How Do I Get A Provisional Licence?

You can apply for a provisional driving licence up to three months before your 17th birthday. So if you want to get out onto the roads the moment you come of age you need to plan ahead! You can apply for the licence by filling out the D1 application form from the post office or online. Bear in mind it takes around three weeks for the DVLA to process your application so you want to be applying at least a month before your birthday. As a new driver you'll get a photocard-style licence - keep this safe because you'll need it when going for your theory and practical tests.

How Much Does It Cost And What Do I Need To Do?

Welcome to the costly world of motoring and your first driving expenditure! Getting a provisional licence costs £34 when you apply online or £43 by post, plus the expense of getting some passport style photos and posting your documents to the DVLA. Your photo needs to be recent and your head should be 29-34mm high and not obscured by glasses, hats or similar. Consider your haircut too - you'll be stuck with this photo on your licence for good unless you fancy paying the £17.50 update fee! And if you've got a digital passport (you have if your signature and photo are on the same page) the DVLA can check your identity without you having to send your passport to them.

What Can I Drive With A Provisional Licence?

Got your licence? Well done. Now you can take to the roads. Your provisional licence is valid until your 70th birthday and you can drive any car, assuming of course you can get insurance and you are accompanied by a suitably qualified person. And that doesn't mean your mate who passed last week. Your chaperone must have held a full licence for at least three years and be aged 21 or over. If that's you, don't think you can use your learner driver brother or sister as a taxi for a night at the pub either - the supervising driver must remain within the drink drive limit too!

Are There Any Restrictions?

Well, you need to have received your provisional licence from the DVLA before you drive anywhere so you CANNOT even think about starting until you have the paperwork in your hand. There aren't any restrictions on the type of car you can drive - beyond what your insurance company will allow of course. The main thing to remember is that you are not allowed on motorways as a learner driver unless in a dual controlled car with a qualified instructor. If you want to get a flavour of multi-lane roads you can, however, drive on dual carriageways where the 70mph limit applies. This is good experience and can prepare you for motorway driving once you've passed.

When Should I Do My Theory Test?

As soon as possible is the easy answer. You need to get the theory exam out of the way before you can apply for your practical test, although you can continue learning if you fail the theory and have another go. But at £23 a time this could get pricey! You'll need a provisional licence, so make sure you've applied for that and received it back from the DVLA before you book your theory. You need to have turned 17 too, so if you've applied for your provisional licence before your birthday you'll need to wait before tackling the theory test.

How Do I Book A Test?

You can book a theory test on the phone by calling 0300 200 1122 but if endless automated menus drive you mad it might be easier to do it online on the GovUk website, the site also has information on how to find your nearest test centre (scroll down the page to find the addresses of the two local Theory Test Centres). You should be able to get a test within a few weeks or so. If you can't make the date you can change it up to three days before, either online or over the phone. If you're late or fail to turn up you'll lose your fee. Don't forget your provisional licence either!


What Do I Need To Know To Pass?

As a diligent learner driver you'll have read your Highway Code cover to cover, right? So you should have all the knowledge you need to pass your theory test. But to help you out you'll get a DVD with the confirmation letter for the first theory test you book, offering help on how to pass. When you sign up with iDrive you will also receive completely FREE access to an online theory test website. There are also lots of books and other resources available to help you swot up.


How Does The Test Work?

Split into two parts, the first stage is a computer-based 50-question multiple choice test on which you need to have at least 43 correct answers. You've got up to 57 minutes to complete this stage and if you're not sure about some of the questions you can 'flag' them and go back to them later. You'll then get a three-minute break before the hazard perception stage. You'll see 14 CGI video clips showing a developing hazard, including one with two developing hazards you need to flag up. You can score up to five marks per hazard and need to score at least 44 out of 75. You'll get your result straight away.


Where Are The Nearest Theory Test Centres?

Thackeray House
189-199 West Street
PO16 0EN


Portsmouth (Near The Bridge Centre):
Venture Tower
4th Floor
Fratton Road

The Practical Driving Test Explained
It is necessary to have passed both components (multiple choice questions and hazard perception) of the theory test before you are allowed to take a practical test. Passing this test then entitles you to hold a full UK driving licence. The practical driving test can be taken in either a manual car or an automatic car. If the test is taken and passed in a manual, the licence granted thereafter will be an entitlement for both manual and automatic. If the test is taken and passed in an automatic, then the full driving licence granted will only be an entitlement for automatics.
The practical test is taken on the road, with a professionally trained DVSA examiner directing the candidate around a pre-determined route. The examiner marks the candidate for driving faults, serious faults, and dangerous faults. A candidate will fail the test if he or she accumulates any serious or dangerous faults, or more than fifteen driving faults. If a candidate accumulates several driving faults in the same category, the examiner may consider the fault habitual and mark a serious fault in that category. The test usually lasts 38 to 40 minutes in a standard test, or approximately 70 minutes when the candidate is taking an extended test after having had their licence revoked.
Eyesight Test
Before getting to the car, the examiner will ask the candidate to read a car's number plate at a distance. The distance required is 20.5 metres for an old-style plate (A123 ABC) and 20 metres for a new style plate (AB51 ABC). If the candidate needs glasses to do this then these must be the ones worn whilst completing the rest of the test. If the candidate fails to read the first number plate correctly, then the examiner asks the candidate to read a second number plate. If the candidate cannot correctly read the second number plate, then the examiner must use a tape measure to measure the correct distance between the candidate and a third number plate. If the candidate cannot read the third number plate, then the candidate is deemed to have failed and the test will not continue.


Vehicle Safety Questions
Before the candidate is taken out onto the road, the examiner will ask them one 'tell me' question (where they explain how they'd carry out a safety task) in the test centre car park.

The candidate will also be asked a 'show me' question (where they'd show how they carry out a safety task) while they're driving. It can be asked at any time during the test, including during the independent drive.
The examiner will ask the question in a location which gives the candidate enough chance to demonstrate the safety check. If they're not sure how to do it, the examiner will ask them to pull over when it's safe and appropriate, and then ask them to find the control.
Controlled Stop (AKA Emergency Stop)
The controlled stop, more commonly referred to as the "emergency stop", is an exercise which determines the ability of the candidate to stop the vehicle promptly yet under control during a simulated emergency. The simulation is performed by the examiner raising his or her hand and saying, "STOP!". The exercise should be carried out on approximately one out of every three tests, but must be carried out on every extended test. During dangerous weather conditions, such as rain and snow, this test can be left out for safety reasons.
Reverse Manoeuvres
During the test, the examiner will ask the candidate to carry out one reverse manoeuvre from the following list:
Parallel park at the side of the road.
Reverse park in a bay. (This will be done in the test centre car park).
Forward park in a bay and reverse out. (This will be done in a public car park).
Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse 2 car lengths and rejoin the traffic.

Manoeuvres are selected at random by the examiner depending on the route chosen and conditions on route.


General Driving
Generally, the candidate must demonstrate an ability to drive in various road and traffic conditions and react appropriately in actual risk situations. The conditions typically encountered on test include driving in urban areas as well as higher speed limit roads where possible; this includes dual carriageways but not motorways as motorways in Britain can only be used by full licence holders (although this is currently under review). The object of the test is to ensure that the candidate is well grounded in the basic principles of safe driving, and is sufficiently practised in them to be able to show, at the time of the test, that they are a competent and considerate driver and are not a source of danger to themselves or to other road users. The drive will include two or three normal stops at, and moving away from, the side of the road on level roads as well as on gradients (aka hill starts), in addition to a demonstration of moving away from behind a stationary vehicle. The regulations state that the on-road driving time must be no less than 30 minutes. If, at any point during the test, the examiner has to intervene with any controls, this will usually result in failure and could be marked on the test report as either a serious or a dangerous fault.
Independent Driving
The practical driving test includes a 20 minute section of ‘independent driving’. During the independent driving section, candidates have to drive by either following:
a sat nav,
or traffic signs.
4 out of 5 tests will use a sat nav. This will be set up by the examiner. 1 out of 5 tests will follow road signs. It does not matter if candidates do not remember every direction, nor if they deviate from the intended route unless they commit a driving fault.
If there are poor or obscured traffic signs, the examiner will give the candidate directions until they can see the next traffic sign. Candidates will not need to have a detailed knowledge of the area.
If the candidate has special needs, the examiner will be able to make reasonable adjustments. For the independent driving section, this could be asking the candidate which method they prefer - following signs, or using a sat nav.


Where Is The Test Centre?

Lee-on-the-Solent MPTC (Multi Purpose Test Centre):
The Richard Sainsbury Building
Chark Lane
PO13 9YA


And After You've Passed...

When you pass your practical test the examiner will issue you with a Pass Certificate and send your Provisional Licence to DVLA for you. Your shiny new FULL UK DRIVING LICENCE should be with you within 20 working days!

When you pass your practical test, if you acquire 6 penalty points within the first 2 years you will have to pass both your theory and practical tests again!

Taking a Pass Plus course will not only improve your knowledge and skill on the road, it could save you up to 30% on your car insurance. It consists of 6 one-hour modules; driving in town, all weather driving, driving in the countryside, driving at night, dual-carriageways and motorways. There is NO TEST at the end of Pass Plus, if your instructor decides you have met the required standard he will sign you off and send away for your Pass Plus certificate.