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The Smart Way Driving School offer Driving Lessons in West Lothian and Fife. 
					  We can offer you a choice of Manual or Automatic cars. 
					  We also offer Advanced Driving Lessons and Fleet Driver training 
					  services throughout the Central Belt of Scotland

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The Practical Driving Test - advice from The Smart Way

The Practical Driving Test

Well, for all the Learner drivers, this is what its all about! The BIG day! This part of our website is about looking at the practical driving test and what will happen, helping you prepare for that time.

This video from the DSA explains about the driving test.

filler filler

If you prefer you can read the rest of this page which goes into a little more detail.

Before we start, lets look at what you need to bring

  • You MUST bring both parts of your provisional licence as you brought to your theory test. You will only need your passport if your provisional licence is old was not issued with a photo-card. Your instructor from The Smart Way will have checked your licence on your first lesson and will have told you at that point what you need to bring for both your theory and practical tests.  This is the "showstopper", without both parts of your licence there can be no test.
  • It is highly recommended that you bring a print out of the email sent to you by the DSA with your test details (time, date and booking reference number) on it if you can.  This will help in the unlikely event of any confusion.
  • If you can you should bring your Theory Test pass certificate.  Your instructor from The Smart Way may well have asked for a photo copy of this when you passed, this will be acceptable.

What will happen, how will the test work?

In the waiting room

We will arrive at the test centre in good time, will park up and there will be time for you to have a cigarette to calm your nerves and go to the loo if you wish (The test centres have toilet facilities).  We will then take a seat in the waiting room where we  will wait with other candidates and their instructors.  The examiners will come out (there may  be several of them) and call your name.  You identify yourself to him or her and:

  • (S)He will come to you and introduce him(her)self, something along the lines of "Hello, my name is Tom, I'll be your driving examiner today".  
  • The examiner will ask to see your licence and will check it with a special light to detect counterfeits.
  • The examiner MAY (though not always) ask to see your theory pass certificate.
  • You will be handed the clipboard and asked to read the two declarations in the top left corner, and sign below them if you agree.


This is just to confirm that that you are legally a UK resident and the car is insured, which it is if it is one of our cars but may NOT be if you are using a parent's/ friend's car or a hired dual controlled car. If you are planning to use a car that is not a driving school car it is well worth checking the insurance is valid.



  • You will then be asked if you would like your instructor to sit in on the test. Whether or not you decide to do this will have been discussed between you and your instructor beforehand. Should you decide not to have your instructor in the car during the test you will be asked if you would like him or her there for the debrief at the end. Your Smart Way instructor would ALWAYS like to be present for the debriefing, regardless of the outcome of the test.
  • The examiner will then ask you to lead the way to your vehicle.

Outside the Test Centre

  • As you lead your way out to the car the examiner will ask you what name you would like to be called and make a little small talk. Along the way you will be required to carry out the standard eyesight test, where you will be asked to read a number plate from 20.5 metres away. (Click for more info on the eyesight test). You will have done this with your instructor at a very early point in your lessons, so this is nothing to worry about.
  • You will then be asked two of the "Show Me/Tell me question from the bank of 19. Click here or follow the "Show Me/Tell Me" link in the navigator to the left to see details of those questions.
  • Once you have answered the questions, the examiner will quickly check around the car and join you inside. He may take a few details from the instructors badge and (s)he will ask you if you would like to know a little bit about the test. We recommend that you say "Yes" at this point, even though you will be fully prepared for the coming test, it simply gives you a moment to control your nerves. The examiner will then tell you that the test will last for 35-40 minutes, that you will drive on a variety of roads and traffic conditions, that there will be a short period of independent or undirected driving, that you will perform one of the maneuver exercises and that you may or may not perform an emergency stop. (S)he will tell you to follow the road ahead at all times unless road signs tell you to do otherwise, and if he needs you to turn left or right at any time he will ask you to do so in plenty of time.
  • You will then be asked to start your car and drive off, and so ......

Onto the road

You will drive away from the Test Centre and unless you are very unusual your heart will be thumping in your chest, however the nature of driving is that you have to be able to deal with whatever happens on the road around you straight away so you need to be ready straight away. The test will consist of the following items which may or may not occur in the order they are listed here.

  • At some point into the drive, generally quite early on you will be asked to start the independent driving section of the test.

This short video from the DSA explains the independent driving aspect of the test.


As the video shows, you will be asked to stop at the side of the road and the examiner will say something along the lines of "Thank you. We are now going to begin the independent driving part of the test" and then one of two things will happen:

  1. You will be asked to drive on, following the signs for somewhere of the examiners choosing. The signs will be very clearly marked.
  2. Alternatively you will be given a short series of directions to follow, possibly backed up with a little map.
Either way, if you get confused or forget where you are going you can ask for a reminder, and even then if you go the wrong way so long as you do so safely driving the way you are
signaling you will not be faulted.
  • You may be asked to do an "Emergency Stop" in your test. The official figure is that this is carried out in 1 out of 3 tests. You will have practiced this with your instructor, and you will normally practice this in the lesson before the test anyway so there will be nothing to worry about here.
  • At various times you will be asked to pull up and stop on the left, then drive on again. Do not be surprised to find yourself doing this up to 6 or 7 times. At least one will be on a hill and one will be quite close to another car forcing you to move off at an angle
  • At any time when you are asked to pull up on the left remember to think about where you are stopping. Do not stop opposite another vehicle where you will block the road on both sides and do not stop over the end of someone's drive unless the examiner SPECIFICALLY states "Pull up and stop on the left, do not worry about the drive way, we will only be here for a minute". If this is the care it will almost certainly be to do the maneuver.
  • You will probably conduct one of the maneuver exercises. However, if you have been selected to do a bay park this will be kept to the end when you.....

Return to Driving Test Centre

  • Firstly and most importantly, the test is not over until you have been told to turn off the engine! Until this happens you still have time to mess things up so stay switched on!
  • If entering the DTC car park, take good care to slow right down or even stop at the entrance (or another safe place) to be sure that no one else is driving about. Look out for motorbikes or other vehicles who may be using the same premises. In Bathgate DTC stop at the drain cover next to the end of the building.
  • If you are to do the reverse bay park manuevre the examiner will now ask you to "reverse park into any suitable space of your choice". You do NOT have to tell him which space you are aiming for.
  • If you have done a maneover on the road then you will be asked to "drive forwards into any space of your choice"
  • In either case, do NOT use the disabled space, unless this is appropriate!
  • If you reverse into a space and you are back early, the examiner MAY ask you to drive somewhere else to free your space for one of the other candidates behind you. You are still under test conditions.
  • The examiner will ask you to turn your engine off and tell you "That's the end of your test".
That's it.... it's all over now. You can breathe again.....

Will I get the result there and then?

Yes. The examiner will tell you the result of your driving test straight away. Pass or fail, please ask your instructor over for the debriefing.

A few commonly asked questions

Will the examiner try to trick me?

NO. Absolutely NOT. Some people believe the examiner will attempt to trick you (for example) by asking you to turn the wrong way into a one way street or asking you to stop in a place you are not allowed to. (S)he cannot do this. Listen to the examiners directions. He or she will say "Please pull up and stop at a SUITABLE place" or "Take the next AVAILABLE turn to the ....". You have to take a certain amount of responsibility for demonstrating your understanding of the rules of the road. 

Will the examiner talk to me at all?

Without wanting to sit on the fence, to a large degree this depends on the examiner. Some prefer to sit quietly and allow you to drive without distraction, others may indulge in a little small talk to help you relax. The examiner will take their cue from you, and if you are reluctant to reply they will not force the issue. They will not get upset or offended if you don't want to chat.

I am prone to getting left and right mixed up. What if I go the wrong way?

It WON'T matter! So long as you check the correct mirrors, give a signal and then go SAFELY in the direction you are signaling, then you are doing what the other traffic is expecting and you WILL NOT GET A FAULT (minor or serious). If it is safe the examiner may prompt you the correct way, if not it is their problem to find a way back on to the test route. If you feel you have a significant problem then at the beginning of the test, by all means say so to the examiner who will then happily point in the direction he wants you to go as well as say it. It is not a navigation test, it is about whether you drive safely.

Can I talk myself through things?

YES, absolutely. This is often a very good way to deal with tricky situations as it makes you listen to your own thoughts and it lets the examiner see how you are thinking.  Talk yourself through the WHOLE test if you like. No one will think you are mad, in fact its expected in most advanced tests! 

Will I get asked questions about the Highway code or what road signs mean in the test or at the end?

NO. Those questions were replaced by the Theory Test some time ago. However it goes without saying that you must obey road signs where appropriate.

So, why do people fail? What can I look out for? 

The ten most common reasons for failing the driving test are :

  1. Incorrect action or observation at junctions - its no good seeing another car there... what are you going to DO  about it?  Or... Did you see it?   If not then you didn't look properly!
  2. Reversing around the corner - Remember that looking ALL round is important so don't just use the mirrors; If another car (or pedestrian) is coming, STOP.  Keep an eye on your position; Don't drift too far from the kerb - an ideal distance is about half a car door width away. Doing this SLOWLY makes it so much easier.  
  3. Steering - Steer smoothly and accurately. Control the steering wheel - don't let it slip through your hands. Don't let yourself hit the kerb, what if a child was there? Underhand steering belongs to the DEVIL - you CANNOT possibly control the feed back when steering this way.
  4. Parallel Park - Everything that applies to Reverse left applies here.
  5. Use/Choice of gears - When slowing to a stop, remember to select 1st gear. Modern diesels may pull away in 2nd, but what if you buy a petrol engined car. Also use 5th gear when appropriate.
  6. Use of mirrors - you must check your mirrors before:
    • Changing speed, specifically slowing down.
    • Signaling for a turn
    • Change of position (ie moving out to pass something or moving back in). What if a motorbike is passing you, or a cyclist is passing "inside" you in traffic
  7. Being TOO slow a.k.a. Appropriate speed - You should drive to the speed limits and conditions and make reasonable allowances for the demands of other road users.  Driving everywhere too slowly will make you as much of a danger as anything else and the examiner will rapidly spot if you are trying to pull the wool over his or her eyes. 
  8. Turning Right - Position correctly, check carefully and use your mirrors to help you.  Don't take chances and don't cut corners, both of these faults are caused by RUSHING.  Right turns ARE difficult and involve several lanes of traffic, so take time and care.
  9. Undue hesitation - At junctions and roundabouts.  See Being too Slow. You must show an ability to judge appropriate gaps safely and use them. 
  10. Blind spot checks  - When moving off you must check the blind spots for something unexpected. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

These reasons for fail may change a little year to year (or position in the list), but as of 2012 these correct and more importantly for you... avoidable. Think... listen to your instructor. Ultimately the reason people fail their driving test is that they are simply NOT prepared for it and not driving to the standard required.  The driving test is not hard.... but it is incredibly easy to fail.


This page was last updated on 20/10/2012

Contact information for The Smart Way Driving School

Contact us on Mobile 07711 336452

Email Enquiries@The-Smart-Way.CO.UK

Post - 5 Rosehill Place, Eliburn, Livingston.

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Accreditations for The Smart Way Driving School
Please visit us on facebook and LIKE us Our Chief Instructor is an ROSPA Gold standard advanced driver Our instructors are members of the Instutute of Advanced Motorists, our Chief Instructor is an IAM Recommended Instructor 
                    and a local group observer/instructor We offer the DSA recommended Pass Plus couses in West Lothian and Fife All our instructors are members of the Motor Schools Association of Great Britain All our instructors are members of the industry leading professonal body, the Driving Instructors Association We are members of the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) so our integrity is assured All our instructors are DSA approved