Top Tips to Ace Your ADI Standards Check

Cartoon of Mark Sheet

If you’re an avid reader of our blog (and why wouldn’t you be?!), you should be fully clued up on everything there is to know about the ADI standards check by now. Managed to miss that one? No problem—go back into the archive (or click on that tempting green link) and give it a read. We’ll wait.

…Ready to level up your knowledge now? Great, because it’s time to check out our top tips for having a really successful ADI standards check. Yes, that A grade is just within reach and these handy hints will give you the nudge needed to grab it with both hands. Let’s go!

Prep for success

young driver holding the steering wheel

① Pick the right pupil

First and foremost, selecting the right candidate to act as your pupil during the test should be your highest priority. We’d even recommend having a back-up, too! You need an individual who’s fairly confident behind the wheel and isn’t likely to be affected by the pressure of having an examiner in the car. It doesn’t matter if the pupil you choose is a learner or a qualified driver—just make sure they’re prepared for what the standards check involves and are happy to take part.

Pro tip: If you do select someone who is already a qualified driver, you need to justify your choice by taking them on a challenging route. This will also provide the best conditions under which you can show off your teaching skills.

② Set a solid lesson goal

Carrying on from our previous tip, make sure you know your pupil’s strengths and weaknesses before planning the lesson. Use this information to set a well-defined goal (or goals) that will be useful for their driving development—i.e., an area they haven’t quite mastered yet. This should ensure that learning actually takes place and shows that you provide value for money.

③ Select the right route

Pick an area that is both suited to the lesson goal you have in mind and is unlikely to be busy at the time of your standards check. You should also be familiar with the route already, so that you can pick nearby alternatives in case any hazards present themselves. It might even be worth going on a couple of dry runs with and without your test pupil before the big day.

④ Figure out some faults

Based on the lesson goal and your understanding of the pupil’s abilities, try to predict in advance some of the mistakes they could make and how you would go about rectifying them. Think of it a bit like revising for an exam where you don’t know exactly what the questions will be, but you have a vague idea. Keep a few tricks up your sleeve that will enable you to address a range of faults—no matter how they may arise.

Interactions with the pupil

⑤ Set the ground rules

Begin the lesson with a clear introduction for your pupil that outlines both how the standard check works and the way the lesson will be structured. Again, make it obvious that you have considered the pupil’s learning style when deciding how to approach the skills (hopefully) being developed. You may, for example, include visual aids or audio cues—depending on what has been effective in the past.

Pro tip: Set some lesson goals with your pupil during the introduction and check back in at the end to see how far they (and you) feel they’ve progressed. It’s a great way to measure your teaching ability!

⑥ Go with the flow

Even though preparation is key, you can’t expect the lesson to adhere to a strict plan—it’s just not realistic. Unexpected hazards crop up, other drivers can be unpredictable and your student may not perform in the way you expect. So, while some structure is important, once the lesson begins, try to stay in the moment and act accordingly.

If this means pulling the student over when they commit a fault and don’t seem to notice, then do it! Show the examiner that you are identifying problems and dealing with them appropriately. There’s even a chance your original lesson goal could be superseded by a new issue that rears its head once the drive begins. See what happens!

⑦ Build a rapport

Look, you don’t need to be best friends with your pupil, but you need to exhibit good people skills. Show these off by being friendly and letting the conversation flow. A big part of the driving instructor role is being able to get on with a variety of personality types. After all, if a learner feels relaxed and free to ask multiple questions, it creates a more fruitful learning environment.

Pro tip: If your pupil is particularly quiet or the conversation strays to other subjects, throw in a few driving questions every so often to keep the standards check on track. Test your learner on basic functions of the car, or ask them to explain why they are making certain decisions.

Three people in a line applauding

⑧ Shower some praise

To enhance the pleasant learning environment you’re trying to establish, be sure to dish out plenty of praise when it’s due. The positive reinforcement is likely to make them strive to continue to do well. Plus, it makes it a more relaxing and enjoyable experience for everyone in the car!

⑨ Be a fountain of knowledge

Encourage your pupil to ask any questions they may have along the way and be sure to answer them clearly and comprehensively. Again, take every opportunity to show off your knowledge—without being too obnoxious, of course! If a query deserves quite a long or complicated answer, don’t be afraid to ask the student to pull the car over. This allows you to provide a more in-depth answer without distracting them from the road.

⑩ Don’t be a last minute Larry

Provide clear instructions to the pupil and give them plenty of time to carry them out. For example, if you need them to take a left turn further along the road, let them know in a timely manner so they can start preparing. Leaving it until the last minute means your pupil has less time to get it right and it may put them on edge (which never ends well!).

Hitting those marks

bullseye

⑪ Manage the risks!

You should already know at this point that risk assessment is one of the three main areas you will be tested on during the standards check. Should your pupil do anything dangerous enough that you are compelled to use the dual controls, you should get them to pull over as soon as it is safely possible.

Mistakes of this level are too serious to discuss on the move. Once the car is stationary, explain why you had to step in and let the pupil reflect on the situation. It may be necessary to adjust the lesson plan to address the issue in question more thoroughly.

⑫ Study the mark sheet

One of the best ways to prepare for any kind of test is to find out exactly what the examiners are looking for. Luckily for you, everyone has access to the standards check mark sheet! Study it rigorously before the big day and make sure you are hitting all the important points. At the end of the day, the examiner probably wants a stress-free ride, so make it easy for them to tick the relevant boxes!

⑬ Study your student

The examiner should not be able to spot anything your pupil does wrong without you noticing it first. Deal with each issue as they happen, to show the examiner that you are observing everything. Basically, throughout the drive, watch your student like a hawk.

⑭ Eyes on the road

…While also looking at everything going on around the car. Yep, ideally you would have eyes in the back of your head! You should be used to these demands if you’re an experienced driving instructor—you’re expected to keep an eye on what your student’s doing and what’s happening around you on the road.

Pro tip: Turn what’s occurring on the road in front of you into an opportunity to share valuable advice. The best examples are the ones we can actually see, so discuss the potential risks of scenarios taking place on the road in real time.

⑮ Timing is everything

There’s nothing worse than sailing through the lesson like a pro only to finish on a dud note. The best way to sabotage an otherwise successful standards check is to return to the test centre late. It will annoy the examiner and throw off everybody’s schedule.

Start your return to the centre in good time, so that you are able to fit in a 5-minute debrief with the pupil before you get your own results. Go over how they felt about the lesson, discuss goal achievements and maybe even set targets for future drives.


If you follow all of these tips there’s no reason you can’t totally ace the standards check! Being a driving instructor is an important and rewarding role, so it is definitely worth taking the DVSA’s guidelines seriously. As long as you perform as you would on a normal lesson, with just a bit more pizzazz, your place on the ADI register is safe.

For more tips and all the latest news from the driving world, keep checking in with the PassMeFast blog!

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.