How The Driving Test Examiner Expects You To Drive (2023)

During the practical driving test the examiner is looking to make sure a test candidate fulfils the criteria below. To pass your driving test you will have to drive to what is known as level 5 standard i.e.

you must be able to carry out all required driving skills consistently and without any prompting.


All the controls such as foot pedals, gear stick and steering should be handled smoothly. The examiner should not have to assist or prompt you in the operation of the clutch, accelerator, gears, steering, brakes or any of the auxiliary controls that it may become necessary to use to maintain the safety of the vehicle and other road users.

You should:

  • make proper use of the accelerator and clutch to make a smooth start
  • always press down on the clutch before stopping
  • select the correct gear to match the road and traffic conditions
  • change gear in good time but not too soon before a hazard
  • don't allow the vehicle to coast by running in neutral or with the clutch depressed
  • avoid looking at the gear stick when changing gear
  • use the foot brake smoothly and progressively
  • brake in plenty of time for any hazard
  • make full use of the parking brake where necessary
  • steer the vehicle as smoothly as possible
  • avoid harsh steering or steering too early or too late

Ancillary Controls

An understanding of the function of all controls and switches, especially those relating to road safety, should be shown. The candidate should be able to access all controls without having to look down to locate them.

Starting The Engine

You must be able to start the engine safely and without assistance. If any steering column lock is engaged you must know how to disengage it.

Make sure the handbrake is engaged and that neutral gear is selected before you turn start the engine.

Moving Away

You must be able to move away safely, under control, on the level, from behind a parked car and where practicable, on a hill, with the correct observations, and without endangering or inconveniencing other road users.

You must be able to demonstrate the you can co-ordinate the use of the clutch and accelerator to move the vehicle from rest on level ground and on up-hill and down-hill gradients, without stalling or over-revving the engine.

You must be able to move away quickly from rest, so you can take advantage of safe gaps in the traffic if they arise.

You should not:

  • over-rev the engine
  • roll backwards on uphill gradients.
  • lurch forwards as the clutch is released.

Emergency Stop

Even and progressive braking should be demonstrated. There should be no locking of the wheels. In wet weather conditions the candidate should understand that the stopping distance could be doubled.

Reverse To The Left or Right

Should be executed under full control and with reasonable accuracy. Good all-round observation is essential as is responding correctly to other road users.

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Turn In The Road

Must be executed under full control. Good all-round observation is essential as is responding correctly to other road users. You must demonstrate a high degree of ability to control the car at low speed. The examiner will want to see that you:

  • can control the speed of the car by using the clutch
  • can steer effectively and know which way to turn the steering wheel.
  • can compensate for the road camber
  • retain full control of the car
  • make proper observations.

Reverse Parking

You must be able to park accurately, by reversing either into a parking space (bay parking) or into a parking space behind another vehicle (parallel parking). The parking exercise must be executed under full control. Good all-round observation is essential, as is responding correctly to other road users.

The examiner will mark you on

  • accuracy
  • observations
  • judgment

You must park the car straight and central in the bay and you must judge accurately the distance of the rear of your vehicle with regard to any kerb, road marking, barrier or other vehicle.

When parallel parking, you should park the car a reasonable distance from the kerb - meaning inches not feet. You can move forward once in order to correct your position.

Reversing Round A Corner

When performing this exercise, you must keep reasonable close to the left-hand kerb. You must make constant observations throughout the exercise, seeing and reacting to the presence of other road users. You should avoid mounting the kerb and you should know which way to turn the steering wheel when reversing.

Once you have turned the corner, you must be able to reverse up into the side road going in a straight line.

Use of Mirrors

Mirrors should be used regularly and the test candidate must be aware of the presence of others in their blind spots. Early use of mirrors should be made before signaling, changing direction, changing speed and as part of the mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine.

When using your mirrors, do not take your eyes off the road in front for any length of time. A quick glance should be sufficient, if it is not, then a series of short glances is preferred to taking your eyes off the road ahead.

The faster you are travelling the earlier and more frequent your mirror checks need to be.

If you have to speed up, slow down, change direction, turn, indicate or stop, or if you are approaching any hazard that may cause you to do of these, you must check your mirrors.


The candidate must give signals clearly and in good time to warn other road users of intentions in accordance with the Highway Code. Signals should be cancelled after any manoeuvre has been completed.

Make sure you cancel the signal after turning - it may be that the automatic signal cancelling device, which operates after you have turned the steering wheel half a turn or so, hasn't been activated.

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Don't signal so early that the signal becomes confusing to others, or so late that they don't have time to react safely to it.

All signals must conform to the Highway Code.

Never flash your headlights to tell another road user you are giving way to them.

Never wave at pedestrians for them to cross the road.

Response To Signs and Signals

The candidate must understand and be able to react to all traffic signs and road markings; check when proceeding through green lights, and respond to signals given by police officers, traffic wardens, school crossing patrols and all other road users.

Reacting To Road Signs and Markings

You must see and react correctly to all road signs and markings. Failing to comply with traffic signs will score you a serious or potentially dangerous fault - a test fail.

At the start of the test the examiner will ask you to follow the road ahead unless traffic signs direct you otherwise. The examiner will give you directional information such as, 'at the roundabout go straight ahead', but it is your responsibility to make sure that it is safe and legal to carry out the instruction - road signs and markings will tell you whether or not it is.

If there is no directional choice, then the examiner will give no directional instruction. If you come to a junction that has a compulsory left turn, denoted by a road sign featuring a blue circle with a white arrow pointing left for example, the examiner will say nothing, but will expect you to correctly follow the sign.

Use Of Speed

Safe and reasonable progress should be made according to the road, weather and traffic conditions, the road signs and speed limits. Candidates should always be able to stop within the distance they can see to be clear.

You must:

  • Take current road conditions into account
  • Drive at a safe speed for those conditions.

You must not drive unnecessarily slow, but if your drive too fast for the relevant road conditions, you are likely to score a serious fault, which will result in test failure.

Following Distance

The candidate must maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead in all conditions, including when stopping in traffic queues, and must react promptly to any change in speed of the other vehicle.

When driving on good, dry roads you should use the two second rule as a guide to a safe separation distance. If the road is wet, increase to four seconds.

Always drive at a speed so that you can stop within the distance that you can see to be clear.

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Maintaining Progress and Avoiding Undue Hesitation

Appropriate speeds must be maintained and the type of road, the speed limit, the type and density of traffic, the weather and visibility must be taken into account.

A safe approach to all hazards should be demonstrated without being over-cautious. All safe opportunities to proceed at junctions should be taken.

Where it is safe to do so, you must keep the flow of traffic moving.

You must demonstrate to the examiner that you can drive confidently and competently. If you regularly stop at junctions when you could safely continue, keep slowing down for minor or non-existent hazards or keep driving unnecessarily slowly, you will demonstrate to the examiner that you lack the confidence to drive safely.

You must be able to judge when it is safe to move out into traffic, without causing other traffic to change speed or direction. The examiner will check you:

  • Do not endanger other road users by pulling out in front of them, causing them to change speed or direction.
  • Do not sit waiting at junctions, allowing safe gaps to pass.
  • Do not over-react to minor hazards
  • Do not drive unnecessarily slowly, when it is safe and proper to drive at normal road speeds.

Junctions Positioning

The correct procedure must be demonstrated at all types of junctions. The mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine must also be demonstrated, as should good all-round observations and safe responses to other road users. You must position your vehicle so that, where possible, you do not prevent other vehicles from taking up their position.

You should also:

  • judge the correct speed when approaching a junction
  • position your vehicle correctly
  • use the correct lane
  • if turning right, keep as near to the centre of the road as is safe to do so
  • avoid cutting the corner when turning right
  • if turning left, keep over to the left and do not swing out
  • watch for cyclists and motorcyclists coming up on your left and pedestrians who are crossing
  • make effective observation before moving into a junction and make sure it is safe before proceeding.

Junction Observation

You must be able to judge both speed and distance of approaching vehicles. You must take advantage of safe gaps in the traffic but you must not cause any other road user to change speed or direction because of your action.

The examiner will look to see that you:

  • Make good observations, in all directions, before emerging.
  • Assess the speed of other vehicles accurately.
  • Take advantage of safe gaps as they arise.
  • Do not cause other vehicles to change speed or direction by your actions.


A candidate must show correct response when dealing with other road users including overtaking, meeting oncoming traffic and turning across traffic. Other road users should not be made to slow down, swerve or stop. When overtaking:

  • overtake only if it is safe to do so
  • allow enough room when overtaking a vehicle; cyclists/motorcyclist should be given the same room as a car
  • avoid cutting in too early after overtaking


The correct road position should be maintained at all times according to the type of road, the direction being taken and the presence of parked vehicles. In normal driving conditions you should position the car well to the left.

Meeting, Overtaking and Crossing the Path of Other vehicles

You must be able to judge the speed of approaching vehicles and plan the road ahead so that you do not cause other vehicles to take evasive action if you meet in a restriction in the road or you turn across their path. You must know how to overtake a vehicle safely.

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If you encounter a restriction in the road, such as a parked car on the side of the road, you must plan your approach and be prepared to slow down or stop. If the restriction is on your side of the road, and traffic is coming the other way, the examiner will expect you to stop. If the restriction is on the other side of the road, don't assume a vehicle coming the other way will slow down or stop.

The examiner will look to see that you:

  • Plan the situation early, the earlier you react, the less severe the action you have to take.
  • Take appropriate action, slowing down or stopping if necessary.
  • Give way to vehicles already in the hazard.
  • Negotiate the hazard safely.

Turning right across the path of approaching traffic is a particularly hazardous exercise. You must be able to:

  • Judge the distance of the approaching vehicle.
  • Judge the speed of the approaching vehicle.
  • Move away and turn quickly.

If you encounter a slower moving vehicle, and if it is safe to do so, the examiner will expect you to overtake it. When overtaking, you must:

  • Select a safe place
  • Take effective observations
  • Select the correct gear to give maximum acceleration for the speed you are travelling.
  • Complete the manoeuvre quickly.

Negotiating Roundabouts

You must demonstrate that you know the correct procedure at roundabouts. You must take up the correct position on approach and in good time. You must maintain the correct course on the roundabout and make good use of the mirrors and signals.

The examiner will look to see that you:

  • Know which lane to use.
  • Take up your position in good time.
  • Use the MSM/PSL routine when changing lanes.
  • Take advantage of safe gaps when entering the roundabout.
  • Select and maintain the correct lane in the roundabout.
  • Make frequent and effective use of mirrors.
  • Clear the junction as quickly as possible.

Clearance To Obstruction

The candidate should allow plenty of room when passing stationary vehicles and other obstructions that may be obscuring pedestrians.

When passing parked cars on the side of the road, if possible, give enough room for the car door to open or at least three feet. If you have to get closer than this, adjust your speed and slow down - the nearer you get to the car the slower you should drive.

Pedestrian Crossings

The correct type of crossing should be recognized and the correct procedure demonstrated. You should:

  • at zebra crossings slow down and stop if anyone is waiting to cross
  • give way to pedestrians on a pelican crossing when the amber lights are flashing
  • give way to cyclists as well as pedestrians on a toucan crossing and act correctly at puffin crossings
  • demonstrate courtesy and consideration for people waiting to cross.

Position For Normal Stops

The candidate should select a safe and legal place to stop without causing inconvenience or obstruction to other road users.

The examiner will ask you to 'pull in on the left in a convenient place' several times during the test. You will be left to decide where to pull in. To decide on a correct space, ask your self these questions:

  • Is it safe?
  • Is it convenient?
  • Is it legal?

Once the examiner has asked you to stop, you should do so as soon as it is safe to do so.

Awareness and Planning

The candidate should think and plan ahead and anticipate the actions of other road users, should demonstrate safe attitudes when dealing with vulnerable roads users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders and think and plan ahead so that they can:

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  • judge what other road users are going to do
  • predict how their actions will affect you
  • react in good time


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