI) is an immensely challenging and rewarding career. It means you can escape the office, become your own boss… And teach people a valuable skill for life.

To qualify, you need to pass three Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) tests:

Here we’ll look at what’s required of you at each stage, and what to know before you book the ADI part 1, ADI part 2 and ADI part 3 test.

instructor exams

Before you start training, there are certain criteria to meet.

First, you need to be over 21. In order to accompany a learner driver, you need to be qualified to drive the vehicle you’ll be supervising in, having held a driving licence in that category for over 3 years. It should be a clean licence with no motoring convictions.

You can check your eligibility at GOV.UK, or here if you plan to apply in Northern Ireland.

Also, the DVSA’s partner Safe Driving for Life has a driving instructor suitability assessment, where you can see if it’s really the right career for you. It takes 20 minutes to complete.

Preparing for your exams

If you train with The AA, you’ll have access to our online learning management system, Thrive. This is an easy-to-use platform which jam-packed with:

  • Learning materials
  • Helpful advice
  • Online classrooms
  • Study groups
  • Practice exercises and videos

This makes learning more accessible (and dare we say: fun) for you and your fellow trainees.

This will set you in great stead for your exams. Although there are also ways to improve in your own time.

Driving: The Essential Skills

In particular, we recommend the official DVSA guide to Driving: The Essential Skills. This is THE industry standard driving manual, and an excellent resource for understanding the rules of the road comprehensively.

There are also apps you can download to help you on your way, such as the ADI Theory Test for Android and iPhone.

ADI test part 1: Driving theory

What is the ADI Part 1 test?

The ADI part 1 theory test is made up of multiple-choice questions, followed by a hazard perception test. It’s similar in format to the driving theory test, but the standard is much higher.

ADI Part 1 – Booking the ADI Theory Test

Test requirements

You book your driving instructor theory test yourself through the DVSA, or Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) if you’re taking the test in Northern Ireland. Before taking the test, you need to have a criminal record (DBS) check and permission from the ADI registrar. Once you have the thumbs up, you can book your ADI theory test on GOV.UK.

Please note that it’s a different process to book your ADI theory test in Northern Ireland.

If you need additional help, support is available if you:

  • Have difficulty reading
  • Have a disability
  • Have a health condition

Learn more about the types of support available at GOV.UK.

How much does the ADI part 1 test cost?

It costs £81 to book your ADI theory test, and payment is made on application. To apply, you need the following to hand:

  • UK driving licence number
  • DVSA personal reference number
  • An email address (you’ll have to book by phone if you don’t have one)
  • Your credit or debit card

Theory test locations

There are a large number of test centres nationwide, so it’s likely there’s one a reasonable distance from where you live. You can find your nearest theory test centre at GOV.UK.

What does the ADI Part 1 theory test involve?

ADI part 1 multiple-choice test

The multiple-choice part of the test requires you to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of The Highway Code, rules of the road and instructional techniques.

This part is divided into four topics:

  • Road procedure
  • Traffic signs and signals, car control, pedestrians and mechanical knowledge
  • Driving test, disabilities and law
  • Publications and instructional techniques

Before you begin, you have a 15-minute practice to familiarise yourself with the test format. You’re then given 90 minutes to answer 100 questions. You need to get at least 85 correct to pass. And at least 20 need to be correct in each of the four categories.

If you pass, you can take a 3-minute break, or go straight on to the hazard perception.

ADI part 1 hazard perception test

The hazard perception part takes around 20 minutes. Again, it’s not dissimilar to the hazard perception part of the regular theory test, but it’s a lot tougher.

You’re shown 14 videos, each of which has a developing hazard. This is something that would cause you as a driver to take action, such as braking or changing direction. You need to identify this as quickly as possible when it becomes apparent.

One of the videos has two hazards, not just the one. This means you shouldn’t let your defences down just because you’ve spotted a hazard.

The sooner you spot the hazard, the more you’ll score. The maximum score per hazard is 5 points. Don’t adopt a scattergun approach though. If you press too soon or in a pattern, you might forfeit the points on that video.

Out of 75 possible points, you need to score at least 57. That means you should ideally score at least 3 or 4 points per hazard.

When you pass your ADI Part 1 test

You’ll get your results very shortly after completing both tests. If you pass, you’ll be given the opportunity to apply for the ADI part 2 – the test of your driving ability.

When you pass, you’ll get a pass certificate letter. You’ll need this for the ADI Part 2 test – both when you book it, and on the day.

It’s worth noting that passing the ADI Part 1 test effectively starts a timer. From this point, you have two years to pass the ADI Part 3 test and qualify.

What happens if you fail the ADI Part 1 test?

If you don’t pass, it’s not the end of the world. You can take the ADI part 1 theory test an unlimited amount of times, although you’ll have to pay for each. It’s possible to rebook straight away in the same manner as you did before, but you may want to take some time for more preparation. At least you’ll know the areas that need work, so you can concentrate on them for next time.

One of the main disadvantages of failing the ADI Part 1 is that it’ll take a bit longer before you can start earning money, as each part needs to be passed in turn. And you can’t start earning as a trainee until you’ve passed the ADI Part 2 test.

Discover the right training option for you

ADI test part 2: Practical driving test

The ADI part 2 test is similar in format to the original practical driving test, but the standard expected is much higher. You need to show expert-level driving skills in different road and traffic conditions, and excellent Highway Code knowledge.

Part 2 - Driving Ability Test

Test requirements

In England, Wales and Scotland, you can book part 2 ADI test on GOV.UK, and it costs £111. The process is a little different if you book your ADI practical test in Northern Ireland.

What do I need to bring to the ADI Part 2 test?

On the day of the test, you need to bring:

  • Your full and valid driving licence. If you have a Northern Ireland photocard licence, you need to bring the accompanying paper licence. If you don’t have a photocard licence, you should bring a current passport.
  • Your ADI part 1 theory test pass certificate.

What car should I use for the ADI Part 2 test?

You also need to bring a car to take the test in. You can read a full list of requirements for the car here, but in general the vehicle should be:

  • Properly taxed and insured, with a valid MOT.
  • In good working condition.
  • A saloon, hatchback or estate car with manual or automatic transmission.
  • A right-hand drive.

The car should be fitted with an extra interior rear-view mirror for the examiner. In addition, this mirror – plus features such as the seat and head restraint – should be readily adjustable for the examiner’s use. It should have working seatbelts, and should not display L-plates.

For instructors who do not currently have a vehicle, do we or more broadly anybody offer the ability to hire or rent a vehicle for this purpose?

Opportunity to mention the PDI frnachise and link to future franchise content around purchasing or leasing a vehicle for teaching.

H3 – ADI Part 2, structure and criteria

The ADI part 2 practical test lasts for roughly one hour and comprises:

  • An eyesight check
  • ‘Show me, tell me’ safety questions
  • General test of your driving ability
  • Performing manoeuvres
  • An independent driving section

ADI part 2 eyesight test

If you normally wear glasses or contacts, you must wear these at all times during the test. In good daylight, you’ll be expected to read a number plate from a distance of:

  • 26.5 metres a new-style number plate (beginning with two letters followed by two numbers)
  • 27.5 metres for an old-style number plate

Not being able to read a registration plate from the required distance is an instant fail, and the test will be discontinued.

ADI part 2 'show me, tell me' safety questions

After the eyesight test, there will be a ‘show me, tell me’ test regarding safety checks. The examiner will ask you to explain how to carry out checks on the safety and condition of three different vehicle components.

After you start driving, you’ll be asked to demonstrate how to carry out a further two checks.

You can read the full list of ADI part 2 ‘show me, tell me’ questions here.

ADI part 2 test of driving ability

During the test of driving ability, you’ll be expected to demonstrate a very high standard of driving skill and knowledge. You’ll be taken out on roads with a possible range of conditions. These are likely to include dual carriageways or motorways, and you may encounter heavy and fast-moving traffic. You’ll need to prove to the examiner that you’re a highly competent driver, whatever situations come your way.

The examiner will test you on any or all of the following:

  • Expert handling of the car’s controls.
  • Using the correct road procedure.
  • Anticipating other road users’ actions and reacting appropriately.
  • Sound judgment of speed, distance and timing.
  • Driving in a considerate fashion, bearing in mind the safety and convenience of other road users.
  • Environmentally friendly driving.
  • The examiner may also ask you to carry out an emergency stop.

ADI part 2 manoeuvres

You’ll be expected to carry out two of the following reverse manoeuvres, with effective all-round observation:

  • Parallel park at the side of the road.
  • Reverse into a parking bay, and then drive out.
  • Drive into a parking bay, and then reverse out.
  • Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, then reverse for about two car lengths. You’ll then be asked to rejoin the traffic.

ADI part 2 independent driving section

The ADI part 2 independent driving section was introduced in 2010, and lasts roughly 20 minutes. Here you’ll drive without any instruction, instead following directions from a sat nav or road signs. If the examiner chooses a sat nav, they’ll set it up for you – you won’t use your own. You’ll be expected to make the correct decisions without prompting.

If you go off route by mistake, this won’t affect your test result, provided you don’t make a fault while doing so. If this happens, the examiner will help you get back on the correct route.

When you pass your ADI Part 2 test

At the end of the test, you’ll return to the test centre, and the examiner will give you your score and any feedback.

Like the original driving test, your examiner will mark any faults, and the perfect score is zero. However, here you can only make six driving faults. Seven or more faults will result in you failing your test. One serious fault will result in a fail, and a dangerous fault will cause you to fail and for the test to be discontinued.

If you pass, you’ll be presented with a letter with your result, which includes details of how to apply for the ADI part 3 test of instructional ability. Although you can apply for this straight away, it’s well worth preparing exhaustively for it.

You’ll also be given the option of applying for a trainee licence, and the pink badge which comes with it. It’s worth considering the potential driving instructor (PDI) trainee route, as this will give you valuable hands-on experience in teaching real pupils how to drive.

Find out more about The AA Trainee Partner Franchise, which includes:

  • A branded car
  • Uncapped pupil supply
  • Comprehensive car insurance
  • Maintenance, repairs and servicing
  • Pupil booking and diary system

Plus plenty more besides. Basically everything you need to get you started in teaching real-life pupils, and adjusting to a new business.

What happens if I fail the ADI Part 2?

If you fail, you’ll be given the option to apply to resit the ADI part 2 test. After failing the first time, you’ll have two more chances to pass, so be sure to take any feedback given on board.

You can rebook straight away, although how long it takes before you can resit the test will depend on the waiting times at your chosen test centre.

Failing for a third time means having to start your ADI tests from scratch.

ADI test part 3: Instructional ability

The objective of the ADI part 3 is to demonstrate your competence when it comes to giving instruction and passing on knowledge to pupils. The test is about an hour long and consists of giving a real lesson to a pupil.

Part 3 - Ability to Instruct Test

Test requirements

In England, Scotland and Wales, you can book ADI part 3 test on GOV.UK, which costs £111. There’s a different process if you book your ADI instructional ability test in Northern Ireland.

How many in-car hours are required for the ADI Part 3 test?

While there’s no set number of in-car hours required for the ADI Part 3 test, you will need to hit a target in order to apply for your trainee licence. You need to complete 40 hours or ADI Part 3 training while supervised by an ADI. This should be undertaken in the six-month period prior to the trainee licence application date.

ADI part 3 car requirements

There are numerous requirements that the car you use must meet. You can read a full list of criteria required of the car here, including specific vehicles you shouldn’t use. Some of the main rules are as follows:

  • It should be taxed and roadworthy, with a valid MOT.
  • The car must be a hatchback, saloon or estate car.
  • It needs full-size back seats with working seatbelts.
  • It needs a readily adjustable driver’s seat, with a head restraint.
  • The car must display L-plates, or optional D-plates if you’re taking the test in Wales.

The car can be either manual or automatic. But bear in mind that if you pass in a car with an automatic transmission, you won’t be qualified to teach in a manual vehicle.

If your car doesn’t meet these criteria, or you don’t have adequate insurance in place, the test won’t continue and you’ll forfeit your fee.

Your pupil

You have to provide the pupil on the day. They can either be a learner or a full licence holder but cannot be a qualified ADI.

When it comes to finding a pupil for the day, it’s not a bad idea to use someone you’ve taught as a trainee, assuming you opted to be a PDI. It’s also worth noting that, if you train with The AA, we have a pupil introduction service you’re likely to have used by this point.

What you'll be marked on

Throughout the test, you’ll be marked on 17 areas of competence. These are grouped into three categories:

  • Lesson planning
  • Risk management
  • Teaching and learning strategies

ADI part 3 test of instructional ability

In the ADI part 3 test, you’ll be asked to demonstrate your knowledge and ability through practical driving instruction.

During the test, you’ll sit in the front passenger seat, and your pupil will drive. Your examiner will sit in the back. You can also bring your trainer or mentor, but they cannot participate in the lesson itself.

You’ll give the examiner an overview of the lesson plan, and then introduce them to the pupil. You should explain the purpose of the lesson to the pupil, and reassure them that it’s you who's being examined, not them. It’s good practice to ask the pupil if there’s anything specific they’d like to cover during the lesson.

From then on, conduct a lesson as you normally would. Bear in mind that risk management is a key part of what you’re being marked on. It’s of paramount importance that the lesson is conducted safely. Any directions you give should be clear and made in good time. You should at all stages be aware of your surroundings, and the actions of other road users.

At the end of the lesson, you’ll debrief the pupil for around five minutes. Then the examiner will give you your result, and any feedback from the test.

How is the ADI Part 3 test scored?

The examiner scores you from 0 to 3 on each of the competencies listed above. You’ll be scored out of a possible 51.

Your score will be graded as follows:

Total score Grade Description
0-30 Fail Your performance isn’t up to standard, and you won’t join the ADI register.
31-42 Grade B You get to join the ADI register.
43-51 Grade A You’ve shown a high standard of instruction, and you get to join the ADI register.

Scoring less than 7 in the risk management category will cause you to fail. And, as with any driving test, you’ll fail instantly if the examiner must stop the lesson on account of you putting yourself or anyone else in danger.

When you pass your ADI Part 3 test

If you pass, congratulate yourself – you’ve qualified to become a driving instructor! You can then apply for your first ADI green badge.

You should do this within 12 months of passing the ADI part 3 test. Not doing so means you’ll have to pass all three tests again.

If you train with The AA, you’ll have the opportunity to download as many of the training materials as you like. You’re likely to find these useful reference materials in future.

There will also be opportunities during your career to come back and learn with the team. For example, you have an ADI standards check every four years, which assesses whether you’re still on top of your game. Preparing for this might be a good time to take a short course and brush up.

Another course that could be worth taking is Motability training, which equips you with the skills to teach learners with a disability.

Now is also a good time to consider whether you wish to join a franchise, or go it alone.

What happens if I fail the ADI Part 3?

If you fail, it isn’t the end of the world, as you get two more attempts. It’s well worth taking the feedback your examiner gives you on board. This will stand you in better stead for the next attempt. Any resits must be booked within two years of passing the ADI part 1 test.

If you were a trainee driving instructor and chose the extra training option on your licence application, you’ll need to do five hours of additional training before retaking the test.

You'll want to pass on your third (or hopefully second) attempt though. Failing a third time sets you back to square one, and you’ll have to pass all three tests again to qualify. In addition, you'll have to wait two years from when you originally passed the ADI part 1 before you can retake it.

If you’ve failed, but haven’t been training with The AA… Please note that it’s not too late to take advantage of our expertise at this stage. If you’re thinking of switching, or you need extra professional help with your learning, please get in touch. With our dedicated learning management system Thrive and extra 1-2-1 support from our personal account managers, you’ll get the boost you need to pass!