What Happens on a Driving Test

You need to be well prepared if you are to pass the driving test. To avoid getting caught by surprise, part of your preparation should involve researching what happens on the day of your test. If you know what happens and what’s expected of you, you’ll stand a much better chance of passing. To help with this, we’ve written this handy guide to bring you right up to speed.

Here’s what to expect on the driving test;

  • Sign a ‘Driving Test Report’ form
  • Decide whether you want an observer
  • Complete the eyesight test
  • Answer the ‘show me, tell me’ questions
  • General driving
  • Independent driving
  • Complete a driving test manoeuvre
  • Get your results

How long is the driving test

It takes around 40 minutes to complete the standard driving test, and it takes around 70 minutes to complete the extended driving test. The extended driving test is longer than the standard driving test, as it’s reserved for individuals that have been disqualified from driving.

What do you need to bring to your driving test?

The DVSA say all candidates should bring the following things with them on the day of their driving test;

  • Provisional driving licence
  • Theory test pass certificate – don’t worry if you do not have it to hand
  • A vehicle suitable for the driving test

All candidates taking their driving test during the COVID-19 pandemic must wear a face-covering during the test. If you do not bring one with you, the driving examiner will cancel the test.

Your driving test vehicle

You won’t be allowed to take your driving test if your test vehicle is unsuitable. If you’re taking the test in your instructor’s vehicle, it should meet the test standard, as all ADIs are aware of the requirements. If you are taking the test in your own car, you need to make sure that the vehicle has;

  • A valid MOT certificate and it’s legally roadworthy
  • Valid vehicle tax
  • All its equipment in good working order – the vehicle must be mechanically sound
  • Valid insurance for the driving test
  • L plates on the front and back of the vehicle
  • A rear-view mirror for the driving examiner
  • Seatbelts and head restraints for both the driver and passenger seats

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the requirements listed above, the driving examiner will cancel the test, and you will not receive a refund.

If you’re taking the test in your instructor’s vehicle, it’s their responsibility to ensure the vehicle is suitable for the test. If the vehicle isn’t and the test is cancelled, they’ll be liable for the test’s cost. All driving instructors aware of the requirements for test vehicles.

Attending the test centre

The DVSA recommend you enter the driving test centre waiting room no more than 10 minutes before the start of your driving test. If you are taking your test during the COVID-19 pandemic, the recommendation is to enter no more than 5 minutes before starting your test. This is to help enforce social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus.

When you book your driving test, check to see whether your chosen test centre has parking available or if the waiting room is closed during the pandemic.

If you need to use the toilet before you start your test, make sure you do so before the driving examiner calls your name. Being on time and ready to start when you’re called will help you make a good first impression with your examiner.

What happens at the start of the driving test

You’ll be forgiven for thinking your driving test starts when you start driving when in fact, that’s not the case. Your actual test starts when the driving examiner calls your name in the waiting room. Here’s what to expect at the start of your test.

Sign a ‘Driving Test Report’ form

When your driving examiner calls your name, they will ask to see your provisional driving licence, and they’ll check to see that you match the photograph on the card. You will then be asked to sign a driving test report form. The examiner will use this form to record how you get on during your drive, and it also serves as a legally binding declaration of your vehicle’s roadworthiness.

Decide whether you want an observer

The driving examiner will ask you whether you would like to have an observer with you on your test. The observer could be your driving instructor or someone else. Some candidates feel more relaxed with their instructor in the vehicle, while others feel it adds an extra layer of pressure. You will need to make your decision known to your examiner, so it’s worth thinking about the pros and cons of bringing along an observe before the day of your test.

Eyesight test

Before the driving examiner lets you get behind the wheel, you will first need to complete the eyesight test. The test requires you to read the number plate of a vehicle 20 metres away – if it’s a new style number plate – or 20.5 metres away if it is an old-style number plate.

If you wear glasses to drive or need them to read from a distance, it’s a good idea to wear your glasses or have them to hand before the eyesight test. This prevents you from looking for your glasses at the last minute, which helps you avoid coming across unprepared.

If you’re unable to read the number plate at the required distance, you will not be allowed to continue with your test, and you will not be issued a refund.

If you are unsure, make sure your test your eyesight before the start of your driving test.

Show me, tell me questions

If you pass the eyesight test, the driving examiner will ask you to take a seat in the vehicle. While you’re seated, they’ll take a quick look around and fill in some additional information on the driving test report form.

Once the checks are complete, you will have to answer a couple of vehicle safety questions. You’ll have to answer one ‘tell me’ question before starting your drive and one ‘show me’ question while you’re driving. There are 14 ‘tell me’ and 7 ‘show me’ questions in total.

The ‘tell me’ questions require you to tell the examiner how you would complete a safety task. If you are asked questions 12, 13 or 14, you will have to exit the vehicle, open the bonnet, and show the examiner which part of the engine you’re referring to.

During the course of your drive, the examiner will ask you a ‘show me’ question. To answer this question, you need to demonstrate how you would operate the correct control. You are expected to do this while driving.

Examiner’s instructions

Before you start your drive, you’ll receive instructions from the driving examiner. The examiner will ask you to follow the road ahead at all times unless directed otherwise. You will also be told in good time, whenever you need to turn left or right.

Once you have received these instructions, you will be asked to begin your drive.

What happens during the drive

The next part of the driving test focuses on your driving. There are 3 key parts to this section.

General driving

You’re expected to follow the driving examiner’s turn-by-turn instructions during the general driving section. Your examiner will guide you along a pre-selected driving test route, and if you take the wrong turn, they will issue you new instructions to help you get back on course.

Independent driving

In this section of the driving test, the driving examiner will stop all turn-by-turn instructions and ask you to either follow a sat-nav or road signs to a particular destination. Independent driving lasts for 20 minutes, and you are expected to reach the destination with minimal help from your instructor.


You will need to complete one reversing manoeuvre as part of the driving test. The driving examiner will choose which manoeuvre, and you could be asked to complete it at any point during your test.

For some candidates, the driving test manoeuvre might be the first thing you do, while for others, it might be the last thing you do when you return to the driving test centre.

What happens at the end of your driving test

At the end of your driving test, you’ll get your result. The driving examiner will tell you whether you have passed or failed, and they’ll also offer you feedback on your drive. You’ll be asked if you want your driving instructor to be present when you’re given your feedback, and we recommend allowing your instructor to listen in.

If you have passed, they’ll offer you some general advice about your driving, and if you’ve failed the driving test, they’ll discuss any serious or dangerous faults you’ve made. Allowing your driving instructor to be present at this point is important, as they can incorporate any feedback from the examiner into your driving lessons.

If you’ve failed because you made more than 15 driver faults, legally, the examiner will have to explain each driver fault you made.

What to expect on your driving test during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on driving tests in the UK. Many tests have been cancelled due to local and national lockdowns, and the pandemic has also forced the DVSA to make changes to how they conduct the test itself. Here’s what to expect on your driving test during COVID-19.


To stop the spread of coronavirus, candidates are now required to wear a face-covering throughout their driving test. The DVSA introduced this rule to protect both the examiner and the candidate.

All candidates must wear a face-covering during the test unless they’re medically exempt. If you have a valid reason for not wearing a face-covering, you must inform the DVSA when you book your driving test. The DVSA will cancel your driving test if you fail to notify them beforehand and turn up to your test without a face-covering. You will not be issued a refund if this happens.

Driving test waiting rooms

As an added safety precaution, you should only enter the driving test waiting room, 5-minutes before your test starts. This minimises contact between other candidates and their driving instructors.

Some driving test centres have had their waiting rooms closed, and if you’re attending one of these centres, you may have to meet your driving examiner in the car park or on the side of the road. You can check whether your test centre’s waiting room is open or not before the day of your test.

Your driving test vehicle

If you are taking your driving test during the pandemic, the DVSA expects your vehicle to be clean, clear of any debris and wiped down before your test. Your driving examiner may also wipe down the surfaces and controls once they sit down.

You also need to make sure that at least one window on each side of the vehicle is open to ensure continuous ventilation.

Read this guide from the DVSA for more information on what to expect from driving tests during the pandemic.

Shorter driving tests

You can expect shorter driving tests as a result of COVID-19. Before the pandemic, all candidates were allowed to complete their driving test. This was true as long as the candidate wasn’t a danger to themselves, the examiner or other road users.

To limit the spread of coronavirus, the DVSA has made a change to this. Now, if you make one serious or dangerous fault, your examiner will direct you back towards the test centre. This reduces the amount of time candidates and examiners spend in a confined space.

Freequently Asked Questions About The Driving Test

What happens if I fail the driving test?

The examiner will let you know at the end of the test if you have failed or not. If you fail, it can be quite upsetting, but we recommend working on any errors you made and booking another driving test.

You will need to wait 10 working days to take another test, and if you need a driving test at short notice, we can help you look for driving test cancellations.

Can you fail your driving test on the questions?

No, you won’t fail your driving test if you answer the ‘show me, tell me’ questions incorrectly. If you get one or both questions wrong, you will receive one driver fault.

Your instructor will ask you the ‘show me’ question while you’re driving. You will fail your driving test if you commit a serious or dangerous fault while demonstrating your answer to this question.

Can anyone accompany you on the driving test?

Yes, you can have one observer sit in the vehicle with you while you take your driving test. You can have your driving instructor sit with you or someone else of your choosing.

It goes without saying that whoever you choose to accompany you is not allowed to influence the test in any way, shape or form.

Do I need my theory certificate for the driving test?

The DVSA ask all candidates to bring their theory test pass certificate with them to their driving test. Although they ask you to bring the certificate, you can still take your test if you don’t have it.

You can use the DVSA’s find your theory test pass certificate number if you need yours.