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Helen's Practical Test Advice

Your instructor will advise you when you're nearing or ready to take your driving test. It's normal to feel anxious or nervous but your instructor won't let you take your test if they didn't think you were capable.

The idea of the test is to show the examiner you are a confident safe driver who is capable of good decisions, quick reactions when needed and able to drive alone with no assistance.


On the day of your test your instructor will collect you one hour before your test time. This allows a little 'warming up' time in the car and giving you chance to voice any concerns, practise last minute manoeuvres or difficult points and get to your test centre in plenty of time. This is also an opportunity to go through the 'show me tell me' questions you will be asked by the examiner.


You will need to take with you your valid and up to date provisional licence along with your theory test pass certificate. Also if you need glasses to drive don't forget them!


Your driving test lasts around 40 mins which is a good chunk less than an average hours driving lesson!

Some say the test passes really quickly, some say it seems to last forever!

You will be asked at the start of the test whether you would like your instructor to come with you in the car. This is completely up to you. Some pupils find it helpful, some are put off by a back seat passenger. Whatever your decision, you will then be asked whether you would like your instructor to listen to the debrief at the end of the test. Saying yes is usually beneficial as in the event you've been unsuccessful, you and your instructor can listen to the mistakes you made and help overcome them, and put them right for your next test.


There are 5 parts to the practical driving test :-

• Eyesight check - Before the test the examiner will check your eyesight meets the legal requirement. This is to be able to read a random registration plate from a distance of 20 m. If you cannot do this you won't be allowed to take the test.

• Show me tell me questions - Your instructor will have told you about and shown you a set of questions called 'show me tell me' questions. These questions are based around the maintenance/operation of your vehicle. Your examiner will ask you one question before you set off on your test, and one question during the test whilst you're on the move. A full list of the questions could be provided by your instructor and is below.

• General Drive - Throughout the test the examiner will be assessing your ability to drive on a variety of different roads and traffic conditions. Tests do not currently include any motorway driving. The examiner will give you clear and precise directions as to the route they wish you to follow. They may also ask you to follow a sequence of signs. Since the test was modified at the end of 2017 this may now include following a sat nav. You will also be asked to demonstrate pulling up safely on the left, on an uphill and behind a parked vehicle. At some point you may also be asked to perform an emergency stop.

• Manoeuvres - there are four possible manoeuvres in the test, of which you will only be asked to demonstrate one - parallel park/reverse behind a vehicle, park forwards into a bay then reversing back out, reverse into a parking bay or pulling up on the right hand side of the road reversing then rejoining your lane of traffic.

• Independent drive - Approximately 1 in 5 pupils arent asked to use the sat nav, but will be asked to drive independently for about 20 mins. This means following road signs and/or verbal directions from the examiner. Any wrong turn/misread sign will not be marked down as a driver fault unless a fault is made.


You are allowed up to 15 minor marks or driver faults and still pass. However, one serious or dangerous mark results in a fail.



Don't just hope everything will be ok on the day. Practise your weaknesses, revise your questions, listen to your instructors advice. Get extra lessons in on the run up to the test if you need. Make sure your paperwork is ready and valid. Make sure youre fed and watered (sounds silly I know!)

Examiners are Human!

Try and remember the examiners are only people... they aren't gunning for you to fail. They just need to see you are a calm confident and safe driver who will be competent out on the road alone. Most examiners are friendly and professional and want a good drive from you to be able to give you a pass!

If at some point in the test there is something you're unsure about or didn't quite hear, don't be afraid to ask them to repeat the instruction or be a little clearer.

Bite Size Chunks

I always tell pupils, during the test, focus on each instruction given by the examiner. Listen to his command, think it through. Think of the routine required, asses the situation, then carry out the task. Once that manoeuvre/ junction/ roundabout has been navigated, put it behind you and await the next instruction. If you think you have made a mistake or error in judgment try and forget about it and move forward. It may be the examiner didn't judge it to be a big deal or unsafe. Or maybe they just didn't spot it!!!

Let the Examiner See/Hear You

This may sound silly but sometimes vocalising/commentating your driving may be helpful in letting your examiner know your thought process/decision making. For example, if a cyclist is riding quite wide in the road forcing you to wait behind, actually saying something will let the examiner know you're unsure of passing the cyclist rather than him assuming you're hesitant or slow. Sometimes silence is misleading as uncertainty or you being unconfident. Explaining yourself could just make the examiner realise why you are doing something.

The Result

Everyone obviously wants a great result, low or no minors and a well earned pass at the end of the test.

If though, for some reason you're unsuccessful, it's not the end of the world.

Listen to the reasons your examiner gives as to why they saw fit to fail you (your instructor should be there listening too). You can then talk to your instructor and go and have extra tuition to rectify any issues and have another go! I tell my pupils that the experience of a test, knowing what to expect and expending those first time nerves is sometimes really useful for second test success!!


You will be asked a number of "Show me tell me" vehicle safety check questions. The tell question is asked at the test centre. The show question is asked whilst you are on the move. Below are a selection of questions you may be asked. Boost your confidence and make certain you can answer these.


Tell me how you’d check that the brakes are working before starting a journey. Brakes should not feel spongy or slack. Brakes should be tested as you set off. Vehicle should not pull to one side.

Tell me how you’d know if there was a problem with your anti-lock braking system. Warning light should illuminate if there is a fault with the anti-lock braking system.


Tell me how you’d check that the headlights and tail lights are working. You don’t need to exit the vehicle. Explain you’d operate the switch (turn on ignition if necessary), then walk round vehicle (as this is a ‘tell me’ question, you don’t need to physically check the lights).

Tell me how you’d switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you’d use it/them. You don’t need to exit the vehicle. Operate switch (turn on dipped headlights and ignition if necessary). Check warning light is on. Explain use.

Tell me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you’d know the main beam is on. Operate switch (with ignition or engine on if necessary), check with main beam warning light.

Tell me how you’d check the direction indicators are working. You don’t need to exit the vehicle. Explain you’d operate the switch (turn on ignition if necessary), and then walk round vehicle

Tell me how you’d check the brake lights are working on this car. Explain you’d operate the brake pedal, make use of reflections in windows or doors, or ask someone to help.


Tell me how you’d check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road. No cuts and bulges, 1.6mm of tread depth across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre, and around the entire outer circumference of the tyre.

Tell me where you’d find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked. Manufacturer’s guide, use a reliable pressure gauge, check and adjust pressures when tyres are cold, don’t forget spare tyre, remember to refit valve caps.


Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash. The head restraint should be adjusted so the rigid part of the head restraint is at least as high as the eye or top of the ears, and as close to the back of the head as is comfortable. Note: Some restraints might not be adjustable.


Tell me how you’d check the power steering is working before starting a journey. If the steering becomes heavy, the system may not be working properly. Before starting a journey, 2 simple checks can be made. Gentle pressure on the steering wheel, maintained while the engine is started, should result in a slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate. Alternatively turning the steering wheel just after moving off will give an immediate indication that the power assistance is functioning.


Tell me how you’d check that the engine has sufficient oil. Identify dipstick/oil level indicator, describe check of oil level against the minimum and maximum markers.

Tell me how you’d check that the engine has sufficient engine coolant. Identify high and low level markings on header tank where fitted or radiator filler cap, and describe how to top up to correct level.

Tell me how you’d check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid. Identify reservoir, check level against high and low markings.


Can you show me how you wash and clean the rear windscreen?

Can you show me how you wash and clean the front windscreen?

Can you show me how you’d switch on your dipped headlights?

Can you show me how you’d set the rear demister?

Can you show me how you’d operate the horn?

Can you show me how you’d demist the front windscreen?

Can you show me how you’d open and close the side window?

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