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Frequently Asked Questions
Some common questions and answers about learning to drive

1. What do I need before I can learn to drive?
2. How much does a provisional licence cost?
3. Do I need to update my licence if my name or address changes?
4. At what age can I start to learn to drive?
5. Can I learn to drive before I've taken my theory test?
6. My theory test certificate has expired.  Do I need to sit the test again?
7. What will I need to bring to my first lesson?
8. What is an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI)?
9. How many driving faults can I make on my driving test?
10. What is the cost of the theory test and what does the test involve?
11. How much does the practical driving test cost?
12. What is the best way to book a theory test and / or practical test?
13. How many lessons do I need to take before I am ready to sit my driving test?
14. A friend / relative took a test after a few lessons. Will I pass after taking the a few lessons?
15. Should I take normal driving lessons or do an intensive driving course?
16. Are there any special rules for newly qualified drivers?
17. What does the 'independent drive' part of the driving test involve?
18. Should I learn in a manual or automatic car?

1. What do I need before I can learn to drive?

You must hold a valid provisional licence before starting your driving lessons.  A provisional licence can be obtained from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).  You can apply for a provisional licence online and by post.  If applying by post, you can obtain the D1 application form at a Post Office, or order one from the DVLA.  More information on driving licence applications and general licence enquiries is given on the DVLA website at

2. How much does a provisional licence cost?

A provisional licence currently costs £50.  On passing your driving test, you will need to transfer your provisional licence to a full driving licence.  This is normally free of charge, and can be done for you automatically on passing the test; the driving examiner will send the provisional licence to the DVLA on your behalf and you receive your full licence through the post a few days later.

3. Do I need to update my licence if my name or address changes?

You should inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) immediately of any changes to your name, address or both.  Informing the DVLA of a change of address will ensure correspondence from the DVLA will be sent to the correct place.  You can change your details online or send it to the DVLA for amendment.  A new licence will be sent to you free of charge.

If you are shortly going to take a driving test (for which you need to present both parts of your driving licence to the examiner) and only your home address has changed, then you can fill out the change of address details at the bottom of your paper counterpart so that if you pass your test and choose for the examiner to send off your licence to the DVLA, your full licence will arrive with your new address on it.

If you leave the UK to live permanently in another county, you cannot register your new address on your UK driving licence.  Instead, contact the driving licence authority in your country of residence.

4. At what age can I start to learn to drive?

You can apply for a provisional licence up to three months before your 17th birthday, but it will not become valid until your 17th birthday.

If you are in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of the disability living allowance, then you may hold a driving licence from the age of 16 (and can apply for it within three months of your 16th birthday).

5. Can I learn to drive before I've taken my theory test?

Yes - you can learn to drive immediately provided you have a valid provisional licence.  It is best to learn to drive whilst studying for the theory test, as practical driving lessons help reinforce the theory and help develop your hazard awareness.

6. My theory test certificate has expired.  Do I need to sit the test again?

Unfortunately, yes.  You have to pass your practical driving test within two years of passing your theory test to gain your full driving licence.  If you do not pass your practical test within this time scale then you will have to re-sit and pass your theory test before being allowed to take the practical driving test.

7. What will I need to bring to my first lesson?

Make sure you bring your provisional licence to your first driving lesson (both the card and the paper part).  You will be asked to read a vehicle registration plate from a distance of 20 metres (if reading a new style number plate) or 20.5 metres (if reading an old style number plate).  If you have any doubt in your ability to do this then try it and see (walk about 20 wide paces away from a vehicle and then turn around and try to read the number plate).  If you require glasses or contact lenses to read the number plate, then you should make sure you wear them at your first lesson and whenever you drive.  If you are in any doubt over your eyesight, seek the advise of an optician.

8. What is an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI)?

An Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is a qualified professional driving instructor, assessed suitable for professional driving tuition by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), the same body that conducts learner driver tests.  ADIs are regularly tested by the DSA to ensure that are teaching to the required standard.  Fully qualified ADIs display a green badge on the front windscreen of their tuition vehicles.  (Trainee ADIs have not yet taken / passed their teaching exam, and will display a pink badge instead).

9. How many driving faults can I make on my driving test?

You are allowed up to 15 minor faults.  16 or more minors faults result in a test fail.  Obtaining 1 or more serious or dangerous fault will result in failure, regardless of the number of minor faults.  More information on the driving examination system is given here.

10. What is the cost of the theory test and what does the test involve?

The theory test currently costs £31.00 (as of 30th March 2009).  The theory test consists of two sections; the first part is a set multiple choice questions (50 questions chosen at random from a large database of possible questions) and the second part is a hazard perception test, which will test your response at detecting developing hazards shown in 14 video clips.  Both sections are carried out on a computer.  You must pass both sections at the same sitting to pass the theory test.

11. How much does the practical driving test cost?

The practical test costs, as of 30th March 2009, £62.00 for a weekday test and £75.00 for a Saturday test or weekday evening.

12. What is the best way to book a theory test and / or practical test?

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) handles all bookings.  By far the quickest and easiest way to book the theory test and practical driving test is online at

You can book the theory test via telephone by dialling  0300 200 1122 (or by fax using 0300 200 1177).  You will need your licence and a valid debit credit card for payment.  Alternatively you can use the driving theory test application form to apply (available here).

You should only book your practical driving test once your Instructor has advised you to do so.  To book a practical test by phone you can call 0300 200 1122.  You will need your licence and theory pass certificate number and a valid debit or credit card for payment.  To book by fax use 0300 200 1155.  To book a practical test by post you will need an application form. Obtain one of these from your Instructor or local test centre, or download one online via this link:  Payment can be made to the DSA by cheque or postal order (but not cash).

13. How many lessons do I need to take before I am ready to sit my driving test?

This a difficult question to answer as everybody is different. For example, you might find your general driving ability is okay but find reverse bay parking difficult to master.  Driving is a skill that takes time to develop, and people learn at different rates.  A simple answer is it will take as long as it takes.  Your Approved Driving Instructor will advise you when you are at the required standard ready to sit your driving test.  Be warned: the Driving Standard Agency state that the number one reason for driving test failure is candidates sitting the test when they are not ready.  The more practice and experience you have had on the roads, the more likely you will be successful on the day of your test.

There are many factors that can affect the number of lessons you will need.  These include whether you have had any previous driving experience (and if so, was this professional tuition and / or have you already developed any bad habits?); whether you are able to get private practice as well as taking driving lessons; your age; spacial awareness; ability to concentrate and retain information; and how often you will be taking driving classes.

As a very rough guide, a complete beginner should expect to take about 40 hours professional tuition to reach test standard.  Of course the exact amount of lessons for a particular individual required could vary significantly.  Some pupils will take less lessons, some will require many more.  A useful benchmark comes from the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) who conduct the driving test; through a recent survey, they state candidates that have passed their driving test have had, on average, 45 hours professional tuition with a Approved Driving Instructor in addition to an average of 22 hours private practice (i.e. approaching 80 hours on the roads).

14. I have a friend / relative that took their test years ago and only had a few lessons.  Will I be able to pass my driving with only a few lessons?

A fairly common question asked by qualified drivers, particularly those that passed their driving test years ago, is why does it take learner drivers many more lessons to pass their driving test today than it did back when they took their test?  The answer, in short, is the driving test is more difficult!  And rightly so; the roads are getting busier and more complex by the day.  You cannot gain the necessary skills and experience needed to be a competent and safe driver in a few lessons!

Roads and driving procedures / techniques have changed over the years.  Learner drivers are now faced with increasingly complex junctions, new road signs, markings and procedures, and, above all, very busy roads. The driving test syllabus has evolved to reflect these changes.  The test is marked under increasingly strict criteria which is expanding year by year.  There are extra manoeuvres included in the test now that were not featured years ago.  To drive on todays roads correctly and confidently requires substantial training and practice.  Examiners want to see drivers that are confident, making good progress, but at all time driving safely and within the rules set out in the Highway Code.

In addition, since July 1996, all candidates have to sit and pass a theory and hazard perception test before being allowed to take their driving test.  The idea is to improve driver knowledge of the Highway Code and thus to improve road safety.  On passing the theory test, the Driving Standards Agency give you two years to pass your practical driving test (otherwise the theory test would need to be retaken and passed before being allowed to take the practical test).

The driving test now also assesses a candidate's knowledge of some basic mechanical / vehicle maintenance checks; these questions are asked at the start of the driving test.

In summary, there are no short cuts to becoming a proficient safe driver that is able to drive to a high enough standard to pass the driving test on todays roads.

15. Should I take normal driving lessons or do an intensive driving course?

Most pupils learning to drive these days take a 'standard' driving course.  This usually comprises taking somewhere between 1 and 3 two-hour sessions a week. Of course, there is no fixed number; the exact number of sessions per week can vary to accommodate your availability.  Whilst virtually every pupil has two-hour lessons (to give more manoeuvre practice time per session and drive on a wider variety of roads), you also have the option of taking 1 or 1.5 hour lessons, useful if you find it difficult to concentrate for the full two-hours.

Some pupils like the idea of taking as many lessons per week as they can.  This is know as an 'intensive course'.  The aim is to reach driving test standard sooner than would be possible by spreading lessons out over a longer period of time.  How 'intensive' the course is will be depend on the number of hours you choose to do per day / week.  Where possible, intensive courses are designed to be flexible to accommodate your needs and availability.  Whilst an intensive course sounds an attractive way learn to drive, please bear in mind that Driving Standards Agency syllabus is comprehensive - there is a lot of material to cover - and you will need lots of time to practice the skills and techniques you will be learning.  Therefore, if you are considering doing an intensive course, set yourself a manageable time scale, and be honest with yourself as to whether you can maintain full concentration during your lessons!

Pupils choosing to do an intensive driving course will usually take around 20 to 40 hours tuition per week, spread over 1 to 4 weeks, with a view to taking their practical driving test, subject to test availability, at the end of the course.

So which course is best for you?  Well, until you start learning to drive and see how you get on, it is difficult to say.  It  is normally best to take an initial two-hour lesson to see how you get on and then, under the guidance of your Instructor, decide on an appropriate course from there.  Naturally, there is no harm changing the frequency of lessons during your course, provided your Instructor is notified in good time.  For example, some pupils start with intensive lessons and soon find their concentration levels wavering and subsequently decide to space out their lessons into a more manageable time scale.  Some pupils will find doing a full day (with appropriate breaks) no problem.  Others like the idea of giving themselves time for skills to develop and therefore spread their lessons over a period of months (this can also make the cost of your lessons more manageable!).

All courses are flexible and your Instructor will adapt tuition to your specific requirements and availability.

16. Are there any special rules for newly qualified drivers?

As a newly qualified driver, your licence will be revoked if you accrue six or more penalty points (e.g. two speeding offences) during the first two years, and you will have to retake the theory test and an extended practical test.

17. What does the 'independent drive' part of the driving test involve?

An 'independent drive' section was added to the learner (and taxi) test on 4th October 2010.  For this part of the test, you will drive for about 10 minutes without step-by-step directions from your examiner.

Before the introduction of the independent driving section, examiners gave candidates step-by-step directions throughout the whole the test. But during the independent driving section of the test, the examiner will ask you to drive by either following a series of directions, following traffic signs, or a combination of both.  (For rest of the test, the examiner will give you directions as normal.)

At the start of the independent section, to help you understand where you're going, the examiner may show you a diagram. It doesn't matter if you don't remember every direction, or if you go the wrong way - that can happen to even the most experienced drivers. Independent driving is not a test of your orientation and navigation skills; it is a test of making your own decisions (planning, correct lane choice etc.) and also includes deciding when it's safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation about where you're going.

So during the independent route, if you ask for a reminder of the directions, the examiner will confirm them to you.

If you go off the independent driving route it will not necessarily affect the result of your test unless you commit a driving fault. If you go off the route or take a wrong turning, the examiner will help you to get back on the route and continue with the independent driving.

If there are poor or obscured traffic signs, the examiner will give you directions until you can see the next traffic sign - you won't need to have a detailed knowledge of the area.

You cannot use a sat nav for independent driving as it gives you turn-by-turn prompts. Independent driving tests how you make your own decisions.

18. Should I learn in a manual or automatic car?

The short answer: manual!

The long answer:
If you pass your driving test in an automatic car, your licence will only entitle you to drive automatic vehicles.  If you pass in a manual car, then your licence will entitle you to drive both manual and automatic vehicles.

It is a common misconception from beginners that controlling a manual car is much more difficult.  Whilst operating a clutch and gears gives you a little more to think about in the early stages, it really isn't hard after bit of practice.  If millions of other drivers manage, then so can you!  As you will discover, the difficult parts of driving are not basic car control, but dealing with busy roads, complicated junctions, observation, lane choice, responding to road signs and other road users; of course these aspects of driving are common to any vehicle type.  Also note that an automatic vehicle doesn't drive itself!  You've still got to correctly use your accelerater and brake pedals and steer the wheels just as you would in a manual vehicle.  The majority of beginners actually find steering the hardest part to master of basic car control, not gears!

Manual cars when operated smoothly and correctly offer greater control and consume less fuel.  They are also cheaper to purchase than an automatic.  Controlling a manual car also encourages better planning to allow changing gears in plenty of time for hazards ahead.  And good planning and anticipation is one of the most important aspects of being a safe driver!

This is not to say automatics aren't a good invention.  They are great if you travel long distances regularly and find operating the clutch tiresome in queueing traffic!  But if you are going to all the time and expensive of learning to drive and passing your test, then do it properly and learn to drive a manual first.  You are then you're free drive both types when you pass your test in a manual.

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