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How to pass your driving test first time – the no nonsense guide

If you've been learning to drive and now think you're ready for your first attempt at passing your driving test, but you still have driving test nerves about getting your driving licence, this expert guide is for you!

Table of contents

Theory and hazard perception

Costs of booking your driving test

Practical driving tips from instructors

The day of your driving test

After you've passed your driving test

Take the time to read through our practical driving tips to help you pass your driving test first time. The simple fact is: you've most likely already covered the manoeuvres in your driving lessons: so relax.

Remember when you get to the test centre - there aren't any surprises and the examiners aren't there to catch you out, they're just making sure you're safe on the road.

First things first...

Let's focus on your theory test and hazard perception test

At this point, we're assuming that you're already having driving lessons and have your provisional driving licence (if you don't, read here about how to apply for your provisional licence.)

You'll need a few things to hand to book your theory test:

  • UK driving licence number (on your provisional)
  • Email address or book by phone if you don't have one
  • Credit or debit card

The cost of booking your theory test is £23 for cars and motorcycles. It's important to remember that if you don't turn up to your test centre on the date you've booked, you will lose that £23 - so make sure your day is completely free!

Now that you have everything to hand, you can book your theory test online - it's simple to complete. However, if you get stuck, make sure you call the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency for help.

Practicing for your theory and hazard perception

It's so important that you take your theory test seriously and leave nothing to chance; after all you’ve invested a lot of time in learning how to pass your driving test, so, don't risk it now!

This will mean lots of theory revision, practising with your friends and learning from people who have already passed. If you put in the work, you're putting yourself in a great position to pass your driving test first time.

There are 50 questions in your theory test and 75 possible hazards throughout the hazard perception.

To pass you need to score a minimum of:

  • Theory test: 43/50
  • Hazard perception: 44/75

The books the DVSA recommend you read* before your theory test are:

*as of 30th January 2018 provided by the website.

And for the hazard perception test, there is an official guide which you can download for your iPhone, Android or for your PC/Mac.

Pro tip: pay great attention during your hazard perception training as this prepares you for real-life situations on the road. The more alert you are to your surroundings, the less likely you will have to claim on your car insurance.

Practice with mock exams as much as you can

If you think you’re ready or that your head might explode if you put any more information in, then test your knowledge in a mock exam.

We recommend you create the same environment as your real test, so no distractions and no personal items that could tempt you to cheat.

  • Practice your theory test (multiple choice)
  • Hazard perception mock exam - only 3 test clips are provided but it's still useful to practice!

There is no right or wrong amount of times that you should practice. The aim is to feel completely sure of the answers before you commit to the real theory test. 

Don't rush through the answers to find out what your score is. Make sure you take your time and read the questions thoroughly: in fact, take the entire 57 minutes if you feel like you need to.

Things to remember on the day of your driving test

  • Make sure you bring your photo card provisional driving licence.
  • You need to arrive at least 30 minutes before your test starts.
  • You can't take any personal belongings in to the test room with you. You can put them in a locker before you start.
  • Use the allocated break between tests to relax, get some water and prepare for the next test.
  • Any form of cheating will result in you failing your test and a possible ban.
  • You've studied for this day, you're ready and you want to pass!

Finally, don't let the test centre environment intimidate you. Test conditions aren't there to scare you - they're really to help you focus on nothing else but the tests.

Practical driving tips from professional driving instructors

Apart from the usual advice of 'get plenty of sleep the night before' and 'stay calm' easier said than done we know - we thought you’d rather have some practical driving test tips you can use while you prepare, and on the day of your test, from professional driving instructors.

“Assuming that you have taken a course of lessons and your instructor says that you’re ready, trust in that, and try to just treat the day the same as you would do a driving lesson.”

Mark, MPHDrivingAcademy

“The most important thing I’ve found with my pupils is to make sure that they do not rush to pass their test! I know it’s exciting but by making sure you’re absolutely 100% confident before booking your test will make all of the difference on the day.”

Nick, RED Driving School

The day of your driving test is here - now what!?

The actual practical driving test is about 40 minutes long.

It's split into two parts: following instructions from your examiner and then independent driving. The aim here is to be as obvious as possible when being told what manoeuvres to perform and which directions to follow. Each time you look in your mirrors, make sure you move your head - not just your eyes.

If you ever begin to panic remember: mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Get the basics right and you’ll have a much better chance of passing your driving test first time.

The eyesight check

Before you get into the car with your examiner, he or she will make sure that your sight is good enough to go out on the roads.

To check this, you'll be asked to read a number plate from around 20 metres away whilst at the test centre. You get three total chances to successfully read the number plate.

If you can’t complete this, you will not pass your driving test.

If you need glasses or wear contacts, you are required by law to have them on for the duration of the test. 

Show me, tell me questions

You'll need to demonstrate that you understand how to complete the basic vehicle safety checks. This is to prove to the examiner that you have practical knowledge of how to keep your car safe on the roads.

Practical driving test questions you might be asked:

  • Open the bonnet and tell me how you'd check if the engine has sufficient oil
  • Tell me how you'd check the brake lights are working on this car?

A good resource to practice with is the public car show me, tell me questions.

Finding out if you've passed or failed your driving test

You will find out after your driving test has finished whether you have passed or not. 

The examiner will not make you wait to find out and will usually explain to you in the car whether or not you have passed. You are allowed up to 15 minor driving faults, however, anything over this will result in a fail.

You're also only allowed 1 major fault - which is any time you've been considered a danger on the road and to other road users.

As we mentioned earlier, the main reason people fail is driving test nerves. However, we've outlined the main areas of how people fail* in an easy to ready infographic. Feel free to print this out and use it as reference if you feel it'll help!

*provided by DVSA for 2016/2017.

10 reasons why learners fail their driving test 


I've passed my driving test – what’s next?

Once you’ve passed you can apply for your full driving licence straight away.

Before your licence arrives in the post you are legally allowed to drive and your certificate will act as proof, should you be in a situation where you need to prove your right to be on the road.

Be sure to send your test certificate in the post to the DVLA to prove you have passed. You have to do this within 2 years or you’ll have to retake your test.

Another helpful tip to remember once you’re on the roads for the first time, is to display ‘P’ plates.

Whilst this isn’t a legal requirement, it does help other road users to understand that you have recently passed your test and may be slightly nervous for the few days or weeks.

Once you’re confident in your driving abilities, remove the plates and enjoy your freedom!

Remember: drive safe, look out for other road users and always have car insurance!