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Frequently Asked Questions

Some common questions and answers about learning to drive.

Learning to drive can be a daunting prospect. Here are some answers to some common questions asked by pupils. 

Beginning learning 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 and how to apply for a provisional driving licence can be found at the government website

A provisional licence currently cost £34 if you apply online and £43 if you apply by post. 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 (in the meantime you will be issued with a driving pass certificate).

Passing Place offer tuition is either an automatic vehicle or a manual vehicle.

The short answer: Whilst there are certainly pros and cons of each vehicle, the recommended answer is to learn and pass your driving test in a manual vehicle.

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 you find change gears particular troublesome, it might well be that you have already developed some bad habits and are not using the correct techniques.

Manual vehicles still remain the most popular among UK driver; if millions of other drivers manage, then so can you! Although you might not think it when you first begin, you will eventually 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 accelerator 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 arguably offer greater control and also consume less fuel. They are generally 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!

But 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 queuing traffic! And in recent years, and especially as to world begins to make the transition to electric vehicles, automatic cars are becoming more and more popular.

However, it is still the recommendation that 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 vehicle types when you pass!

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).

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.

Make sure you bring your provisional licence to your first driving lesson. 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 on your first lesson and whenever you drive. If you are in any doubt over your eyesight, seek the advise of an optician.

About driving lessons

An Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is a qualified professional driving instructor, assessed suitable for professional driving tuition by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the same body that conducts learner driver tests. ADIs are regularly tested by the DVSA 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).

All fully qualify driving instructors are graded on their teaching ability. Passing Place's Instructor is Grade A, the highest grade possible.

With the complexity of the driving test syllabus and the high volume of traffic on the roads, 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 and finances. Whilst virtually every pupil has two-hour lessons (to give more manoeuvre practice time per session and to 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 if 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 and Vehicle 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 fare and then, under the guidance of your Instructor, decide on an appropriate course. 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.

This a difficult question to answer as everybody is different. In all the years that Passing Place has been teaching driving, there has never been two pupils exactly alike!

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 and Vehicle Standard Agency state that the number one reason for driving test failure is candidates sitting the test when they are not fully 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 40-50 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 Vehicle Standards Agency who conduct the actual driving test; in 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).

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 much 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 today's 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 and Vehicle 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).

Changes to the driving test mean candidates now have to drive independently using road signs and a Sat Nav device, rather than be fed directions step by step by the examiner.

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

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 today's roads.

About the theory test

The theory test currently costs £23.

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.

By far the quickest and easiest way to book the theory test is online at (To avoid unnecessary costs, make sure you book your theory test through this official government website.)

You can book the theory test via telephone by calling the Driving and Vehicle Standards agency on 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).

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, to ensure your theory knowledge is up to date, you will have to re-sit and pass your theory test before being allowed to take the practical driving test.

About the practical 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.

An 'independent drive' section was added to the learner (and taxi) test on 4th October 2010 and then subsequently expanded to involve a Sat Nav device on 4 December 2017.

For this part of the test, you will drive for about 20 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 following traffic signs (1 in 5 tests) or by following guidance from a Satellite Navigation (Sat Nav) device. (For rest of the test, the examiner will give you directions as normal.)

It doesn't necessarily matter 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 act or ask for confirmation about where you're going.

So during the independent route, if you ask for a reminder of the directions, the examiner may 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 or Sat Nav 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 local knowledge of the area.

The practical test costs £62.00 for a weekday test and £75.00 for a weekend test or weekday evening. An extended driving test for disqualified drivers costs £124 for a weekday and £150 for a weekend or bank Holiday.

The official government booking website at is by far to easiest way to book your practical driving test.

To book a practical test by phone you can call 0300 200 1122. To book by fax use 0300 200 1155.

You can only book a practical test after you have passed the theory test. You should only book your practical driving test once your Instructor has advised you to do so.  You will need your driving licence and theory pass certificate number and a valid debit or credit card for payment.

After I pass my test

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.

There is no legal obligation to take a Pass Plus course, but many pupils often feel nervous about driving, especially in unfamiliar roads, despite having recently passed their driving test with flying colours! A Pass Plus course is a great way to build on your basic driving ability and strengthen your lifetime driving skills. Further, by completing a Pass Plus course, you may qualify for a substantial car insurance discount.

Press here for a more detailed description of what a Pass Plus course involves.

If you have recently passed your driving test, it is likely that you would have had no experience driving on a motorway whatsoever. Motorways can be dangerous and daunting places, so taking a few classes to get comfortable driving on them is a sensible option!

Change of circumstances

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. 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 your provisional licence to the examiner) and only your home address has changed, then if you pass you will be issued a driving test pass certificate which will detail what to do to update your address.

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.

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