The independent driving part of the driving test follows on from the first part of the practical driving test. Rather than giving you specific step-by-step instructions as you go, the examiner will give you a set of directions accompanied by a diagram and expect you to drive safely on your own.
You may be asked to follow traffic signs or rely exclusively on the directions you are given before you set off. Remember; this isn’t an exercise in navigation, the priority is to drive safely and well at all times – it doesn’t matter if you go the wrong way.
Passing or failing
The examiner will mark you on all aspects of your driving throughout the practical driving test. You can accrue up to 15 driving faults and still pass but the 16th fault you get will mean failure. When it comes to serious or dangerous faults, however, it’s ‘one strike and you’re out’.
If the examiner thinks you’re a danger to other road users, they will stop the test immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be able to complete the test and return to the test centre where you’ll be told whether you’ve passed or failed.
Passing your practical driving test: 10 top tips
Here are the top ten to help guide you right from the very beginning, before you’ve even turned a wheel, through to the big day of your practical test.
1. Plan your time
Give yourself a sufficient amount of time to learn how to drive and pass your test. Don’t try to rush the process, as many skills are developed through experience and taking numerous tests can be expensive. Let your instructor advise you on when you are ready.
There are many costs to take in to consideration when learning how to drive so make sure you’ve got the budget in place to see it through. Costs include a provisional driving licence, theory test, professional driving lessons (the UK average is 45 hours) and the practical driving test.
3. Have regular lessons
If possible keep your lessons regular and try to aim for two hours a week behind the wheel. This will help you progress consistently, boosting your confidence, whilst not allowing time to forget what you’ve already learnt and maximise the time spent with your instructor.
4. Record your progress
Keep yourself motivated by noting down when you’ve reached a big milestone and celebrate it. Some tutors use a progress log that helps pupils keep track of where they are on the syllabus, but if yours doesn’t then consider making your own.
5. Practice, practice, practice
Once you’ve gained some experience with an instructor, if possible, get a friend or relative to take you out for extra practice on the road. One of the key ingredients of driving is gaining experience which brings with it confidence. So spend as much time as you can behind the wheel. There are rules about who can accompany a learner – they must be over 21 and have had a full licence for over 3 years. Make sure you have the relevant insurance in place, too.
6. Stay focussed in between lessons
Use interactive online learning tools, such as RED’s Road Brain Trainer or smartphone Apps like Theory Test UK from Driving Test Success, practice spotting potential risks on the road. This will give you a deeper understanding of situations that may occur and how to avoid them.
7. Pass your theory test early
Aim to pass your theory test after 10-14 hours of practical training. Once this has been passed, you can book the practical test and concentrate on working towards the ultimate goal.
8. Take a mock driving test
Do at least one mock test, under test conditions and using a test route. This will help you prepare for the big day and help to settle your nerves as you will know what to expect. An important point is keep the date of your real practical test quiet – the more people you tell the more pressure you will feel on the day.
9. Get good night’s sleep
Make sure that you don’t have a late night before the day of the test. If you have time, have a lesson beforehand to settle the nerves and get you thinking in the right way about your driving.
10. Keep calm
Any time you feel tense or feel you’ve lost your focus, or if you feel you’ve made a mistake on your test, remember to concentrate on your breathing and take a few deep breaths. This will calm your mind, stop you dwelling in the past and help you focus on the next instruction. Remember, any mistake you feel you’ve made may only be minor, in which case you can still pass your test. And don’t feel shy if you didn’t understand something. Ask your examiner to repeat any instructions you’re not sure of.
After you’ve passed your test
Driving is an ongoing learning experience and lessons do not have to stop once you’ve passed your test. Most instructors will be happy to teach you to drive on a motorway, at night and in poor weather conditions so you can improve your skills.
Pass plus is a popular choice and can reduce the cost of your insurance. Telematics insurance, where the insurance company monitors how you drive with a ‘black box’ fitted to your car, is another option to consider. You will be heavily rewarded with cheap insurance for being a sensible driver.
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