3 ways learner drivers can tackle recent driving test changes
On 4 December 2017, driving test criteria in the UK changed. Reversing around a corner and three-point turns are no longer tested, while new elements like following satnav instructions have been brought in.
Other changes include doubling the length of the independent driving part of the test, adding a ‘pull over on the right and reverse’ manoeuvre and instructors asking ‘show me, tell me’ questions while the car is in motion rather than only when it is parked.
In order to stand the best chance of passing first time, here are three key things any learner driver can do to avoid being caught out with unfamiliar new test features.
1. Learn to love satnav
A decent satellite navigation system can be bought on the high street or online for about £20, and it’s a worthwhile investment that could save you the £62 cost of taking a practical test for the second or third time.
Even following the built-in satnav on a smartphone will be good practice before your test, but whichever device you use it’s important to use it regularly. Four in five people will be tested using a satnav during the independent driving part of their test, which has been extended to a full 20 minutes.
That’s 50% of your total test time, so make sure every time you take a lesson or every time you practise in a friend’s car, you’re following a satnav for at least a portion of the journey. Your test instructor will set the route, so it doesn’t matter which make or model you use – all you need to do is follow the directions.
2. Practice manoeuvres as often as possible
This one’s a bit of a no-brainer, but many people avoid practising the manoeuvres they enjoy the least. Though you’ll only be tested on one of a possible three reversing manoeuvres during your test, there’s no way of knowing which one it’ll be until the instructor tells you. For this reason, it’s important to practice until you’re comfortable with all of them.
Realistically, you’re going to need to know how to both parallel park and park in a bay fairly regularly after you pass, so don’t focus more on one thing than another. Not only do you risk failure when the time comes, it could mean that even if you do pass, you aren’t fully prepared for the road.
The new manoeuvre – pulling over on the right and reversing for two car lengths – has ruffled feathers as it involves both driving and parking against the flow of traffic. But you may need to execute this safely when popping out to the shop or simply parking outside your own home.
The key things an instructor is looking for in this part of your test are control, accuracy and observation. Go slowly, make sure you’re well-positioned in the road and always go through ‘Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre’ before you pull out.
3. Get comfortable with the test route
Driving test routes are usually planned to include the most challenging roads and traffic systems in the nearby area. If you’re learning with a driving instructor it’s likely that they’ll know the route and will have you driving there regularly. But if you’re learning with a family member or a friend, it’s important to find out where you’ll be tested.
You can do this either by booking a paid lesson and requesting to be shown the usual test route, or by paying for a map download to your smartphone or satnav.
Statistically, learner drivers who have familiarised themselves with the test route are much more likely to than those who haven’t. You don’t necessarily need to memorise the entire journey, but figuring out where the difficult parts are and where you might be asked to execute tricky reverses will really help when the big day comes.
Things to remember
Even if you are primarily learning to drive with a professional instructor, finding the time to practise with a friend or family member is highly recommended. It allows you additional time on the road before your test without breaking the bank – just remember to get appropriate learner driver insurance so whoever is helping you to learn doesn’t risk losing their no claims bonus if a mishap occurs.
By focusing on the three key points above and spending as much time as possible driving before your test, you’re sure to be set for a first-time pass.