Practical test

Taking your practical driving test

So you're almost there. You’ve had your lessons, you’ve passed your theory test, and now the only thing between you and the open road is the practical test.

Read on for a run-through of everything you need to get your practical test booked, prepared for, and (fingers crossed) passed.

Why do I need to take the practical driving test?

The test assesses your ability to:

  • Demonstrate safe, independent driving in a variety of road and traffic conditions.
  • Show a working knowledge of the Highway Code.

When can I take my practical driving test?

You can book your practical driving test if you're at least 17, have a valid provisional licence, and you've passed your theory test.

But how do you know when you're really ready? Your driving instructor will let you know when they think you've got the potential to pass your test and they'll discuss suitable dates for you to have a go.

However, it's a two-way conversation. If you feel confident in your abilities, talk to your instructor. There's no set number of lessons before someone can take their practical test.

How do I prepare for my practical driving test?

If this is your first time taking the test, here's how to make sure you're in the best possible position to pass:

  • Before you take your test, make sure you feel ready. Don’t just rush in because you want your licence.
  • Swot up on the Highway Code.
  • Practice your skills and manoeuvres as much as you can.
  • Ask your instructor to spend some extra time on anything you’re feeling unsure about.
  • Visit the test centre before your test so you know the journey and are familiar with your surroundings when you arrive that day.
  • If you know you'll be nervous, try to book your test in the morning so you can get it over and done with. 
  • The day before your test, look after yourself. Try to get some exercise, avoid going out on the town, and get plenty of sleep.
  • A few hours before your test, limit your screen time so you can minimise distractions. 

Want more advice on preparing for your test?

What do I need to take to my driving test?

The test will take place at your local test centre. On the day, make sure you take:

  • Your provisional UK driving licence.
  • Your theory pass certificate.
  • A car – most pupils will use their instructors, but you can use your own car too.

Your instructor will usually offer a final lesson immediately before your test appointment to do a refresher of everything you've learnt, discuss any last minute concerns, and to generally 'warm up' before the real thing.

What happens during the test?

The test lasts about 40 minutes. During that time, the examiner will cover 5 things:

  • An eyesight check
  • 'Show me, tell me' car safety questions.
  • General driving ability.
  • Reversing your car – expect to be asked to parallel park at the side of a road, park in a bay, or reverse for 2 car lengths and re-join traffic after pulling over.
  • Independent driving for roughly 20 minutes.
  • Following directions from a sat nav. 

Your examiner will assess your driving according to 3 types of faults:

  • A dangerous fault – this involves actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property.
  • A serious fault – something potentially dangerous (this, and dangerous faults, are often referred to as majors).
  • A driving fault – this isn't potentially dangerous, but if you keep making the same mistake, it could become a serious fault (these are often referred to as minors).

In a nutshell, you'll pass your test if you:

  • Tot up fewer than 15 driving faults (minors).
  • Avoid recording a single serious or dangerous driving fault (majors).

The end of the test

Once you've returned to the test centre and safely parked, the examiner will tell you the test result. They'll also provide feedback, including how many and what type of faults were made.

If you pass, the examiner will:

  • Give you a pass certificate.
  • Ask if you'd like your full licence sent to you, or if you'd like to apply for it in your own time.
  • Allow you to smile.

A failed driving test isn’t the end of your driving dreams. If you don't pass, you can book another test online after 10 working days.

You won't be sent away wondering where you went wrong. Your examiner will tell you why you didn't pass, including details of specific faults. 

Pass your test with us

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* Survey of AA Driving School pupils who passed their test in 2018.