Driving Test Examiners—Everything You Need To Know

It would be fair to say that driving test examiners often get a pretty bad rep. Many have a preconceived idea that all examiners are rude or cold. Then, of course, there are the perennial complaints from candidates who've failed. “I only failed because my examiner didn't like me!”, they cry. Or, alternatively: “I would have passed if it wasn't for the examiner's quota!”

Needless to say, all of this is (thankfully!) unfounded: the DVSA carefully trains examiners to deal with learners in a professional and appropriate manner. Surprised? There are probably plenty of things about driving test examiners that you didn't yet know! Read on to learn more about driving examiners, including what really happens during your test, how to become an examiner, and much more.


What a driving examiner does

The role of a driving examiner is to carry out driving tests to determine whether candidates are safe and competent on the road, and whether they should be given a full driving licence. With over 1 million tests being conducted each year, it's safe to say that examiners are kept pretty busy. Driving test examiners might conduct tests for a variety of vehicles, including cars, large goods vehicles or motorcycles.

If a driving examiner is working full-time, they'll be at their designated test centre from Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm. Some examiners opt to work on Saturdays—providing learners with those ever-popular and elusive weekend tests. Examiners will typically assess up to 7 candidates a day, with each test lasting approximately 40 minutes. Although examiners are based primarily at one test centre, they may be asked to work from other test centres in the local area.

Let's take a look at what's expected of an examiner during an average driving test...

Road trip

First things first...

The driving examiner will greet the candidate and instructor in the test centre waiting room. They will ask the candidate to sign a declaration form. Additionally, before heading out, they will ask the learner if they want to take their instructor on their test. After leaving the waiting room, the examiner will ask the learner to complete an eyesight test. If the learner is unable to read a number plate from 20 or 20.5 metres away, the test will not go ahead. Before the driving part of the test begins, the examiner will pick a "tell me" question to ask the learner.

On the go...

During this time, it's the examiner's job to assess how safely the candidate drives—noting down any faults they may accumulate along the way. They will also test the candidate's ability to follow sat nav directions or traffic signs. To complete the "show me, tell me" section of the test, the examiner will ask a "show me" questionwhilst the learner is driving. The independent driving section will last approximately 20 minutes. At some point during the test, the examiner will ask the learner to demonstrate one of the following manoeuvres:

  • Parallel parking
  • Bay parking
  • Pulling up on the right

The examiner might also expect the candidate to safely perform an emergency stop (1 in 3 candidates are asked). If, at any point in the test, the examiner feels the candidate is a danger to other road users, they will stop the test.

Back at the centre...

Once back at the test centre, the examiner will ask the learner to safely park in one of the centre's bays. Using their feedback sheet, the examiner will count up the number of faults accumulated by the candidate (if any). If they receive no major faults and less than 15 minor faults, the examiner will pass the candidate—giving them a test pass certificate. Alternatively, if the candidate is unsuccessful, they'll receive a fail sheet. The examiner will also briefly discuss the feedback sheet and offer any additional advice they have to the candidate.


Becoming a driving examiner

Checklist

If you're looking to become a driving examiner, you need to:

  • Be 24 or over
  • Have had a UK or EU licence for the last 4 years
  • Have no more than 3 penalty points on your licence

If you're looking to become an examiner for fast-track motorcycle or large goods vehicle (LGV) tests, you need to hold licences for the relevant categories. You do not need to have been a driving instructor to become a driving examiner.

1 The assessments

To start, you need to take an online driving examiner assessment. This will determine whether you have the right attitudes and behaviour for the job. It will look at your personality, interpersonal skills and situational judgement. Be aware, however, that you're only allowed one attempt at the assessment.

Once you've passed the online assessment, you'll need to pass the driving assessment. As you'd expect, it's much more challenging than a typical driving test, and you'll need to drive to a much higher standard. The test will be taken in a hire car to ensure candidates are on an even footing. As with the standard category B driving test, you'll have to successfully pass an eyesight test before you can go in for the assessment.

For 60 minutes, you'll drive in a variety of road and traffic conditions—including motorways and dual carriageways. You'll have to show competence in:

  • Manoeuvres: carrying a wide range of them out safely
  • Independent driving: without turn-by-turn directions from the examiner
  • Commentary: telling the examiner what you're doing without affecting your driving performance

The examiner will ask you questions about the drive at the end of the assessment

2 After passing the assessment

If successful, you'll be placed on the merit list and be considered for a job offer. The DVSA may invite you to take training so you can learn how to carry out driving tests. They cannot, however, guarantee you a job—even if you do pass the assessment. This may be the case if, for example, there are no vacancies in your chosen area.

In the case of a lack of vacancies, you'll stay on the merit list for 12 months. After this time period, you'll have to reapply and retake the assessment if more vacancies are advertised. You will have to provide information for pre-employment checks, including a criminal record disclosure check, a health questionnaire and a mandatory Civil Service entry check.

Training

The course for driving examiner training takes approximately 5 weeks, covering everything you need to know to carry out driving tests safely.

For the first two weeks of your training, you'll be based at your driving test centre. This will give you the opportunity to meet your colleagues and learn the local test routes. You'll also get the chance to sit in on driving tests. Through one-to-one mentoring, you'll gain advice on aspects such as meeting candidates, eyesight tests and what wording to use on practicals.

The remainder of your training will take place at one of the DVSA's regional training centres. Here, you'll learn how to further develop your driving skills, how to conduct a driving test and the ways in which you can assess a candidate's driving ability.

During this period, you'll be paid the full-time driving examiner salary. If you're successful, you'll begin working at a driving test centre. If, on the other hand, you don't meet the necessary performance standards, your employment will end.

3 Being a driving examiner

Once you're successful in your training, you'll join the ranks of driving test examiners. From this point, you'll carry out driving tests in accordance with the official examiner guidance, in order to ensure candidates meet the national standard. You'll also undergo periodic training to ensure your skills remain sharp.

You'll be on probation for the first 9 monthsof your employment, and your manager will regularly monitor your progress. Don't think that you'll have a completely free rein after this point, though—all examiners are subject to monitoring throughout their employment to ensure that they maintain their standards.

According to the DVSA, a typical driving examiner will:

  • Work an average of 37 hours a week
  • Start on a salary of £24,876 (with allowances of up to £4,000 in some areas)
  • Get monthly flexibility payments if they meet certain criteria

FAQs

1. Do driving examiners have a pass quota?

Whilst a popular belief amongst learner drivers, this is completely false. Examiners follow the standard outlined by the DVSA when assessing candidates. All that determines the outcome of a test is whether or not a candidate meets these standards.

2. My test was cancelled due to a shortage of examiners—what does this mean?

Unfortunately, not all driving test centres are adequately staffed. Most test centres will only have a small number of examiners on hand at any given time. If your original examiner is unwell, the centre might not have enough staff to cover your test. If your test is cancelled, you'll be sent a new test date. You can apply for a refund of out-of-pocket expenses if the DVSA cancels your test on short notice.

3. What if I think my examiner marked my test unfairly?

Examiners don't go out of their way to fail students just because they can. You can only appeal your driving test if you believe that your examiner didn't follow the proper regulations, not just because you think they have it out for you. If you'd like to appeal your test, you have to appeal to a Magistrate's court within six months if you took your test in England or Wales. Alternatively, if you took your test in Scotland, you'll have to appeal at a Sheriff's court within 21 days. If you're successful, you'll be given a free retest.

4. Is it okay to talk to my examiner during my test?

It's entirely up to you. If small talk comes easily to you when driving—or, if it puts you at ease—then go right ahead. If, on the other hand, you find it difficult to drive and talk at the same time, you should probably avoid doing so. Of course, it also depends on the examiner you end up with—some are more chatty than others!

5. Will I get the same examiner again if I retake my test?

As many test centres have only a small staff of examiners, it's certainly a possibility that you'll see the same one on your next test. Of course, examiners don't choose who they take on their tests—it's chosen at random.

6. I had two examiners on my test—is this fair?

To ensure that examiners continue to work at the standards expected of them, they are subject to regular assessment by senior examiners. In such cases, the senior member of staff will be sat in the back of the car. They're there to ensure that your examiner conducts the test fairly and appropriately. Don't stress out too much if this happens—they're only there to make sure you get a fair test. After all, they're scrutinising your examiner, not you! You should also be aware that the DVSA recently launched a driving test timing study, which means you may have a researcher sat in on your test. Again, they're not there to judge your driving, so try not to think about it!