What happens on the Driving Test?

Practical Driving Test for Cars - What happens?

The Driving Test is one of lifes big events. We often get asked questions by our pupils who are concerned about what to expect.

In reality, virtually all Driving Tests are uneventful, especially if the candidate is well prepared.

One thing's for sure, decisions made in the driving section are the difference between pass and fail. It's impossible to predict what's going to happen which is the essence of driving; anticipating what the cyclist, van driver, pedestrian, bus driver etc. will do. This is why practice makes perfect...

The more driving a learner does, the less they can be caught out!

Breakdown of what happens on the Driving Test

Arriving at the Test Centre

Make sure you arrive on time! Driving tests are kept to strict deadlines, if you arrive more than 5 minutes late, your test will probably be cancelled, which means you'll lose your fee and you'll have to book another test date.

Don't drive your vehicle into the test centre car park too early!

Examiners often use the Test Centre car park as a place for candidates to carry out a Bay Park during the test. Therefore, parking there can make it more difficult for someone doing a bay park in their test.

The best advice is to drive into the car park 5 minutes before your test appointment time. That way, any vehicles from the previous test should have gone.

The start of the Driving Test

The Test Examiners will come into the waiting room on time. If there are a few candidates waiting, each Examiner will call out the name of the person they will be testing.

The Examiner will then ask for your identification. You must provide BOTH PARTS of your provisional licence - without both of them, the driving test will be cancelled. You will also need to provide your Theory Test certificate or the pass number.

Once the Examiner has checked the paperwork, you will need to sign the legal declaration which proves the car is fully insured and road legal.

The Eyesight Test

Before going to your vehicle, the Examiner will ask you to read a number plate from a distance to test your eyesight.

There are 2 distances, the Examiner will choose 1, depending on what's available at the time:

  • 20 metres for vehicles with a new-style number plate
  • 20.5 metres for vehicles with an old-style number plate

If a candidate is unable to read a number plate from this distance, the driving test will not go ahead.

What it says on the Driving Test Marking Sheet...

  1. Eyesight Test

    At the start of the test the examiner asked you to read a vehicle registration number. If you required glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them whenever you drive. If you had problems with the eyesight test, perhaps you should consider consulting an optician.

Show Me Tell Me section

The Examiner asks the candidate two simple mechanical questions from a short list.

For one of the questions, the candidate will have to show the Examiner where it is and explain how to use it e.g. the oil dipstick. For the other question, they will only need to tell the test examiner the answer e.g. Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted.

What it says on the Driving Test Marking Sheet...

  1. Vehicle Checks

    You will need to display to the examiner a basic knowledge of the fundamental safety checks applicable to your vehicle. For example safe fluid levels, lighting and tyre checks.

More Info: Show Me Tell Me Questions

Start of the driving section

After the Show Me Tell Me section, the Examiner will fill in a couple more details on the Driving Test Report such as vehicle registration and Driving Instructor number (where applicable) while the candidate gets into the car and prepares for the drive.

This is a good time to re-check that the seat is in a safe driving position and the mirrors are correctly aligned.

Once seated in the car, the Examiner will explain how the test will proceed and what prompts he will be giving you e.g. road directions.

The driving section

The Examiner will give directions out of the Test Centre and then, as the candidate begins driving, they will continue to give route directions in good time e.g. well before the required manoeuvre (take the next road on the left, at the roundabout take the third exit etc.)

Sometimes the Examiner will ask the test candidate to pull over and then move off. Some learners get confused about why they are being asked to do this, but these manoeuvres are part of everyday driving. Therefore, candidates should concentrate on what they are being asked to do and not why.


During the drive the Test Exmainer will ask the candidate to pull over and carry out one of the manoeuvres e.g. left reverse, parallel park etc. Sometimes it can be at the very end of the test; as a bay park at the Test Centre for example.

More Info: Driving Test Manoeuvres

Independent driving section

During the drive the Test Examiner will ask the candidate to pull over so that the independent driving section can begin. This can last approximately 10 minutes although the time can be a lot less.

More Info: Independent Driving Section

The end of the Driving Test

The route given by the Test Examiner will eventually bring the candidate back to the Driving Test Centre where the test will finish. This should be around 40 minutes after the start of the test.

The Examiner then finishes marking the Test Report and gives the candidate the result.

More Info: Driving Test Report