So you’ve been driving, making mistakes, learning, driving, learning, making mistakes and learning some more but now the practical test is fast approaching. This article is designed to inform and prepare you so you can focus your efforts on learn to drive as gracefully as possible on the big day.
It is important to remember to bring both parts of your provisional driving licence which means the plastic card and also the paper counterpart. So long as you do this there is nothing to worry about except to keep doing what you’ve already proven to you and your instructor time and time again. It is worth noting at this point that if you aren’t consistently above test standard then attempting the test could be dangerous, lest not to mention a waste of time and money but this is something your instructor is responsible for establishing.
As for what to expect at the test centre; turn up with plenty of time to spare and take a few moments to relax and clear your mind of all driving related queries. It is entirely your choice whether you wish for your instructor to accompany you on the test so consider whether their presence will serve as a benefit for support or a detriment due to a feeling of added pressure.
Before the test can get underway the examiner will go through the ‘Show me, Tell me’ procedure in which they will ask two questions out of a possible thirteen regarding your knowledge of various aspects of the car’s workings.
In the ‘Show me’ section of the test you are expected to be able to point out various mechanical parts.
Some of them involve opening the bonnet and looking ‘under the hood’. In which case you will be asked one of the following:
Q: Where can you find the engine oil check level and how can you tell whether or not the engine has sufficient oil? A: Highlight dipstick as the oil level indicator and identify how far up oil is against minimum and maximum markers.
Q: Where can you find the engine coolant level and how would you check that the engine has the right amount? A: Identify high and low markings on the side and explain how to top it up to the correct level.
Q: Where is the windscreen washer reservoir and how would you check its level? A: Identify reservoir and and explain how to check its level.
Q: Where could you find the brake fluid reservoir and how you would check that the level of hydraulic brake fluid is at a safe level? A: Identify reservoir and describe the procedure of checking brake fluid.
Other questions in the ‘Show Me’ section revolve around car internal workings:
Q: Demonstrate how you would inspect the hand brake for excessive wear. A: Apply it and explain that when it is all the way up it fixes in this position by itself.
Q: Demonstrate how to enable the rear fog lights and talk me through appropriate use. A: Use switch and check warning light illuminates. Fog lights should be used in situations of decreased visibility only.
Q: Demonstrate how you would set the demister controls to remove residue from the windows, front and rear. A: Switch on fans to direct air towards the screens to heat them up. If an option, switch on heated screen.
Q: Where would you change your headlight from dipped to main beam and how would you know that it was on once inside the car? A: Use the ignition to display the notifications on the dashboard and see if the main beam warning light is lit.
Q: Demonstrate how to clean the windscreen using the washer and wipers. A: Turn ignition and use relevant controls to wash and wipe the windscreen.
Q: Demonstrate how you would make sure the head and tail lights are functioning correctly. A: Switch them on, exit the vehicle and take a look to see if they are on.
Q: Demonstrate that the horn is working (for off road only). A: Turn ignition on if necessary and apply sudden pressure to the steering wheel.
Q: Demonstrate that the direction indicators are functioning properly. A: Apply the indicator or hazard warning switch and look to see if all of them flash.
Q: Demonstrate how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before beginning a road trip. A: Explain that If the steering appears heavy this could highlight a problem. There are two useful inspections you can do; try applying pressure on the steering wheel to be done whilst the engine is turned on which should cause a small jolt indicating that the power has kicked in. The other method is to turn soon after setting off which should indicate whether the power steering is in effect.
Conversely, in the ‘Tell me’ section you will have to explain how to carry out particular standard procedures:
Q: How would you check that the brakes are working before going on a road trip? A: Brakes should feel firm, without any give or looseness.
Q: How would you ensure the head restraint is properly adjusted so that it provides an optimum level of safety in a collision? A: Demonstrate that the fixed part of the head restraint should be at its lowest when in line with the eyes or top of the ears and in close proximity with the back of the head for maximum comfort.
Q: How would you know if the anti lock brakes are faulty? A: A warning notification should light up.
Q: How would you inspect the tyres’ tread to ensure they have enough depth to be used safely? A: You would look for incisions and bulges. The tread depth is 1.6mm across the middle 75% of the tyre for the whole circumference.
Q: How would you check that the brake lights are working? A: Use brake pedal, observe through reflections in windows or ask for assistance.
Q: How would you find out the suggested tyre pressure for this car and how pressures can be checked? A: In the manufacturer handbook. Use a pressure gauge on the tyre, measure and adjust the tyres at cooler temperatures.
Once this is out of the way, you are ready enter the vehicle, get onto the road and begin on one of the test routes as dictated by the examiner.
You should be aware of the marking system in advance so that you know what constitutes a mistake and how they are categorised. Faults, as they are known are divided into two main categories of major and minor.
Though minors are still errors, less than fifteen does not count as being serious enough to warrant immediate failure unlike majors. These are faults that could cause another road user to change speed or direction and thus potentially result in a collision. And finally there are faults classed as simply ‘dangerous’ which may force the instructor to use physical intervention and obviously result in immediate failure.
It is worth noting that just because you think you have made a mistake (or perhaps you actually have) it still doesn’t mean that it will necessarily be recorded as it this is at the examiner’s discretion. Therefore it is always worth assuming the best and not dwelling on anything as this could lead to an actual fault later down the line.