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Driving tests

The driving test

A driving test is made up of a theory test and a practical test. You cannot normally take the practical test without first having passed the theory test.

However, some people are exempt from taking the theory test. You can find further information about who is exempt from taking the theory test at www.gov.uk.

You have to pay a fee for each part of the test - for details, see under heading Fees.

Before you can apply for a test, you must have a valid Great Britain or Northern Ireland provisional driving licence.

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The theory test

The theory test is in two parts. The first is a computerised touch screen test in which you have to select the correct answer from a number of choices. The second part is called the hazard perception test. You will be shown a set of video clips of driving hazards and asked to click the mouse button as soon as you spot a hazard. You have to pass both parts of the theory test at the same sitting in order to pass.

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The practical test

You cannot take the practical test until you have passed the theory test unless you are exempt - see under heading The theory test. The practical test will test your ability to exercise adequate control of your vehicle and to drive independently and normally lasts 40 minutes. If you have a physical disability, you will be asked to demonstrate any special controls on your vehicle.

The practical test also includes an eyesight check and two questions on vehicle safety, designed to make sure that you know how to check the safety of your vehicle. Topics covered are, tyres, brakes, fluids, lights, reflectors, direction indicators, and horns.

You must have completed a course of compulsory basic training (CBT) before applying for a motorcycle test, and must show your CBT certificate when you take your practical test. Information on the CBT is available from the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) on 0115 936 6547.

If you fail, or do not take the practical test within two years of having passed the theory test, you will have to pass the theory test again before you can apply for a practical test.

When you have passed the practical test, if you have a photocard provisional licence and your personal details have not changed, you can hand it over to the examiner, and a full licence will be issued to you automatically. Otherwise, you must apply to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for your full licence within two years of the test date. If you don't do this, you will have to take the practical test (and the theory test) again.

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Applying for a test

You can apply for the theory or practical test:-

  • in writing, by completing an application form which is available from test centres, driving instructors or the test booking line. The number of the booking line is 0300 200 1122 in England, Wales or Scotland, or 0300 200 1133 to apply in Welsh
  • by phone on 0300 200 1122 in England, Wales or Scotland, or 0300 200 1133 to apply in Welsh and in Northern Ireland, by phone on 0845 600 6700 (to book a theory test) or 0845 247 2472 (to book a practical test) using a credit or debit card
  • online at www.gov.uk or, in Northern Ireland, www.nidirect.gov.uk.

You have to pay a fee for the test - see under heading Fees.

You can reschedule or cancel a test over the phone or online by giving three clear working days notice.

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Special needs and foreign language assistance

If you have special needs, for example, reading difficulties, physical disabilities or you wish to take the tests in a language other than English, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) or the Driver Vehicle Testing Agency (DVTA) can make arrangements for you.

From 7 April 2014, new rules mean that:

  • you won't be able to take a theory test with a foreign language voice over or translator. You'll have to take the test in English, Welsh or BSL
  • you won't be able to take a foreign language interpreter with you on your practical driving test. You'll have to take the test in English, Welsh or BSL.

More information about candidates with special needs and taking the theory and practical tests is available on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.ukand and in Northern Ireland from www.nidirect.gov.uk.

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Re-taking the test

If you fail the theory test, you must wait three clear working days before you can take a further test. There is no limit on the number of times you can take the test.

If you fail the practical test, you must wait ten clear working days before retaking a car or motorcycle test and three working days before retaking a lorry or bus test. There is no limit on the number of times you can take the test.

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If you fail the theory test, you can only appeal if the test was disrupted.

If you fail the practical test, you can only appeal if the test was not carried out in accordance with the regulations.

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Probationary period

When you pass your driving test for the first time you will be subject to a two year probationary period. The two year period begins on the day you first pass the practical test.

If during the probationary period, you are convicted of driving offences and reach six or more penalty points, including any penalty points you had before passing the test, your driving licence will be revoked.

If your full driving licence is revoked, you will revert to learner status and be treated as if you never passed a driving test. To continue driving, you will have to get a provisional driving licence and drive with learner’s plates until you have passed both the theory and practical parts of the driving test.

You cannot appeal the revocation of your licence. However, if you appeal against the conviction or sentence which brought the number of penalty points up to 6 or more, you can apply to have your licence restored pending the result of the appeal. If the court notifies the DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) that the sentence is under appeal and that permission to continue driving has been granted, the full licence should be restored without a further test.

There is no minimum period for which the licence must be revoked. As soon as you have passed both the theory and practical parts of another driving test, you can apply for a new full licence. However, the penalty points will remain on the driver’s licence for four years from the date of your offence. After four years you can ask the DVLA (or DVLNI in Northern Ireland) to have them removed from your licence.

For more information about endorsements on your driving licence, see Driving licences.

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For some driving offences a court can disqualify you and/or order that you be re-tested. If the offence is very serious the court can order that you are ‘disqualified until test passed’ and that you must take a double-practical driving test known as an ‘extended driving test’. The fee to be paid for this test is higher than that for a normal test (see under heading Fees).

A motorcyclist who is disqualified by a court will have to retake compulsory basic training (see under heading The practical test) in order to ride as a learner and will have to take the practical test.

For more information about disqualification and endorsements, see Driving licences.

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Pass Plus

Pass Plus is a voluntary training scheme for newly-qualified drivers in England, Wales and Scotland. It involves six lessons which cover, among other subjects, night driving, all-weather driving, and driving on motorways and dual carriageways. You have to pay a fee for attending but there is no test at the end of the course.

If you complete a Pass Plus course within twelve months of passing your test, you may be able to get a discount on your insurance. The discount is normally the equivalent of a one year no-claims bonus. Check with your insurer before taking the course to see whether or not this is available. You may also want to check with an insurance broker to see whether other insurers give a larger discount.

Further information about Pass Plus can be found at www.gov.uk.

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A candidate will have to pay a fee for both the theory test and the practical test. Further information about the fees payable can be found at www.gov.uk or in Northern Ireland at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

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If you want to complain about the way in which any part of your theory or practical test was administered, contact the test centre where you took the test. If you aren't satisfied with their response to your complaint, you should contact the Driving Standards Agency's customer services department on 0300 200 1122 or email them at customer.services@dsa.gsi.gov.uk. In Northern Ireland, you should contact the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency on 028 9068 1831 or email the Agency at dvta@doeni.gov.uk.

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Further information

Further information about driving tests is available at www.gov.uk or in Northern Ireland at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

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