The Practical Test

Once you have passed your theory test, your instructor will advise you (when your driving has reached the required standard) about when you should apply for your practical driving test. Test dates take approximately 6 weeks to come through. Your instructor will help you with the test application paperwork and you should not just go ahead and book the test before checking that a car will be available first!

Official DSA car practical test – Are you ready?

Driving tests are conducted from our local driving test centre by a DSA examiner and last for about 40-45 minutes. Most of the test routes involve town driving and if possible, single and dual carriageway roads outside 30 mph limits.

Find you local test centre

On the day of your test, you will need to take the following documents listed below with you:

  • an appropriately insured and licensed vehicle, displaying L-plates that is suitable for the purpose of the test,
  • the appropriate theory test pass certificate (or confirmation) if you are not exempt,
  • your test appointment letter,
  • both parts of your photo card licence. If you do not take both parts of your licence your test will not take place and you will lose your fee. If you misplace your licence, you must apply for a replacement from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) which could take up to 15 days. If this happens, you may have to rearrange your test,
  • if you have an old style paper licence, from 1 November 2005 you must bring your paper licence and a valid passport.

On leaving the driving test centre, your examiner will ask which car is yours before asking you to read a car number plate from at least the required minimum distance.

Independent Driving Section

An ‘independent driving’ section is now included as part of the practical test during which you will be required to follow signs to a particular location to see how well you deal without direction from your examiner.

Show me, tell me section

In 2003 a new section was added to the practical driving test – ‘show me’, ‘tell me’. Before getting into the car the examiner will ask two questions relating to vehicle safety and maintenance. If one or both questions are answered incorrectly, one driving fault will be recorded. The questions are in four categories:

  • Under the bonnet
  • Inside the car
  • Lights
  • Tyres

Show me, tell me – under the bonnet (Official DSA video)

Show me, tell me – inside the car (Official DSA video)

Show me, tell me – outside the car (Official DSA video)

Example questions for the Show me, tell me section

Below are the the type of questions you could be asked. Click on the question to reveal the answer and show how the question could be responded to.

A1 : Brakes should be tested as you set off by applying gentle pressure at slow speed. Brakes should not feel spongy or slack and the vehicle should not pull to one side.
A2 : Recommended pressures can be found In the 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.
A3 : Tyres should be checked to ensure there are no cuts or bulges. There should be 1.6mm of tread depth across the central ¾ of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire outer circumference. This can be checked with a tyre depth guage or the depth markers in the tyres themselves.
A4 : Adjust the rigid part of the restraint so that it is close to the back of your head and level with your eyes or top of your ears.
A5 : Turn on lights (turn ignition if necessary), walk around car and check that the lights are on.
A6 : The ABS warning light would become illuminated on the instrument panel if there is a fault.
A7 : Identify dipstick/oil level indicator, describe check of oil level against the minimum/maximum markers.
A9 : Identify high/low level markings on header tank where fitted or radiator filler cap and describe how to top up to correct level.
A10 : Identify reservoir and explain how the washer fluid should be filled to a level between the min and max markers on the side of the reservoir. They can be checked by simply operating them.
A11 : If the steering becomes heavy the system may not be working properly. Before starting a journey two 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.
A12 : Apply footbrake firmly. Demonstrate by applying parking brake so that when it is fully applied it secures itself and is not at the end of the working travel.
A13 : Check is carried out by pressing gently on the control (turn on ignition if necessary).
A14 : Applying the indicators or hazard warning switch and check functioning of all indicators. You may need to switch the ignition on, however, you should not start the engine.
A15 : Operate brake pedal, make use of reflections in windows, garage doors, etc, or ask someone to help. As this is now a show me question the examiner may check the brake lights for you. You may need to switch the ignition on, however you should not start the engine.
A16 : Operate control to wash and wipe windscreen. You may need to switch the ignition on, however, you should not start the engine.
A17 : Set all relevant controls including: fan, temperature, air direction/source and heated screen to clear windscreen and windows. Engine does not have to be started for this demonstration.
A18 : Operate the rear fog switch after switching on dipped headlights, check switch is illuminated and explain that they should only be used when visibility is reduced to 100 metres or less.
A19 : Move the stalk attached to the steering column forwards which will illuminate a blue warning light on the instrument panel.


Your driving during the test

The examiner will sit in the front passenger’s seat and explain how the driving test will work. You will be asked to start the car and move away. During your test it is likely that you will complete the following manoeuvres:

  • One of the four possible slow manoeuvres.
  • A ten minute independent drive.
  • An emergency stop.
  • General driving on the chosen test route.
  • Demonstrate a hill start and an angled start.

The examiner is looking for you to demonstrate that you are a competent and safe driver. Some minor driving faults are permitted. Minor faults are errors that do not create an actual or potential danger to other road users. The examiner records these mistakes and if you make 16 or more of these, you will not pass the test.

If you make a mistake, continue driving and don’t worry. It may only be a minor error and it may not affect your result. You will, however, automatically fail if you make a serious or dangerous error.

If you fail, the examiner will explain briefly why you failed. You can reapply to take your test again straight away, but you cannot retake the test within 10 days.

If you pass, you will be given a pass certificate.  Remember to send it to the DVLA to get your full driving licence as soon as possible.

Having an observer with you on your driving test

Your instructor can also act as an observer and sit in the car with you on your driving test to help you understand how your test went afterwards and plan for any future development in your driving.

Once you have successfully passed your test book yourself on a pass plus course to fully prepare yourself for the road ahead and also save money on your car insurance.

Find out more about Pass Plus