Learner Driving Test

Learner Driving Test

The learner driving test is renown in the world for being amongst the hardest driving tests to pass. Over the past 80 years, the driving test has seen many changes to its original format- and nowadays, there are still more improvements  to be made in the pipeline. With more and more learners embarking on their course of tuition than ever before- more cars are impacting on the British roads- and thus driving itself, is proving more and more troublesome to the average motorist.

Measures are being introduced to the driving test to reflect real life driving situations, like driving with a Sat Nav. Trials are being held  up and down the country whereby learner drivers are asked to follow directions using a pre-installed route using a Sat Nav device. Whether this will become part of the driving test is another matter- however, this shows the driving test is set to change.

Nearly 1.5 million learners embark on driving tuition every year. Alas, only half of these learners are successful with gaining their drivers licence on the learner driving test. The learner driving test sits at a measly 44% national pass rate. The DVSA states that the average learner should expect to have approximately 44 hours of professional tuition and about 20 hours of private practice; which will allow the learner to obtain a good level of driving experience and understanding that is needed to become a safe driver and to be able to pass the learner driving test.

The driving test consists of three test elements, these include:

  • The eye sight test
  • The show me tell me maintenance questions
  • The practical drive


Learner Driving Test- Driving Test Elements


Eye Sight Test

Learner drivers are expected to be able to read a number plate from 20.5 metres away this is the distance required for a new style number plate. If a learner driver needs glasses to be able to read the number plate chosen by an examiner- they will be expected to use these on the learner driving test. Also- the learner driver will need to wear glasses during all driving to ensure satisfactory licence regulations are adhered to.

If the learner driver isn’t able to read a number plate, the examiner will get a tape measure and the learner will be expected to read it on the second attempt. If not, the learner driving test will be abandoned and not go ahead. The learner will lose their test fee.


Show Me Tell Me

At the start of the learner driving test the learner will be asked two questions at the start of the test. One show me question and one tell me question. A copy of the Show Me Tell Me questions can be found here.

The questions are designed to ensure that the learner driver understands and can operate basic maintenance checks of the vehicle. Checks include the following:


  • Able to identify the engine oil and be able to check the levels of the oil
  • Able to identify the break fluid reservoir and be able to check the levels of the fluid
  • Able to identify the engine’s coolant and be able to check the levels of the fluid
  • Be able to identify the windscreen wash and be able to check the levels of the fluid
  • Be able to demonstrate the use of the horn and all of the lights are operational and working
  • Be able to check the foot breaks and the parking break are in working order and be able to identify if they appear faulty
  • Be able to understand the legal requirements of the tyres tread and be able to identify any faults with the tyre’s roadworthiness
  • Be able to locate the car’s tyre pressure information and be able to know what to do with regards tyre inflation
  • Be able to adjust and position the head restraint correctly
  • Be able to identify if their is a problem with the ABS system
  • Be able to test and identify problems associated with the power steering unit



The Learner Driving Test

After the learner has completed the first two elements of the learner driving test, they will then begin to start the driving test. At the start the examiner will give the learner driver a brief. This is to explain what the learner can expect on the drive. A brief can be along these lines:


“Ok, we are going for a drive. The drive will last between 38 and 40 minutes long dependent on traffic and weather conditions. I would like you to follow the road ahead at all times, unless I or the road signs say otherwise. During the drive I shall ask you to complete some exercises. These can include a reversing exercise, a controlled stop and an independent drive of approximately 10 minutes, where you shall follow road signs or a set of directions. We shall be driving on various road layouts, including: urban, town and non-built up roads. If you are unsure about anything please ask? Have you got any questions?”


During the learner driving test the learner isn’t allowed to gain more than 15 driver errors ( minor faults) and isn’t  permitted to make one serious or dangerous fault during the drive. You can find some useful articles on failing a driving test here.

If the learner driving test exceeds the advised 40 minutes, the test is still being conducted and the learner must still adhere to their driving obligations. The learner must retain concentration throughout the drive until they get back to the test centre, where the examiner will ask the candidate to turn the engine off. Once the test  has finished, the examiner will finish his paper work and give the result there and then.

Learner Driving Test- How Are You Marked?


The examiner will mark the test on three levels of grade. These are the driver error- formerly known as the minor fault, a serious fault and a dangerous fault. You are not allowed to obtain more than 15 driver errors and you are not allowed one serious or dangerous fault.

The Driver Error

On the test a learner is allowed to gain some driver errors. The learner driver test isn’t about being perfect- and of course some mistakes will probably be made. After all; you are still learning to drive, even after you pass your test. The maximum amount of driver error faults is 15. If you exceed this amount- you automatically fail your driving test. You are also not permitted to make too many mistakes in the same subject area. There is no specific amount of faults,  this is at the discretion of the examiner. However two driver errors is usually acceptable, but three could result in a fail. The reason for this is due to the in-consistency of a certain aspect of driving- it shows a repeated weakness.

The Serious Fault

A serious fault on a learner driving test is an automatic fail. A serious fault means that you either needed assistance, this could be either verbal prompts or physical intervention, such as the examiner needing to steer you away from a curb. Or a serious fault could be given due to you breaking the law. For example, breaking the speed limit, not adhering to the Highway code. If the examiner deems you unsafe, this could result in a serious fault. The biggest question the examiner is asking himself is, What If?

The Dangerous Fault

The dangerous fault on a practical driving test means that at one point you the driver proved to be dangerous and possibly could have been involved in an accident had the examiner not intervened- by either physical help or verbal help. If the examiner feels it necessary he could abort the test.  For more information on the marking of a practical driving test please visit here.


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