Everyone who goes through the practical test can agree on one thing: it's a nerve-wracking experience. Sure, you'll likely have driven around these exact roads dozens of times—but never before has so much ridden on it. And while having someone by your side in the car is nothing new, that someone is usually your instructor, or a friend or family member. This time, it's an examiner, directing you—oh, and scribbling away on a driving test mark sheet.
Yes, the mark sheet is something all students will see at the end of their test, whether they pass or fail. But even when it's right there in front of you, it can feel a bit indecipherable. There's certainly plenty to get your head around, with a seemingly endless list of categories and sub-categories. Thankfully, we're here to help. Let's take a closer look at the driving test mark sheet.
Above, you can see a blank copy of the driving test mark sheet—or, officially, the Driving Test Report. It's easy to see why many find this a somewhat intimidating document—the number of form fields is staggering!
However, it is possible to comprehend the mark sheet. To begin with, let's start with the top of the sheet. The only thing here that is of relevance to you as a candidate is the box in the top left of the sheet. Here, you'll need to sign to declare that you have valid driving test insurance for the car you're taking your test in, and that you have lived in the UK for at least 185 days in the past year. The rest of this part of the sheet is for administrative use.
For this reason, we'll be focusing on the larger section that covers the bottom three quarters of the sheet. Here, there are a list of 27 categories, plus spares. These categories cover different types of faults that a candidate could make during their test. The S column is for serious or dangerous faults, or ‘majors’. The D column is for driving faults, or ‘minors’.
Receiving a mark in one of these columns means that you've committed a fault in the relevant category. The Total column is where the examiner tots up the number of faults in each specific category or subcategory. Even a single serious or dangerous fault in any category results in a fail. You'll pass if you accrue none of these, and no more than 15 driving faults. But what exactly counts as a fault? To explore this, we'll dive into the categories one by one.
As you may be able to ascertain, this relates to the eyesight test you'll take when your practical begins. This simply involves reading a car licence plate from a distance of 20 metres (or 20.5 metres for pre-September 2001 licence plates).
In almost every category on the driving test mark sheet, you'll see boxes in both the S and D columns. Here, however, you'll only find a box in the S column. This is because there are only two possible outcomes from the eyesight test: you read a licence plate correctly, or the test ends.
Fault: not meeting the requirements of the eyesight test.
During one in every three driving tests, the examiner will ask the candidate to carry out a controlled stop. The examiner will inform the candidate that they will shortly ask them to perform an emergency stop. They will tell you the signal they will use beforehand—usually, they will raise their hand to prompt you to stop. You must stop quickly whilst maintaining control of the car. You must also ensure it is safe to move away again afterwards through observation.
Faults: slow reaction; inadequate braking; loss of control.
These three categories cover the three manoeuvres you may need to take on your test. You will only need to complete one of these during your test. Minor faults here may include needing to reposition your vehicle, or having one or two wheels on the line of a parking bay. Major faults may include ending up partly outside the bay.
Faults: incorrect use of controls and/or inaccuracy; lack of effective all round observation.
This category includes answering the two ‘show me, tell me’ questions. You'll get a minor fault if you answer these questions incorrectly. Candidates may score a major fault if they lose control of their vehicle while answering a ‘show me’ question.
Faults: incorrect answers; loss of control of vehicle.
Before starting the engine, you must make sure that your seat is in the correct position. You must also be able to safely operate all controls. You may score a fault for operating (or attempting to operate) controls without proper precautions, such as trying to start the engine with the handbrake applied.
Faults: failure to take proper precautions before starting the engine.
One of the the broadest categories, Control includes eight subcategories. Here, you must be able to safely operate the accelerator, clutch, gears, footbrake, parking brake, and steering. You must also demonstrate that you can use these controls smoothly.
Faults: uncontrolled or harsh use of the accelerator; uncontrolled use of the clutch; late and/or harsh use of the footbrake; failure to apply or release the parking brake correctly and when necessary; erratic steering; overshooting the correct turning point; both hands off the steering wheel; hitting the kerb.
Candidates should be able to move off smoothly and safely during their test. You must also carry out precautionary observations before moving off—this includes checking your blind spot!
Faults: failure to take effective observation before moving off, including the correct use of signals; inability to move off smoothly, straight ahead, at an angle, or on a gradient.
One of the most important routines you'll ever learn as a driver is MSM: mirror, signal, manoeuvre. It should come as no surprise to learn, therefore, that use of mirrors is one of the criteria that features on the driving test mark sheet. You'll need to show that you're able to check your mirrors before signalling, changing direction or changing speed.
Faults: failure to make effective use of mirrors when necessary.
This category is exactly what it sounds like: you must use signals correctly, when necessary and in good time. You should only use the signals shown in the Highway Code. A common mistake to avoid is waving pedestrians across the road: you can't be sure what's coming in the other direction, so don't give this signal!
Faults: failure to give a necessary signal; giving an incorrect or misleading signal; failure to cancel direction indicators; incorrectly timed signalling that is misleading or too late.
When passing an obstruction or stationary vehicle, you should allow plenty of room. This means keeping well away from parked cars on the side of the road! You should also be ready to slow down or stop when appropriate.
Faults: not allowing adequate clearance when passing parked vehicles and other obstructions.
When driving, you'll encounter a wide variety of signs, signals and road markings. This category refers to your ability to recognise and react appropriately to each of these signs. For example, you must stop when you reach a stop sign. To brush up on this section, check out our traffic signs quiz.
Faults: failure to comply with, or late reaction to traffic signs, road markings, traffic lights, traffic controllers or other road users.
Correct use of speed means taking into account both the legal speed limits in force and the conditions on the road at the time. These may include levels of traffic and weather conditions; you must be able to stop safely. A common serious fault here is breaking the speed limit.
Faults: driving too fast for road, traffic and weather conditions.
Your instructor has surely, at some point during your course, repeated this motto to you: “only a fool breaks the two-second rule!” This is what this next category concerns itself with: leaving an appropriate distance between your vehicle and the one in front. Dropping back allows you more time—and, should you need to brake, you'll have a safe gap in front of you. Just remember: “when it's wet on the floor, increase it to four!”
Faults: failing to keep a proper and safe distance from the vehicle in front when moving; not leaving a reasonable gap from the vehicle in front when stopping in lines of traffic.
When driving, you should move forward at an appropriate speed. That word ‘appropriate’ is key: driving too fast or too slowly can cause major problems. Going too slowly can often encourage others to overtake you, which can lead onto dangerous situations. Drive too fast, meanwhile, and you may not be able to deal safely with hazards.
Undue hesitation also falls under this category. This may include not proceeding when it is safe to do so, or stopping and waiting when it is safe and reasonable to go.
Faults: driving too slowly for road and traffic conditions; being overcautious by stopping or waiting when it is safe and normal to proceed.
Year after year, lack of proper observation at junctions comes out as the top reason why candidates fail their driving test. This is one of the various faults that falls under the broader Junctions category. To perform well, candidates here will need to judge their approach to a junction, carry out proper observations, position themselves correctly and turn safely.
Faults: approaching junctions too fast or too slowly; failure to take effective observation before emerging; late or incorrect positioning before turning right; positioning too close or too far from the kerb before turning left; cutting right-hand corners.
Judgement is a broad category, including a number of expectations for an overtaking driver. You should only overtake when it is safe to do so, and leave plenty of room for other vehicles—including cyclists and motorcyclists.
Aside from overtaking, you also should take care when driving along narrow or obstructed roads. When necessary, you should be prepared to wait and let approaching vehicles pass. Meanwhile, when turning right, you should not cut across the path of oncoming traffic—other vehicles should not have to stop, slow down or change direction to allow you to turn.
Faults: attempting to overtake unsafely; cutting in after overtaking; failure to show proper judgement when meeting approaching traffic; turning right across the path of oncoming traffic.
When driving, you must maintain correct positioning at all times. When driving along a road with marked lanes, this means positioning your vehicle towards the middle of the lane. You should avoid straddling markings and changing lanes unnecessarily.
Faults: incorrect positioning; cutting across the normal road position when going ahead at roundabouts without lane markings; failure to maintain proper lane discipline at roundabouts with lane markings.
Cars don't own the road: they share it with other road users. This includes pedestrians—so be sure to show them consideration! Slow down and stop if there is anyone on a pedestrian crossing. You should also give way to pedestrians crossing a pelican crossing when amber lights are flashing, and give way to both cyclists and pedestrians at toucan crossings. For more information, read up on the different types of pedestrian crossing.
Faults: failure to give precedence to pedestrians on a pedestrian crossing; non-compliance with lights at pedestrian-controlled crossings.
During your test, your examiner will ask you to pull over and stop several times. While you do so, they'll check whether you are able to stop in a place which is safe, legal and convenient.
Faults: making a normal stop in an unsafe, illegal or inconvenient position.
As a driver, you must be able to think ahead, predict the actions of other road users, and adjust your own actions accordingly. This includes more vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. You must be able to act in good time, rather than simply reacting at the last minute.
Faults: failure to judge what other road users are going to do and react accordingly.
We've already covered the vehicle's main controls in the Control category. This category, however, refers to the vehicle's secondary controls, such as windscreen wipers, air conditioning and demisters. The examiner will check that you're able to keep control of the car while operating these controls. After all, opening the window shouldn't mean taking your eyes off the road!
Faults: failure to keep proper control of the vehicle; failure to use ancillary controls when necessary.
When driving, you should consider the impact you have upon the environment. Heavy braking, over-revving and failure to use appropriate gears can all have a negative effect. If stopped for a long period, you should also consider stopping the engine.
Your examiner will assess how environmentally friendly your driving is during the test, and may provide you with feedback at the end if there are areas in which you need to improve. However, this will not affect your overall result.
This stands for Examiner Took Action, and does what it says on the tin. If the examiner needed to take action—either verbally, or physically (i.e., by moving the steering wheel or using dual controls)—this will be noted in this section. Needless to say, this isn't a positive!
The most obvious part of the driving test mark sheet, but also the most consequential: here is where the examiner will mark off if you've passed or failed your test!
If you pass, you'll receive a pass certificate, the number of which will be written down in the “I acknowledge receipt of Pass Certificate Number” field. You'll also need to sign the declaration confirming that there has been no change to your health status since you last applied for a licence.
If you fail, make sure you look over the driving test mark sheet carefully. It has all the information on where you went wrong—so, study it, and make sure you brush up on the areas that tripped you up this time!
Check out our resources for even more useful advice on the practical and theory tests, as well as everything you need to know about learning to drive.