Dispatches from England: All About Finally Passing My UK Driving Test


I’m wrapping my series of posts on the process and experience of obtaining a UK driver’s license. The final step is obviously the driving test itself. I’ll walk you through my test to give you a sense of what it was like.

I arrived to the test center about 15 minutes early and waited in the waiting room. While I waited, I watched three others hoping to get their license pull back into the parking lot and be told they had failed. (It was obvious by their reaction.) Needless to say, that made me a little nervous.

I was then greeted by one of the examiners who walked me to my car. She checked my paperwork. Then the test began when she asked me a couple of questions about my car. This is referred to as the “show me tell me” portion of the test, which is designed to show the examiner how well you know the workings of your car. I was asked to open the hood of the car, describe how I would check the oil level, and to point to the brake fluid. Luckily I was prepared for this, and knew just what to say and where to point.

Then we got in the car and the driving began. The examiner gave me clear instructions all along the way (so it’s not necessary to know how to get from point A to point B on your own, which was helpful to me since the test center was about 30 minutes from my house in a town I rarely visit). She occasionally made notes on her paper (which again made me a bit nervous), but mostly we either rode in silence or chatted. She usually only asked me questions when we were stopped at a red light or in traffic.

Beyond just driving around and having her observe me, there were several portions of the 45-minute test that were mandatory components.

1) Carry out a maneuver. I knew I’d be asked to either back into a parking space, parallel park, do a left reverse into a side street, do a right reverse into a side street, or do a turn around in the road. I was hoping I’d get to do one of the parking ones as I felt the most comfortable with that. Naturally, instead I was asked to do a left reverse into a side street. I definitely didn’t execute it perfectly, but did well enough to get by.

2) Drive on the motorway. I also knew I’d spend a portion of the test driving on the motorway. This was the part I was least nervous about, as I find driving on the motorway to be quite easy here. It’s frankly not all that different from driving on a U.S. highway.

3) Drive for 10 minutes without instructions. My driving instructor had also prepared me for this portion of the test. The examiner simply asked me to follow the signs for the “university” and for the next 10 minutes, I did that and drove toward the university without any directions or instructions from her. Apparently it is designed to ensure drivers are comfortable getting around without someone telling them where to go. Again, as an adult with years of experience driving, this wasn’t difficult for me.

So how did I do? During the course of my test, I had 4 minor faults. You’re allowed 15, so I felt quite good about this. Apparently there were two times when I started driving after being stopped (like at a red light) without first checking my mirror. And she gave me two faults for issues during my left reverse into the side street.

While you’re allowed 15 minor faults, you’re allowed zero major faults. So, for example, if at any point I had hit a curb with my tires (easy to do on narrow streets or when parking) or if I had even gone 1 or 2 mph over the speed limit, I could have received a major fault and failed. I knew this in advance, so I actually somewhat intentionally was a little bit wide in my left reverse maneuver, as I’d rather her give me a few minor faults for that instead of hitting the curb and completely fail.

Needless to say, after spending lots of money and time preparing for this moment, I was so relieved to pass and know that a driver’s license would soon be in my hands!

Read More at Anglotopia


  1. avatarPat Banks says

    This reminded me of Dot Cotton’s driving lessons on Eastenders. Our episodes are way behind UK.

  2. avatar says

    As an American, (forgive me, perhaps this has been answered somewhere?) do you need a UK drivers license to drive there? I was under the impression drivers licenses are accepted internationally for a period of time, but how long am uncertain?

    • avatar says

      You need a license after a year. Nicole is there for 3, so she had to get a license to continue driving. But if you’re just traveling there, you don’t need a special license.

  3. avatarMinerva says

    Well done.
    It is hard enough for motorists here that have only learned to drive in one particular environment, to pass….but for someone who has had years of driving experience in a totally different environment to relearn style & habits, you should be very proud of yourself.
    Credit to you.

  4. avatarSandra Herb says

    I only took the test once in England…after having lessons from BSM…failed miserabley!
    Took the test in the US…passed first time and have benn driving here for more than 40 years….as I remember it…the test in England was very difficult…and I had to drive in rush hour traffic on Saturday when a match was letting out,,,,

  5. avatar says

    I just want to ask, did you really drive on the motorway or was it a dual carriageway? You should ask your instructor for clarification because learner drivers are not allowed on motorways in UK!

  6. avatar says

    What Jo said – learners are not allowed on motorways in the UK (and even if they were, most test centres are nowhere near enough to one to cover them in a 40 minute test).

    It must have been a dual-carriageway – though not all test centres even have one of those to drive on, and ones that do don’t always use them as there are numerous alternative routes they can choose from at any given test site.

  7. avatarAdrienne Wiggins says

    Congratulations! Just reading about all of this has made me nervous – and I don’t have any plans to travel or live in England anytime in the near future.

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