Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Preparing to take your UK driving theory and practical test

Alright, so you've just moved to Scotland, and you plan to be here for more than a year. What do you do about driving? First, you need to apply for your provisional driving license. Then, you take your driving theory test, and if you pass that, you'll sign up to take your driving practical.

Provisional License

You can apply for a provisional license as soon as you move here. You can apply on-line at at the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency) or you can pick up an application at the post office. The cost is currently £50.  If you use the DVLA website, make sure that you are at their actual website. The link I provided is correct. There is another site (www. drivinglicence dot uk dot com) that is a CHECKING service. They charge you a fee to review your application before you submit it. Do not sign up for that. It's unnecessary.

To fill in the information online, make sure you choose the correct box for your type of passport (this is important) and provide your passport number. If you do not have a National insurance number, don't fret. Just skip it. After you submit and pay online, they will mail you an application. You'll need to get your photo taken, passport style, at the post office. The post offices here in Aberdeen have a photo booth that will do it for £4-5.  You also have to send them your passport so make sure you plan to give yourself enough time to go without it. Don't plan any trips close to applying. When you've got everything filled in and double-checked, sign the application and make sure that you do not make any pen marks outside the white box. If you do, they will send back your application.

Just a slight mark outside the white box, and it was sent back.

Driving Theory Test

After you receive your provisional license AND have been a resident for at least 185 days, you can sign up to take the theory test. You apply with your name and license number at the DVLA website. You'll then choose a testing center and time.

Study Materials Suggested by Others
  • Download the Highway Code from the DVLA website (Link) or buy a cheap copy
  • Use the DSA Driver Theory App
  • Sign up for an online practice test program
  • You can take a practice theory test on the DVLA website (Link)
  • Make sure you get plenty of practice for the Hazard Perception part (DVLA DVD)
  • Know your traffic signs (Link from DVLA)
I always suggest asking around for materials you can borrow before buying anything. :o)

The Car Practical Driving Test

After you pass the theory test, you can sign up for your driving practical. The weekday price is £62 but the weekday evening, weekend, and bank holiday price is £75.  According to the DVLA:

"The practical driving test is designed to see if you:
  • can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions
  • know the Highway Code and can show this through your driving ability."

You can use your own car for the test, but it must:
  • be properly insured and have a valid tax disc
  • be roadworthy and have a current MOT if it needs one
  • be checked and fixed if it has a known safety fault
  • have a seatbelt for the examiner
  • have an interior rear-view mirror for the examiner (these are available from most motor stores)
  • have a proper passenger head restraint (not a slip-on type)
  • be a smoke-free environment
  • have 4 wheels
  • be able to reach at least 62mph
  • have a speedometer measuring speed in mph
  • have no warning lights showing - for example, the airbag warning light
  • have L-plates (‘L’ or ‘D’ plates in Wales) on the front and rear
  • have a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of no more than 3,500 kilograms
You will also have to read a number plate from a distance of about 20 metres. Your driving ability test will last about 40 minutes, and you will have about 10 minutes of independent driving to see how you do while making your own decisions. You will also have the option of having another person sit in the back as you test. I've heard some people suggest that you having your driving instructor come along so that if you do not pass, they know what to have you practice. Which brings me to another thing, I suggest taking some driving courses, even if it's just one day... it's better to learn from a professional for one day than to practice in ignorance for 185 days. I've heard the following names mentioned as being great instructors, although I do not have experience with them myself:
  • Sandy Barclay
  • Scott Napier
  • Mark Adams
Well good luck, and don't fret too much if you don't pass the practical the first time. I hear that is a common occurrence. Unfortunately, you have to pay the fee to test again.


  1. I'm sorry, but I have to ask- What exactly is a proper passenger HEAD restraint?!?!

    1. Maybe in old cars people have lost or damaged the head restraints? I'm not sure.. lol


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