As a driving instructor with over 10 years experience helping thousands of learner drivers get the highly coveted DSA pass certificate, I know what it takes to please the DSA examiners, and my goal is through this online instructional blog to give you free the resources needed to reach the standard expected of every test candidate.
A word of caution, passing the UK driving test is not easy, and you as a learner driver will increase your chances of passing first time by putting in the hard work and effort (this does not mean just taking driving lessons only), as many very good drivers with competent car handling skills have failed the test due to simple things that can only be blamed on either a lack of knowledge of the UK driving examiner requirements or over-confidence not giving the DSA practical test the due credit it deserves as one of the toughest learner assessments in the world.
The UK Driving Test
To get a full UK driving licence that enables you to drive a car in the UK unsupervised (manual or automatic transmission), you need to pass 2 tests (1 computer based theory and a practical vehicle motorcycle, car, HGV/LGV assessment).
If you have not already done so, you should apply for your provisional driving licence, and while you are waiting for it to arrive, I suggest you get copy of the official DSA learner guide shown below and start preparing for your theory test right away (it is never too early to start preparing). The guide also contains information about the practical driving test as well, and since it is made by the people who actually conduct the assessment, it is all you need!
Most people pass the theory test first time especially if they take the time to go through the official dsa study guides like the one mentioned above, but if you don't just study some more, practise the hazard perception videos and you should be fine. Note that the test is available to take in other languages, see the DSA website for an up to date list.
Once you have taken and passed the theory test, you have 2 years to take and pass the practical assessment or your theory test pass certificate will expire and you will have to go through the process again, including paying another booking fee.
Preparing and taking the Practical Driving Test
I have already mentioned that passing the UK driving test is not easy, to illustrate this, of the 1.7m tests conducted in the 2011/2012 financial year only 47% passed, that means over 900,000 people failed! (source DSA Press Release), so it is important that you are fully prepared (practically and knowledge wise) if you do not want to be one of those failure statistics.
How to Prepare for the UK practical driving test?
Currently in the UK there are no requirements that stops people from taking the driving test even if they have not used a DSA qualified instructor to learn, nor do you have to bring a dual controlled instructor's vehicle to the test centre, so this is a common option used by many, but having spoken to a few examiners in my local centres a high percentage of these candidates fail for a few reasons.
1. Lack of knowledge: Friends/family rarely have all the complete knowledge to adequately prepare a provisional licenced learner driver for the dsa driving test. To supervise a learner you need to have at least held a full licence for 3 years. Within that time, changes could have been made which an ordinary driver might not know about. Another thing to consider is that most drivers would have forgotten some of the things that they were taught by their instructor that made them pass, so they can't pass skills that they do not have or remember.
2. Bad Habits: Friends/Family teaching you to drive will always pass on or not notice some unsafe bad driving habits that you have which will in turn increase your chances of not passing the driving test.
3. Inadequate Preparation: Most candidates learning to drive with friends/family will think they are ready for the practical car test once they have learnt the 4 dsa driving maneuvers, can drive from A-B and feel confident. DSA driving tests are designed to assess a candidate's ability not only to drive a car from A-B, but they will take you on different road types, traffic conditions, junctions, meeting situation and in all this the examiner wants to see you being SAFE.
Driving test routes can be tricky and sometimes having local knowledge might be beneficial especially when your teacher knows exactly how the DSA examiner expects things to be done. Have you practised driving on a 70mph dual carriageway including moving into the right hand lane to turn right at traffic lights or a roundabout?
The DSA recommends 40 hrs of professional lessons with additional private practice to gain enough experience and confidence to pass the driving test first time.
So what advice can I give for those who would like to learn to drive with family or friends due to high cost of driving lessons.
1. Know what is required. It is very easy to pass a test when you know what you will be tested on, as you can prepare adequately by focusing on the core skills. For those learning to drive with friends I recommend you get a copy of the Official DSA Guide to Driving. This book tells you how the DSA want you to drive or perfom a maneuver, and is a required reference to know that what you are being taught is wrong or right.
Many learner drivers will trust their dads when it comes to driving, but they can be wrong, and you can use this book to stay on track or request to do things differently as at the end of the day the DSA examiner is using these standards, so if you want to pass do things the DSA way. A common reason a lot of learners fail is not knowing the highway code, so this book covers all situations and rules that pertain to driving in the UK.
2. Take a few professional lessons or mock test. Only a qualified approved driving instructor can truly tell if you have reached the standard required by an examiner, so taking a mock test with them will reveal how ready you are, what bad habits you exibit and you would have a chance of driving on a typical dsa test route.
The best way to find a good driving instructor is to go by recommendation from a friend who has used one, failing that you can use the DSA website to find an instructor.
When speaking to an instructor, take note if they answer the phone while on a driving lesson (giving directions/instructions), as this is already a bad sign that they are not professional.
More reading for learners using private tuition to learn to drive
Top 10 Driving Test Faults
Are You Ready for The Driving Test (video)
Expensive Driving Lesson with Dad!
Professional Driving Lessons
The most common question a driving instructor gets asked is how many lessons will I need to be ready for a driving test? There is no simple answer to that question, there are a lot of factors that determine this, including choosing the right instructor. However here is some advice to help you get the best out of your lessons and increase the chances of you passing first time.
1. Get a copy of the learners record. Even though your instructor will be guiding you in your preparations, the learners driver record will serve as tracker on your progress against the skills being measure by the DSA.
2. Make good use of your time between driving lessons. If you are really serious about passing the driving test first time, then you need to make use of your free time to continue to learn about what the DSA examiners expect during the test. You can watch videos about the manuevers you are having problems with, memorise reference points, and most importantly of all know the highway code inside out!
Any one who has taken driving lessons with me or read this free online blog would know that I am constantly recommending the highway code for test candidates for one simple reason, you need to fully know the rules of the road, including signs and road markings.
Yes as a driving instructor I will tell you anything you need to know, but knowing the highway code inside out is not only beneficial to you on the driving test, but once you pass, you are less likely to be banned for having 6 points on licence after passing test or get a parking ticket for parking in the wrong place.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, those who put in extra work are more likely to pass at the first attempt compared to those who barely take enough lessons, hardly know enough signs, only been on a high speed dual carriageway twice and are hoping they do not get the reverse round the corner exercise as they are rubbish at it.
Why Do People Fail The UK Driving Test?
Not everyone who fails the driving test is totally unprepared, sometimes test nerves can play a part, while others arrive too late, but for those who do take the test, here are the top 5 reasons and the serious driver errors marked by the DSA examiner.
The most common place learner drivers commit a serious major driving fault is at junctions where the fault is usually that of ineffective observations.
Many driving test candidates approach junctions too fast, leaving themselves not enough time to use the MSPSL Routine. If you can't see that it is 100% safe to go at the junction, you SHOULD wait. The examiner does not expect you to be as fast as experienced drivers, neither can you take some of the risks that they do on the test.
Whenever carrying out any of the 4 reversing maneuvers, there are 2 skills that the examiner expects from you, effective observations to keep you safe and good car control to enable you carry out the exercise itself.
You should not hit the kerb, be too wide when reversing round a corner, straddle 2 bays at the end of the bay parking exercise and must parallel park within 2 car lenghts.
- Mirror Checks
Failing to check mirrors before changing speed (slowing down or accelerating), changing direction or not acting on the information seen in the mirrors. Do not get into the habit of just moving your head when signalling, you MUST process the image in the mirrors and act on what you see. Remember you driving must not affect or potentially impact other road users.
- Moving Off Safely
While stalling the car is not usually a serious driving error, if you try to pull off in 3rd gear, and stall your vehicle half-way into a junction where you are an obstruction to others, then you have no chance of the examiner not marking a major serious fault.
The other usual reason candidates fail moving off is not checking the right blind spot after stopping on the left handside of the road or causing another car to slow down/change direction as you move into the road.
- Use of Signals/Indicators
The common errors here, are not signalling when necessary, poor timing of signals, misleading signals and finally forgetting to cancel a signal after coming off a junction.
More Resources and Tips to Help Pass The UK Driving Test
Dealing with Mini Roundabouts.
Points on Licence and Driving Test.
Simple Driving Test Mistakes That Fail Learners
DSA Examiner Driving Test RoutesAs an instructor over the years I have seen some very good drivers get tripped up at some tricky places on some of the routes by examiners in the NW London area, so I have made these tutorial videos to cover these situations.
Each video covers what I have found out to the toughest route, and has additional tips on other places or things that you should be aware as a driving test candidate. These are offered as complimentary preparation materials to your lessons or private practice sessions.
Hendon Driving Test Routes Video 2012
£4.99 Buy Now
Independent Driving On the Test.
Theory Test Changes
Driving Test Changes.
Mill Hill Driving Test Route Video
£4.99 Buy Now
Borehamwood Test Centre WD6 Route Videos
Foriegn Licence UK Driving TestOver the 10 years of being a driving instructor, I have helped many drivers from countries like America, Canada, Pakistan, Nigeria, Soth Africa, etc pass the driving test first time, something they would not have been able to do on their own for ONE KEY reason BAD DRIVING HABITS.
If you are required to take a test instead of exchanging your foriegn licence for a UK one, the authorities (DSA/DVLA) do not believe your country's driving standards are good enough to use here! For this very reason you SHOULD take a few lessons from a qualified instructor to weed out the bad habits, as well as know what the examiners expect. Many candidates with international driving permits who pass the theory test first attempt go on to take a practical assessment thinking that the DSA examiner just wants to see if they can confidently drive from A to B.
It is more than just that, which is why they are surprised when the bad news is delivered at the end of the 40 minute assessment.
A 1hr driving lesson can not get rid of driving habits! I have seen so many drivers try this thinking they are smart by asking for one session on the dsa examiner routes, and while I will give them ALL the help I can, habits don't die that easily. Usually they start off fine, but 20 minutes in, they relax (especially once they start talking with the examiner) and they the normal habits show up (driving with one hand, no mirror checks, harsh braking, excessive speed).
If you are serious about passing, you should consider taking a 2 hr session at least a week before the test so you know what is expected, and can then practise (if you have an insured car with international permit) or take a few more lessons to iron the bad driving out.
Thinking about becoming an instructor? Don't just make a decision based on the red driving school TV advertisement, do the proper research and know all the ADI training options available to you.
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