United Kingdom driving test

United Kingdom driving test

The United Kingdom driving test is a test which all United Kingdom learner drivers must pass to obtain a full driving licence.[1] Different tests are available for users of different vehicles, from car drivers, to motorcyclists and HGV drivers. In Great Britain it is administered by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA)[2] and in Northern Ireland by the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA).[3] The test is separated into three distinct parts: a multiple-choice theory test, a hazard perception test and the practical test. It is necessary to pass all three parts before a full driving licence is granted.

The minimum age at which one can take the driving test is currently 17. The test can be taken at 16 for those wanting to ride 50cc mopeds before they take the Compulsory Basic Training, but this is not required for car drivers. There is no upper age limit. Full UK licence holders must renew their driving licences at the age of 70 (and every three years thereafter) in order to continue driving.

Around 1.6 million people sit the examination on an annual basis, with a pass rate of around 43%.[4]



UK driving licences were introduced by the Motor Car Act 1903 but no test was required.[5]

A test for disabled drivers was introduced by the Road Traffic Act 1930.[6]

Legislation for compulsory testing was introduced for all new drivers with the Road Traffic Act 1934. The test was initially voluntary to avoid a rush of candidates until 1 June 1935 when all people who had started to drive on or after 1 April 1934 needed to have passed the test.[6]

Testing was suspended during World War II.[6] sadas Testing was suspended again during the Suez Crisis in 1956 to allow examiners help to administer petrol rations.[6]

The driving theory test was introduced in July 1996 as a written examination which was updated to a computer based test in 2000.[6]

The hazard perception test was introduced in November 2002.[6]

The current test

Theory test

Theory test is made up of two parts:

  • Multiple-choice test
  • Hazard perception test.

Both must be taken and passed in the same session in order to obtain a theory test pass certificate, which enables the candidate to book a practical driving test.[4] The pass certificate is valid for two years, after which the theory test must be taken and passed again before taking a practical test.

Multiple-choice test

This part of the theory test is performed on a computer system. The test has 50 multiple choice questions and the candidate must answer at least 43 of them correctly to pass.[7] Each question may have more than one answer and this will be indicated in the question. All questions are randomly selected from a bank of just under one thousand on a selection of topics.

The test lasts for 57 minutes although candidates with certain special needs can apply for more time.[8] All 50 questions must be answered. The test allows 15 minutes practice time at the start of the exam to get used to answering the questions and how to use the system. To answer a question the candidate simply touches their choice of answer from the listed answers on the computer screen. If a mistake is made the candidate can deselect a choice and reselect a different option. The candidate is allowed to go back to a question at any time and can also flag questions they are unsure of in order to find and return to it quickly and easily later.[7] To pass the test, 43 of the 50 questions (86%) must be answered correctly.[4]

For lorry and bus drivers, 100 questions are asked over a 115-minute period, and 85 out of 100 must be answered correctly to pass. Prior to 3 September 2007, the car and motorcycle multiple-choice tests comprised 35 questions, with a pass mark of 30 within a 40 minute time limit.

Hazard perception

Examinees watch fourteen one-minute clips (nineteen clips for lorry and bus candidates) filmed from the perspective of a car driver and have to indicate, usually by clicking a mouse button or touching the screen, when they observe a developing hazard. All of the clips will include one developing hazard, and one will include two such hazards. The sooner an examinee reacts to a developing hazard, the more points are scored, from five down to one, with no score if the examinee reacts too late. Thus the maximum possible score is 75 (100 for lorry and bus tests). The pass mark is 44 (58.6%) for car drivers and motorcyclists and 57 when qualifying as an Approved Driving Instructor. Lorry and Bus drivers must score 67 out of 100.[7]

For the purposes of the test, a "developing hazard" is defined as something which requires the driver to adjust speed and/or direction.[vague] Potentialasd hazards are road hazards that no immediate action needs to be taken, but are worth observing in case their status changes. Clicking on potential hazards is acceptable, but the scoring window only opens if that hazard develops, thus examinees have to remember to react if the status of a hazard changes, and not just when the potential hazard is first spotted.

If you click several times during this window of time the computer will always take your highest score and record that for that particular clip. If you don’t click the mouse button in this window of time you will score nothing in respect to that hazard. If lots of unnecessary responses are made in a very short space of time, or throughout the clip, a zero score will recorded for that clip.

The Driving Standards Agency encourage learner dasdasdrivers to read the highway code and practice their theory and hazard perception skills before they begin their driving lessons. There are many software packages available in CD format, online or for touchscreen devices for this purpose. Learner drivers can sit the Theory Test and Hazard Perception Test from the age of 17. Those on the higher rate component of Disability Living Allowance can are able to take the test at 16[9].

Practical test

It is necessary to have passed both components of the theory test before sitting this exam.[10] Passing this test then entitles one to hold a full UK driving licence.[1]

DSA Form DL25C: Driving Test Report issued to candidates by examiners


The practical test is taken on the road, with a professionally trained DSA examiner directing the candidate around a pre-determined route. The examiner marks the candidate for driving faults, serious faults, and dangerous faults. A candidate will fail the test if he or she accumulates any serious or dangerous faults, or more than fifteen driving faults. If a candidate accumulates several driving faults in the same category, the examiner may consider the fault habitual and mark a serious fault in that category. The test usually lasts 38 to 40 minutes in a standard test, or approximately 70 minutes when the candidate is taking an extended test after having had their licence revoked.[11]

Eyesight test

Before getting to the car, the examiner will ask the candidate to read a car's number plate at a distance. The distance required is 20.5 metres for an old-style plate (A123 ABC) and 20 metres for a new style plate (AB51 ABC).[12] If the candidate needs glasses to do this then these must be the ones worn whilst completing the rest of the test. If the candidate fails to read the first number plate correctly, then the examiner asks the candidate to read a second number plate. If the candidate cannot correctly read the second number plate, then the examiner must use a tape measure to measure the correct distance between the candidate and a third number plate. If the candidate cannot read the third number plate, then the candidate is deemed to have failed and the test will not continue. asdasd

Vehicle safety questions

Before the candidate is taken out onto the road, the examiner asks two questions about car maintenance and safety. These are phrased in the form "Show me..." and "Tell me..."; as such, this component of the test is often known as "Show me, tell me". For example:

  • Show me how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
  • Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.

A failure to answer one or both of these questions correctly would result in a driving fault being marked against the candidate. The questions that may be asked are changed from time to time. From July 2008, there are 19 different questions which can be asked in 13 different combinations.[13]

Controlled stop

The controlled stop, more commonly referred to as the "emergency stop", is an exercise which determines the ability of the candidate to stop the vehicle promptly yet under control during a simulated emergency. The simulation is performed by the examiner raising his or her hand and saying, "STOP!". The exercise should be carried out on approximately one out of every seven tests, but must be carried out on every extended test.[11] During dangerous weather conditions, such as rain and snow, this test can be left out for safety reasons.


During the test, the examiner will ask the candidate to carry out one manoeuvre from the following list:[14]

  • Turn in the road (3 point turn)
  • Reverse around a cornersadad
  • Reverse park into a space either parallel (on road), oblique or right-angle (in a marked bay in an off-road car park)

This change from two manoeuvres to one was introduced to allow time for the independent driving section of the test that was introduced on 4 October 2010.

Manoeuvres are selected at random by the examiner depending on the route chosen and conditions on route.

General driving

Generally, the candidate must demonstrate an ability to drive in various road and traffic conditions [15] and react appropriately in actual risk situations.[14] The conditions typically encountered on test include driving in urban areas as well as higher speed limit roads where possible; this includes dual carriageways but not motorways as motorways in Britain can only be used by full licence holders. The object of the test is to ensure that the candidate is well grounded in the basic principles of safe driving, and is sufficiently practised in them to be able to show, at the time of the test, that they are a competent and considerate driver and are not a source of danger to themselves or to other road users. The drive will include two or three normal stops at (and moving away from) the side of the road on level roads as well as on gradients, in addition to a demonstration of moving away from behind a stationary vehicle.[11] The regulations state that the on-road driving time must be no less than 30 minutes.[16] If, at any point during the test, the examiner has to intervene with any controls, this will usually result in failure and could be marked on the test report as a dangerous fauldasdast.

Automatics on test

Many driving instructors offer tuition in automatic cars as well as manual cars, or may specialise in automatic driving lessons.[citation needed] If a learner passes the driving test in an automatic, then the full licence granted to them will entitle them to drive only automatic transmission cars or any other type of car which has only two pedals and no manually operated clutch (semi-automatics, automated manuals).[17] The full automatic licence acts as a provisional licence for manual gearbox cars.[17]

Independent driving

The practical driving test includes a 10 minute section of ‘independent driving’. It is included in the following practical driving tests:

  • car
  • motorcycle module two
  • large goods vehicle (LGV)
  • passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) tests
  • approved driving instructor (ADI) driving ability (sometimes called 'part two')
  • taxi

During the independent driving section, candidatdasdes have to drive by either following:

  • a series of directions
  • traffic signs
  • a combination of both

To help candidates understand where they are to go, the examiner may showdthem a route diagram. It does not matter if candidates do not remember every direction, nor if they deviate from the intenadtest unless they commit a driving fault. If the candidate goes off the route or takeasd

If there are poor or obscured traffic signs, the examiner will give the candidate directions until they can see the next traffic sign. Candidates will not need to have a detailed knowledge of the area, but will not be allowed to use satellite navigation for this part of the test.

If the candidate hasdapecial needs, the adexaminer will be able to make reasonable adjustments. For the indasdasependent driving section, this could bdasking the candidate wsadasdhich method they prefer - following signs, or a series of directions (a maximum of three) asw.dsa.gov.uk/News.asp?id=SX1289-A7835A58 Independent driving: the facts - DSA]</ref>

See also


  1. ^ a b "Road Traffic Act 1988 s.89". http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&Year=1988&number=52&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&TYPE=QS&PageNumber=1&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=2276534&ActiveTextDocId=2276675&filesize=49011. 
  2. ^ "About the Driving Standards Agency". Driving Standards Agency. http://www.dsa.gov.uk/Category.asp?cat=1. 
  3. ^ "Welcome". Driver & Vehicle Agency. http://www.dvani.gov.uk/. 
  4. ^ a b c Edwards, Richard (2007-12-19). "Driving tests: how the system works". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph News and Media Limited). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/news/2007/12/17/npols1017.xml. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  5. ^ "A summary of important legislation". Department for Education (Northern Ireland) GCSE Revision. http://www.roadsafetyni.gov.uk/index/edusadsadasdcation/teenzone/tz-mvrus/tz-mvrus-legislation.htm. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "History of the British driving test". Driving Standards Agency. http://www.dsa.gov.uk/Category.asp?cat=343. 
  7. ^ a b c http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/LearnerAndNewDrivers/TheoryTest/DG_4022534
  8. ^ http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/LearnerAndNewDrivers/TheoryTest/DG_4022538
  9. ^ http://blog.lowpricelessons.com/2011/05/driving-lessons-for-those-with-disabilities/
  10. ^ Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 reg. 40(4)
  11. ^ a b c DSA document DT1: Standard Operating Procedure
  12. ^ Motor Vehicle (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999, Schedule 8 (as amended) - page 7
  13. ^ Vehicle safety questions for car tests
  14. ^ a b Motor Vehicle (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999, Schedule 8 (as amended) - page 8
  15. ^ http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/LearnerAndNewDrivers/PracticalTest/DG_4022540
  16. ^ Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 reg. 40(7)(b)(ii)
  17. ^ a b Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 regs. 5,6,45

External links

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