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Passing the Mythical UK Driving Test !!

Getting a driving license in UK is generally considered the toughest with Germany securing the second position. Though there is no analyzed data to verify this, instead it is mostly inferred based on the experience of drivers who holds a foreign license and has tried the British test too. Also some famous articles written by driving research authors like Tom Vanderbit from USA, who apparently failed the UK driving test, substantiates the above perception. I also went through the dark moments of these tests. Though I considered myself to be really good with my driving skills, as Tom Vandebit puts it, I was baffled at some of the test questions; like, "What to do when approaching a horse and a rider on a roundabout?" The correct answer is something of a national refrain, gaily sung from Bournemouth to Blyth: "You should expect the rider to go in any direction!!".

The practical test too is one of the longest in the world, stretching a neat forty minutes, which can be the worst forty minutes of your life if you have to give the test in the streets of London or the suburbs around, with the piercing glance of the examiner always on you. Nevertheless, I guess at the end it is all worth it, as UK is considered one of the safest places to drive. However, the entire credit for this cannot be given to the driving test alone.

So, are planning to take your test or just starting to think about getting a driver’s license? If yes, then always helps to learn some facts about this most coveted license in the world and the test you need to qualify to get it.

Here are few facts about the British driving test. Inaugurated in 1935, nearly 92 million people have taken it. The average time spent preparing is 16 months. Aspirants take an average of 56 hours of professional instruction, spending around £1,600. The percentage of young people holding a licence has continuously declined. The stats says that around less than 40% of candidates passed the practical test on the first try, while less than 60% passed the theory test. The average number of attempts to pass the practical test is around 3. There has been a case reported where a woman passed the test after the 90th attempt.

So in case you have not cleared the tests in the first or the second try, do not be dis-hearted, it merely says that you have scope of improvement, understand your short coming, practise it and wear your lucky charm when you try the next time. The very fact that there are so many people out there from every walk of life, who got a UK license, proves that it’s not something unachievable. You just need to practise and try again. I have put across some points below which I feel will be of great help to anyone who is learning to drive or is going to attempt these tests.

Theory Test ( you need to get 43 answers right out of 50 questions ).
1) There are no short cuts. You need to practice all of the 1000+ questions that DSA uses in these tests. Some of the answers are not what you expect. Thus revising them and understanding why the particular answer is right is of great importance. Going through each of the#ose 1000+ questions at the least twice or thrice will do you good. Undoubtedly, the best material for preparation is The Official DSA theory test for car drivers. You can buy one through DVLA website or in Amazone. If you can't then beg, borrow or steal but get the latest edition CD, otherwise one of those new questions might turn out to be your waterloo and refrain you from getting the magical figure of 43/50. The Highway Code is also a very important. You don’t need to buy it as it is available online for free. [Click here to get one.]

2) There are various places on the internet where you can attempt a free mock test. Take as many as possible and apply for your theory test only when you are able to score above 43 on a consistent basis. Word of caution, don’t take the same test again and again also ensure that the mock test covers questions from all the topics as per the DSA guidlines for the theory test. [Check here for a mock test]

3) You don’t need to pay extra money to your ADI for the theory test preparations. Practicing these 1000+ questions are going to be enough. Even if you pay them, you would need to do the same in order to clear the theory test. The questions are very simple and mostly repetitive and thus there is not much to learn. Thus in all there would be around 250 different types of questions, the rest are simply the same ones repeated in different words.

Hazard Perception Test ( 14 videos, each contains one major hazard scored for 5 points except 1 which contains two hazards and thus scores 10 points, totaling a score of 75. You need 44 out of 75)

1) According to me, this is one of the simplest test for anyone who can identify any movement happening around. Its only seems to be tough because of the format in which it is conducted. Thus practicing it as it appears in the actual test is very important before the test day. There are various mock tests available online which is of great help. Again, the recommended preparation material is the official DSA guide to hazard perception. It is very helpful and prepares you perfectly for what you are going to experience in the test centre. [Click here for a mock test]

2) One thing to keep in mind that will help you with this test is to look for moving hazards. Only these are considered for scoring points. Thus, the simplest thing to do is to keep a watch for any vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist, which appears or gets into motion during the video. It can also be an already visible bus, which is turning to stop in a bus stop as the video progress. Though it would be beneficial to identify all possible hazards and flag it on the way, but let that not divert your attention from any moving hazards that develops as the video progress.

3) You need to identify these moving hazards at a very early stage in order to score a 5 out of 5, for that particular video. This is the tricky part, coz at times as soon as you feel a hazard is developing, you might raise the flag and be under the impression that you have scored the hazard. But, as per the test there is a particular point after which the movements turn into a scoring hazard. So, a trick to use here is to click 2-3 times after you see a particular hazard as it will help you to register your flag with the proper timing to get a score. But beware that continuous clicking is not a good alternative to perceiving the actual hazard and thus should be avoided. Only after you detect a hazard click 2-3 times so that the flag is raised at the proper time. I have seen many people failing in the hazard perception test due to registering the flag quite early, thereby losing the entire points for that particular video.

Practical Test (15 minor faults are allowed, 1 serious or dangerous fault is a fail).

1) Learning to clear the UK practical test is one of the best ways to learn safe driving. And this is the reason why those holding a foreign license almost always fail in the first attempt of their UK practical test. These drivers though they are well versed with the tricks to manoeuvre the vehicle along the road, are not accustomed to do it with safety standards actually required. And thus they fail in these tests miserably. An advise for such experienced drivers is to unlearn some of your cool driving practices; namely, driving with one hand, driving without checking the mirrors, driving close to the parked cars etc. Though these are techniques you have mastered through your experience and might not cause any real danger on the road but they are a big no for the UK driving test. If you don’t unlearn it successfully, it will show up during the stressful 40 minutes that you would spend with the examiner. So go through at least 10 hours of driving sessions with an instructor to specifically correct such dangerous skills that you have gained through experience. New learners have a higher chance of passing the test in the first try. But the areas they fail are the reverse manoeuvre, handling junctions etc. that again can be mastered with practice and concentration. I have listed some points below which are the key areas you need to focus when you drive during the test and thus learn it during your practice sessions.

a. When you are stationary always put the handbrake and change the gear to neutral unless you are on a signal which is about to change. In that case waiting with the gear in 1st is okay.

b. When you move, always look around give the appropriate indicator, move the gear to the 1st and then again look at you blind spot before lowering the handbrake and starting your vehicle. You can do this very slowly taking care that the vehicle should not go behind before it moves ahead.

c. Always look at the back and the appropriate side mirrors before giving a signal. When in doubt look all around before doing it. Take your time as doing it wrongly is going to cause you minor faults.

d. Practise and follow the MSM routine and turn it into a habit.

e. Following the speed limit is of at most importance. When in doubt keep it at 20 before you see a speed sign.

f. When passing parked cars, keep your car at a safe distance from them. If it’s not possible then drive below 20.

g. If have to cross the lane to pass a parked car slow down and always give way to the vehicle coming from the opposite direction though they might have enough space to pass through. Otherwise it’s a serious fault and you fail straight away.

h. When arriving at any hazard it is advised to slow down completely using your brakes and come to a stop if required. When you are planning to stop just use the clutch with brakes and stop, change your gears to 1stonly after you stop. But if you are continuing then change the gear to the appropriate one as soon as you decide to go ahead. Remember, gears are for going and brakes are for stopping.

i. As soon as you see a roundabout sign, slow down completely (look into the mirrors before you do so) and choose the lane as per the lane signs. If there are no lane signs then keep left with left indicator ON if you are going to take an exit in the first half of the roundabout. Keep to your right and give a right signal if you are going to take an exit in the next half of the roundabout. Don’t give any signal and keep to your left or centre lane if you are exiting straight. Remember to change the indicator to the left one immediately after passing the previous exit to the one that you need to take.

j. When doing the reverse manoeuvre do it very slowly and ensure that you finish it even if you have to move your vehicle forward and backwards to get to the right position. The multiple movement in the manoeuvre are minor faults but being tensed about getting it wrong and avoid the observations around might cause a serious fault.

k. If you find yourself in the middle of many hazards and totally confused on what is to be done, then go slow and act in a way that will be safest for you and for people around. This will help you to drive in the safest way and will ensure that you lose your provisional license by the end of the test.
2) The best way to practice driving for the test is to start a running commentary. You need to describe what is happening in front of you, what it might lead to, hence what is that you need to do and thus act accordingly. Also include the safety checks and other measures that you need to keep in mind within your commentary, such as; as soon as you see a parked car get into the habit of saying to yourself “there is a parked car so go on a bit to the right and keep a safe distance, to go right let me check the mirror first, give indicators, check for any vehicle coming on the other side. No vehicle so let me go …..” so on and so forth. This will help you to think like the examiner and thus do things that he is expecting you to do.

Follow these simple techniques and you will see yourself driving safely with a full UK driving license, pocketed in the first attempt itself. In case you have failed on your first try, don’t give up or get tensed, as it will only worsen your performance on the road. Consider it as an unlucky day, practice for the next one keeping everything that the examiner briefed you about and you are sure to impress him the next time he examines you.


Jack said...

Thank you ... very helpful

Thumbe said...

A very dtailed explanation but not helpful ... I was looking for cheat codes that will help me clear the theory test. This is going to be my 3 try ...

Anonymous said...

Yes the US test are a crap ... I bet if one of those yankees can pass the brit test in the 1 attempt

Julian said...

Thanks for the info, is there any stats on which is the best place to clear your test

Julie said...

Can someone tell me which is the test center to take the test?