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DVSA Practical Driving Test for Cars

If you are a learner preparing for the car driving test, no doubt you will be looking for answers to some common questions. For example, when can you make a booking and what should you take with you? You might also be wondering... what will happen during the test and what happens if they cancel it? This section explains everything you need to know about taking the practical driving test.

Car Driving Test Guide | Table of Contents

When to Book Your Car Driving Test

You will be able to book and manage the driving test as soon as you pass the theory test. Even so, there are certain situations when you do not need a theory test (e.g. upgrading an automatic car licence to a manual licence).

To pass the car test:

  • You must be able to drive in a safe manner and in different road and traffic conditions.
  • You must show the examiner you are familiar with The Highway Code (by the way you drive the car).

You should only take your driving test when there is no longer a need for instruction. The DVSA produce guidance notes on the national standard for driving category B vehicles (e.g. cars and light vans).

Note: There is no minimum and maximum number of lessons you must have, or hours you must practice, before booking and taking your test. But, most learner drivers will be taking driving lessons for around 50 hours.

How to Change or Check Test Details

How to Rebook the Test

To resit, you would need to wait a minimum of ten (10) working days before you rebook the driving test after failing it.

Things You Must Take to a Driving Test

‘What do I need to take to my drivers test’ is a common question asked by learner drivers. You will need to bring along:

  • Your United Kingdom driving licence.
  • The theory test pass certificate.
  • A car that meets certain requirements (see below). As a rule, most learners prefer to use the same vehicle that they were having driving lessons in (e.g. the instructor’s).

Note: Failing to bring the correct things to your test can result in a cancellation. In this case, you would not get a refund of the money.

UK Driving Licences

You can replace a provisional licence online with the DVLA if your is lost, damaged, or stolen. But, keep in mind that it can take up to two (2) weeks to get a replacement driving licence.

  • Take a valid passport along with your paper licence if yours is not the new photocard version.
  • Take the Northern Ireland photocard along with the paper counterpart if yours is a licence from Northern Ireland

Note: It means having to change your driving test appointment if the new licence fails to arrive in time.

What if You Lose the Theory Test Certificate?

You should contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) if you lost your theory test certificate.

Give them your full name and your driving licence number. The DVSA would send you a letter to take to the driving test (instead of using the pass certificate).

  • Take a valid passport along with your paper licence if yours is not the new photocard version.
  • Take the Northern Ireland photocard along with the paper counterpart if yours is a licence from Northern Ireland

DVSA Theory Test Enquiries
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0300 200 1122 (press 01)
Monday to Friday: 8am to 4pm
Call charges to 0300 numbers.

If You Take Someone With You

The examiner will ask whether you want someone to accompany you. If you take someone along, such as your instructor or a relative, they can:

  • Sit in the back of the car for the duration of the test.
  • Be present with you for the result and when you get extra feedback from the examiner.

If you choose to take someone with you they must be over sixteen (16) and must not take any part in the test. The DVSA produce guidance notes for people who sit in and observe driving tests.

Note: You can only sit the DVSA practical driving test for cars in English or in Welsh. You cannot have a foreign language interpreter accompany you.

What Actually Happens on a Driving Test

The DVSA practical driving test for cars consists of five (5) parts, conducted in this order:

  • An eyesight check (reading a number plate)
  • ‘Show me, tell me’ (practical questions about vehicle safety)
  • General driving ability (excluding motorways)
  • Some driving exercises that involve reversing the vehicle
  • Independent driving segment

Note: The five parts of the driving test are the same for manual cars and for automatic cars.

How Long is a Driving Test?

As a general rule, it will take around forty (40) minutes of driving to pass. The length of time would extend to seventy (70) minutes if you need to retake your test (e.g. because you got banned from driving).

1. Passing the Eyesight Check

To meet the legal eyesight standard for driving you will need to read out the correct letters and numbers on a vehicle number plate from a distance of:

  • 20 metres (for vehicles with the new-style number plate).
  • 20.5 metres (for vehicles with the old-style number plate).

Note: The new-style number plates begin with two (2) letters followed by two (2) numbers (e.g. AB99 ABC). Failing the car eyesight check means you will also fail the driving test. If this happens, the process would end.

2. Car ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ Vehicle Safety Questions

The primary purpose of the two (2) ‘show me, tell me’ questions is to confirm you can perform some basic safety checks. The examiner will ask you to carry out:

  • One (1) ‘tell me’ question (e.g. explain how you would carry out a safety task) conducted at the start of the test (before you start driving).
  • One (1) ‘show me’ question (e.g. show how you would carry out a safety task) while actually driving the car.

Note: The DVSA official video clip [4:31 seconds] explains the driving test ‘show me, tell me’ questions and answers in more detail.

3. Your General Driving Ability

The examiner will ask you to drive the car on different types of roads and in various traffic conditions. But, driving on motorways is not part of the standard practical driving test.

DVSA do not publish driving test routes. Therefore, there is no way you can check the route before taking your test. Instead, the examiner will provide you with clear directions for you to follow.

Pulling Over the Vehicle (at the side of the road)

The tester will ask you, at some point, to pull over the vehicle and then pull it away again, such as by:

  • Making normal stops at the side of the road.
  • Pulling out from behind a parked vehicle.
  • Performing a hill start.

Note: The examiner might ask you to perform an emergency stop (e.g. squeezing the brake pedal ‘firm and full’ to stop the car as quickly and safely as possible).

4. Reversing the Vehicle

You must be able to manoeuvre the car into a restricted space and then be able to stop the car under your control. So, you will need to carry out one of these exercises:

  • Parallel park at the side of the road.
  • Park the car in a parking bay by (either):
    • Driving in and then reversing out.
    • Reversing in and then driving out (the examiner will confirm which one).
  • Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse the car for around two (2) car lengths, and then rejoin the normal flow of traffic.

5. Independent Driving Part

The final part of the practical driving test involves a twenty (20) minute drive, following (either):

The examiner will confirm which to follow. The rules of the car driving test do not allow you to use your own sat nav. But, the examiner will set up a sat nav device for you to follow.

What If the Traffic Signs are Obscured?

It may be difficult to see a traffic sign (for example if trees are covering it). If this happens, the examiner will provide you with further directions to follow until you can see the next traffic sign.

What If You Forget the Directions?

The car practical driving test is not an assessment on your memory. So, you will not fail if you do not remember every direction given to you. Instead, stay calm and ask the examiner to confirm the directions for you.

What If You Go Off the Planned Route?

As a general rule, going off the route will not affect your test result (unless taking a wrong turning causes you to make a fault). The examiner will be aware that it may happen, and will help you to get back on track if it does.

What If You Make a Mistake?

Only serious blunders are likely to affect the result even if you make a mistake. So, stay under control and continue with the test, if you feel you made an error of judgement.

Note: DVSA examiners only stop car tests if they assess the driving to be dangerous for other road users.

Driving Test Faults and the Result

The three types of practical driving test faults you can make are:

  • A driving fault (has little potential for danger but could become a serious fault if repeated).
  • A serious fault (something that has the potential of becoming a dangerous situation).
  • A dangerous fault (involves actual danger to the driver, the test examiner, members of the public, or to property).

The Pass Mark

You will pass the car driving test if you DO NOT make:

  • More than fifteen (15) ‘minors’ (driving faults)
  • Any ‘majors’ (serious or dangerous faults)

After reaching the pass mark, the examiner who tested you will:

  • Tell you if you made any driving faults.
  • Give you the pass certificate.
  • Ask whether you want the full licence sent to you by automatic process. If so, you would need to hand over your provisional licence.

Note: You only have two (2) years to apply for your full driving licence if you choose not to have it sent ‘automatically’. You would need to retake the test if you do not apply within the two year period.

When Can You Start Driving?

There is no need to wait for the full licence to arrive before driving on the roads without supervision. You can drive straight after passing the test. Allow up to three (3) weeks for the new licence to arrive before contacting the DVLA.

What Happens If You Do Not Pass?

If you fail, the examiner will tell you which particular faults you made. You would need to pay again in order to book the driving test again (resit it). You would need to choose a date that is at least ten (10) working days later.

How to Appeal a Driving Test Result

DVSA examiner guidance provides information on the regulations for carrying out driving tests. You can make an appeal if you believe the examiner failed to follow the regulations during your test.

You would need to make your appeal to either a magistrate’s court or to a sheriff’s court (depending on where you took your test). So, appeal to:

  • A magistrate’s court within six (6) months of sitting a test in England or Wales.
  • A sheriff’s court within twenty one (21) days if you took it in Scotland.

Note: A successful appeal would not get the test result changed, but it could get you a free retest.

If the Test is Cancelled (e.g. bad weather)

There are several valid reasons for cancelling a driving test. It may be stopped because of bad weather, because of health problems, or due to issues with the vehicle setup.

Cancellation Due to Bad Weather

DVSA will not conduct car driving tests in dangerous or in adverse weather conditions. So, they will cancel it if there is thick fog, high winds, or if the roads are flooded or icy.

It is best to phone the test centre if there are any bad weather conditions in force on examination day. You will find the phone number on the booking confirmation email.

If the test cannot go ahead the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will:

  • Book the next available date for a test (you would be able to change your driving test appointment).
  • Send the rescheduling details to you within three (3) working days. Although unusual, long periods of bad weather may force a delay of up to seven (7) days.

Note: Drivers cannot claim out-of-pocket expenses if the DVSA cancels the test because of bad weather.

Cancelled Due to Vehicle or Health Problems

You would have to book your practical driving test again, and pay the exam fee once more, if the problem that causes the cancellation is (either):

  • A fault of yours (e.g. you feel unwell during the evaluation).
  • A fault of your vehicle (e.g. the car breaks down during the test).

Other Reasons for Cancelling the Test

There may be another reason why the DVSA needs to cancel the schedule (e.g. the examiner is not feeling well). In this case, they would send you a new date.

Note: You can apply for a refund of out-of-pocket expenses for a cancelled driving test at a short notice (less than 3 clear working days).

Adjustments for People with Disabilities

After booking the car driving test, you should let the testing centre know if you have:

  • A disability
  • A health condition
  • A learning difficulty

Note: Even though you would need to drive to the same standard to get a pass, the examiner can make some adjustments to help the situation.

Drivers with a Disability

Before the test begins, the examiner will talk to a driver with a disability about:

  • The extent of the disability.
  • What kind of adaptations, if any, have been fitted to the car.

Drivers who are Deaf

The examiner would start the test using written notes for drivers who are deaf or for those with a hearing impairment. The notes will make it easier to understand what is involved in a DVSA practical car driving test.

They will also face you when they speak, and may give directions as hand signals. Thus, anyone who can lip read will find it easier to understand what they are saying.

Using a Sign Language Interpreter

If you take a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter along with you they need to be at least sixteen (16) years old. It can be your driving instructor.

You would need to arrange your own interpreter and pay for any fees that they charge you. But, you can apply for a refund for using a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter at a driving test.

If You are Pregnant

There are no car test rules that stop a pregnant woman taking part at any stage of the pregnancy. Even so, you would need to be able (and willing) to carry out an emergency stop in the vehicle.

If You have Reading or Learning Difficulties

Anyone with a reading difficulty can still perform the eyesight check at the beginning of the driving test. You can achieve it by writing down the number plate instead of reading it out aloud to the examiner.

If you have some learning difficulties, the examiner can make adjustments for the independent driving segment of the test. For example, you might prefer to follow traffic signs instead of the examiner’s verbal directions.

Another alternative is to follow a set of directions given to you on a diagram. As a rule, examiners would ask drivers to follow up to three (3) directions at a time. But, they can reduce it to two (2) directions for someone with a learning difficulty.

Using Own Car for DVSA Driving Test

Strict rules apply to all cars used for practical driving tests in the United Kingdom. So for example, you must be using a car that:

  • Is taxed and insured for a driving test (your insurer can confirm this).
  • Is roadworthy and has a current MOT (for vehicles more than 3 years old).
  • Has no warning lights showing there is a fault (e.g. the airbag warning light).
  • Has the legal tread depth on each tyre and none of them should be damaged.
  • Is smoke-free (meaning you must not smoke in the vehicle before or during the test).
  • Can reach at least 62mph (with a speedometer calibrated for miles per hour).
  • Has four (4) wheels and a maximum authorised mass (MAM) not more than 3,500kg.

Note: The Lorry and bus section explains the definition of MAM in more detail. In basic terms, it refers to the weight limit of a car when loaded.

Your car must also be fitted with:

  • Extra mirrors mounted onto the wing mirrors on both the passenger and driver side (used by the examiner).
  • The correct size learner plates fitted to the front and rear of the car (can be ‘L’ or ‘D’ plates in Wales).
  • A seatbelt on the passenger seat for the examiner to use and a proper passenger head restraint (it cannot be the slip-on type).

Using Dashcams and Cameras

You would be able to use a camera that is fitted to the car for insurance purposes, providing:

  • It does not record audio from inside the car.
  • It faces to the outside of the car and does not record film of what is happening inside the vehicle.

Using Manual or Automatic Cars

You can either use a manual car (with 3 pedals) or an automatic car (with 2 pedals) to take the United Kingdom driving test. But, after passing the test, the type of car you can drive will depend on:

Note: Taking the test in a semi-automatic car means you can only drive automatic and semi-automatic cars after passing.

Using Hire Cars for the Driving Test

Providing it meets all the rules, and is fitted with dual controls, there is nothing to stop you taking your test in a hire car.

You can also use a vehicle that features:

  • An electronic parking brake.
  • Hill-start assist.

Cars You Cannot Use (with known safety faults)

Some cars fail to provide all-round vision for the examiner during the test exercises. Thus, you cannot use a:

  • BMW Mini convertible
  • Ford KA convertible
  • Toyota iQ
  • VW Beetle convertible

Note: It is best to check with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) before booking the test if you plan on using a convertible car or a panel van.

DVSA Driving Test Enquiries
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0300 200 1122
Monday to Friday: 8am to 4pm
Check a list of call charges.

As a rule, you will not be able to use any of the cars shown in this table of known vehicle safety faults. These cars have been recalled for reasons of safety.

Car Model Reason for the Recall List of Vehicles Affected Recall Issue Date
Citroen C1 Steering failure Vehicles built between 9th of September 2014 and 15th of October 2014, with vehicle identification numbers (VINs) between wF7xxxxxxER516105 and VF7xxxxxxER523367 28th of June 2016
Peugeot 108 Steering failure Vehicles built between 9th of June 2014 and 15th of October 2014, with VINs between VF3xxxxxxER256527 and F3xxxxxxER017078 28th of June 2016
Toyota Aygo Steering failure Build dates between 9th of September 2014 and 15th of October 2014, with VINs between JTDJGNEC#0N022080 and 0N026438, JTDJPNEC#0N002099 and 0N002100, JTDKGNEC#0N022186 and 0N031372, and JTDKPNEC#0N002083 and 0N002102 28th of June 2016
Toyota Yaris Potentially defective seat rail track and/or steering column mounting Some models built between June 2005 and May 2010 (‘05’ to ‘10’ registration plates) 9th of April 2014
Vauxhall ADAM Potential steering problem VINs with last 8 digits between E6077301 to E6113446, and F6000001 to F6006544 29th of September 2014
Vauxhall Corsa D Potential steering problem VINs with last 8 digits between E6071016 and E6118738, and E4181031 and E4308122 29th of September 2014

In some cases, you may use one of the cars listed in the table by providing proof that the car (either):

  • Was not part of any recall.
  • Was previously recalled but there was no requirement to have any work done.
  • Was previously recalled and the recall work has already been carried out.

The proof you provide to the car testing facility must be (either):

  • On official or headed notepaper from the manufacturer or a dealer.
  • The recall letter or the safety notice (containing an official stamp by the manufacturer or the dealer).
Note: The facility will cancel the test, and you may lose your test fee, if your car fails to meet the rules or you don’t take appropriate proof.

Practical Driving Test for Cars in United Kingdom