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Driving Trivia

Driving Test Changes in December 2017

January 17, 2024

4 min read

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Sam Plant

Content Writer

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Over time, the way that we drive has changed—and so, the driving test itself has changed too. Since testing was first made compulsory in 1934, new additions to the test have included the theory test in 1996 and the hazard perception test in 2002. The practical test has changed too: in 2010, an independent driving section was introduced, and the number of required manoeuvres was reduced from two to one.

The most recent developments came in December 2017, with sweeping changes made to driving tests across England, Scotland and Wales.

Why did driving tests change in 2017?

The DVSA highlighted one key reason for making changes to the driving test: to reduce the number of young people killed in road collisions, which currently account for over a quarter of all deaths amongst 15–19-year-olds.

It was feared that the old driving test did not do enough to properly prepare young learners for the reality of the road. For starters, the old test format included few high-speed roads, where the majority of fatal road collisions occur. Meanwhile, the independent driving section—which is valuable experience for a learner—made up just 10 minutes of a 40-minute test. Older tests also failed to take into account the use of sat navs—and as the majority of UK drivers now use sat navs, it’s important that new drivers know how to use them safely and avoid being distracted by them.

What changes were made to the driving test?

On December 4th, 2017, four changes were made to car driving tests in England, Scotland and Wales.

1. Longer independent driving section

Before December 2017, the independent driving section of the practical test lasted just 10 minutes, or roughly a quarter of the total time of a practical test. This section now lasts 20 minutes, meaning it takes up roughly half of the overall time of a practical test. During this section, you’ll have to drive without directions from the examiner—meaning this is a real test of your skill and driving judgement.

2. Sat navs become part of most tests

Instead of following an examiner's directions, the independent driving section of most practical tests now involves following directions from a sat nav. You won’t need to provide your own—the examiner will provide a sat nav and set it up for you. You must use the sat nav that’s been provided; you won’t be able to follow directions from your own sat nav or smartphone.

Though the examiner won’t provide you with turn-by-turn directions during this section, you can still ask them to confirm where you’re going if you’re unsure. It’s okay to go the wrong way, as long as you don’t make any driving faults.

It’s also important to note that whilst the majority of driving tests now involve the use of a sat nav, one in five tests won’t. If your test does not involve a sat nav, you’ll need to follow traffic signs instead.

Check out our dedicated guide to driving tests with a sat nav for the full details.

3. Changes to reversing manoeuvres

Before the test changes were made, candidates needed to carry out one of the following manoeuvres during their test: a turn in the road, reversing around a corner, parallel parking, or bay parking.

Now, the manoeuvres that feature on the driving test have changed. Whilst your instructor should still teach you how to turn in the road and reverse around a corner, you’ll no longer be tested on either of these two. Instead, you’ll have to perform one of the following manoeuvres:

  • parallel parking at the side of the road
  • bay parking—either by driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out
  • pulling up on the right hand side of the road, reversing for two car lengths, and rejoining traffic

4. “Show me” question while driving

The old practical test saw drivers being asked two vehicle safety questions before they begin driving. These questions concern car maintenance and safety, and failing to answer correctly counts as a driving fault against the candidate. As these questions generally start with the words “show me” or “tell me”, this section of the test is known as the “show me, tell me” part of the driving test.

Since the 2017 test changes, the first of these two questions—the “tell me” question, where you explain how to carry out a safety task—is asked before you start driving. The second question—the “show me” question, where you demonstrate how to carry out a safety task—is now asked while you’re driving. Check out the DVSA website for the full list of possible questions you may be asked.

What is staying the same in the driving test?

Even though the independent driving section of the test was lengthened, practical tests still take around the same time to complete, with a total driving time of about 40 minutes.

The test is also marked in the same way as it was before—and the list of driving faults hasn't changed. The pass mark is also the same as it used to be—you’ll need to make fewer than 16 driving faults, and no serious or dangerous faults, in order to pass.

The cost of a driving test is £62, or £75 if you’re taking your test on an evening, weekend, or bank holiday.

No changes are being planned to the theory test, and for the moment only car practical tests are affected—tests for other vehicles will remain the same until further notice.

What do these changes mean for learner drivers?

While all driving test changes are greeted with some degree of trepidation by learners, the good news is that, according to studies by the DVSA, the pass rate is the same as it was for the old test. This means that you still have a fantastic chance of passing—so long as you opt for the right driving school. That's where PassMeFast comes in.

Here at PassMeFast, we offer a wide range of intensive courses suited to learners of any experience level—even if you’re a complete beginner. We even offer fast-track practical tests, which means you could get passed in just a few short weeks. Plus, our online resources for drivers cover everything from the theory and practical test through to Pass Plus and instructor training. To learn more about how our courses work, check out our guide to crash courses.

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