Every learner’s journey towards obtaining a driving licence is unique. One thing they all have in common, though, is that learning to drive happens gradually. While you might experience a ‘Eureka!’ moment where a certain skill seems to click, the overall process is much less defined. That can leave learners with one major question: when will I be ready to take my driving test?
There are a thousand possible answers to this question—so, it’s difficult to give a definitive, universally applicable answer. Nonetheless, there are a few telltale signs that you’re on the right path (or that you still need more practice!). In this guide, we’ll run through some of the ways you’ll know you’re ready for your practical.
How many lessons have you taken?
While some countries require learner drivers to have completed a set number of hours of tuition before taking their test, there’s no such requirement here in the UK. This means that candidates are free to decide for themselves when to take their driving test. In theory, it’s possible to book yourself in for a practical test without having ever taken a lesson—though we obviously do not recommend doing so!
Additionally, the DVSA, which regulates driving tuition and tests in Great Britain, does not specify a recommended number of hours. This can make it tricky to work out how long it takes to learn to drive. However, research from the Department for Transport suggests that drivers who passed their practical test took an average of 47 hours of lessons with an instructor. For most learners, this is, therefore, likely to be a good benchmark to aim for.
It’s also worth noting that the same study found that private practice had a major impact on candidates’ chances, with those having practised with family or friends being more likely to pass than those who didn’t. So, while it might not always be easy to convince your parents to let you take them for a spin, you’ve now got the perfect excuse! Make sure you’ve got learner driver insurance cover first, though.
|Working out how many lessons you’ll need to become test-ready isn’t always easy—especially if you’ve already had some prior experience, or have been off the road for a while. To help clear things up, we’ve created a course recommender. With this handy tool, all you need to do is answer a few questions to find your ideal driving course. Visit the course recommender now!|
Do you have the skills?
It should go without saying that driving is a complex activity. Mastering the coordination required just to operate the basic controls of the car can be hard enough for some learners (especially those with conditions such as dyspraxia). Building up your muscle memory to the point where such actions become automatic takes time—and this will, naturally, vary from person to person.
Once you’ve got the basics down, though, there’s still plenty more to cover. Firstly, there’s the manoeuvres to consider. On your test, you’ll need to be able to bay park, parallel park, or pull up on the right, reverse and rejoin the traffic. If you’re unable to complete all of these manoeuvres confidently without the aid of your instructor, you need more practice.
Other abilities you’ll need to be able to demonstrate during your test include safely pulling over and moving off again, which may include a hill start. In the independent driving section, meanwhile, you’ll need to be able to follow directions from either a sat nav or traffic signs. Add in the show me, tell me questions you’ll need to answer, and there’s plenty to brush up on before you’re test-ready!
How confident do you feel?
So, we’ve established a rough average number of lessons taken by test passers, and detailed the skills needed during your practical. However, while it’s useful to have these general guidelines to hand, they don’t take into account the most important factor: you. It sounds self-explanatory, but one of the most important signs that you’re ready to take your test is your confidence level behind the wheel.
Now, this isn’t to say that you need to be the model of calm during your practical test. A few test day nerves are perfectly normal, after all, and your examiner won’t fail you if you make a few minor driving test faults. However, it should go without saying that if the idea of driving still turns you into a quivering wreck, you’re not ready yet.
We admit that all of this may seem somewhat nebulous—the idea that, essentially, you’re ready when you feel ready. But there’s some truth to it, too. After all, driving isn’t easy. So, if you’ve reached a point where getting behind the wheel and driving somewhere new fills you with excitement, not dread, you’re over the initial hurdles. We’re not advising you to put the decision totally on your own head, though—there’s one more person whose advice you should definitely seek.
What does your instructor think?
Your driving instructor will have spent more time in a car with you than anyone else. They’ll have watched you progress from the first time you tentatively lifted your foot off the clutch to driving with ease around rural, suburban and inner-city areas alike. They’ll have seen plenty of students pass in the past—and they’ll know whether you, at your current stage of driving, have what it takes. As such, their seal of approval is a big deal.
To some extent, you’ll be able to infer your instructor’s impression of your driving ability from the content of your lessons. If you’re still hammering away at skills such as clutch control and gear changes, you’re still a way off being test-ready. However, if your instructor is taking you around some of the most difficult parts of your potential test route—such as a particularly tricky junction or roundabout—they clearly have confidence in your ability.
Of course, the simplest way to gauge your instructor’s opinion is to ask them! They’ll be more than happy to share their feedback on your driving, and will let you know if they believe you’re at the required standard. You could also ask for them to conduct a mock test covering everything that will happen in your actual practical. Pass this, and you’re likely to be in great shape ahead of the real thing!
The process of becoming test-ready differs for everyone. That’s why we don’t just offer a single type of driving course—we offer nine different courses that suit all learners, regardless of prior experience. We’ll also book your test in advance, enabling you to structure your lessons so that you’re ready in time for your practical. For more information, check out what happens during a PassMeFast course, or visit our driving course rundown.