What's the new practical driving test like?

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The practical driving test recently changed, so what should you expect and how can you prepare? Alice Dent shares her experience

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During the course of my driving lessons, my instructor made me aware of the driving test changes that were coming into place. I was told there were certain manoeuvres that were being added and some which were being removed entirely, as well as the introduction of a sat nav and alterations to the ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ questions.

At first, I was apprehensive about how these changes would affect me, and questioned whether I would be at a disadvantage under the new system. However, my preparations ran smoothly, and by the day of my test I felt fully equipped to deal with the challenges that lay before me.

The ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ questions

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Previously, you would have been required to answer both of these questions at the beginning of your test. However, the changes mean that the ‘Tell Me’ question is asked at the beginning, and the ‘Show Me’ question is asked during the drive. For my ‘Tell Me’ question, the examiner asked me to explain how I would correctly adjust the head restraint of the vehicle. Later on, I was asked to show how I would operate the horn - which is as simple as it sounds!

This aspect of the test remains straightforward, and if you ensure that you revise the ‘Tell Me’ answers a week or so before the test date, you should be fine. I found the ‘Show Me’ questions a little more difficult to remember, especially as you are required to illustrate their use while you are driving. My advice would be to concentrate on driving as safely as possible, and when available to do so, undertake whatever action the examiner has asked of you. There is no immediate rush, but they will only ask you to demonstrate the action when there are no hazards in your path.

Don’t get yourself into a tizz over these questions, though. Even if you forget the answers to both the Show Me and Tell Me questions you won’t automatically fail. However, it’s best to learn these, as you can avoid wasting two minors.

Changes to the manoeuvres

The new test has removed the reverse around the corner and turn in the road, replacing them with a pull up on the right and a forward park into a bay. However, at the beginning of my test, I was asked to do one of the existing manoeuvres, a reverse into the bay.

According to my driving instructor, it is common to ask the candidate to perform their manoeuvre at the beginning of the test. This has its pros and cons. If you complete the manoeuvre successfully, you have got it out of the way and can concentrate on showing off your best driving skills for the remainder of your time on the road. However, the beginning of your test is usually the most nerve-wracking, and can lead you to make silly mistakes. Tackle this by making sure you’re prepared to perform the manoeuvre at the very beginning, and make attempts to calm your nerves before you set off.

Using a sat nav

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This was the part of the new test that I was initially most apprehensive of, but it ended up being surprisingly simple! The use of the sat nav replaces taking instruction from road signs for four out of five tests.

I enjoyed using the sat nav as it arguably gave me more detail with direction than an examiner would. Using one for the first time during my lessons felt slightly unnatural at first, but after a while became second nature. Making a wrong turn will not be an automatic fail, but you should aim to take the instruction as best you can. You should also be careful to avert your gaze from the screen, and listen to what the sat nav is telling you to do. Your eyes should be on the road!

What I’ve learnt

Unfortunately, my nerves caused me to make silly mistakes and I failed my test the first time. However, my experience of the new test has been extremely straightforward, and I’m looking forward to having another shot at it in the near future.

The changes to the test mean that you are given comprehensive preparation for real-life driving. I now feel confident using a sat nav, and have learnt how to safely reverse out of a crowded supermarket car parking space.

The revisions are practical, and reflect the needs of everyday driving perfectly. I can’t imagine that reversing around a corner was previously a common manoeuvre for many drivers!

If you’re due to take your test soon or try again after a failed attempt, make sure you’re fully aware of all of these changes and prepare yourself for every eventuality. If your nerves don’t get the better of you, the test is simple and you should be passed in no time at all. Good luck!

Top tips for the new test

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Nervous about taking the new test? We have a few tips to help make it a bit easier.

Practice manoeuvres

The pull up on the right sounds very simple, but I found it quite difficult to master. You should make sure you are doing all the appropriate mirror checks when you are pulling back onto the road. It is also very important to only indicate left when you are ready to transit back into the traffic. Pre-empting indication could mean confusing fellow road users, and could lead you to fail your test.

Stay calm

Try and calm your nerves as much as you can. Being too nervous was extremely detrimental to the outcome of my test as I let the pressure get to me, leading me to make silly mistakes. I recommend you take a deep breath at the beginning, and be safe in the knowledge that you are technically prepared for your test- your instructor wouldn’t have let you enter if he didn’t think so.

Safety first

It sounds obvious, but safety is a priority. If you make a wrong turn, you cannot be penalised as long as you are driving safely. Get yourself into a routine with checking mirrors (especially when you’re slowing down, stopping or changing gear, as they are often forgotten).

Pack in driving hours

Driving lessons with an instructor are great, but driving in a car using learner driving insurance in your spare time is invaluable experience. If you can, see if you’re able to go out with your parent or guardian. Practice is key!

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