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Is the Northern Ireland driving test changing on December 4th? Here’s all you need to know


Posted on 13/11/17

As of Monday 4th December, the driving test will change.

The idea is that it’ll be tweaked to better reflect the kind of driving that people do in the real world, rather than focusing on exercises you’ll never again repeat after getting your licence (cough cough, reversing round a corner!).

NOTE: The changes are at present only applicable to England, Scotland or Wales. If you’re from Northern Ireland the driving test changes won’t apply as the test works a bit differently here.

There are some things that won’t be changing; the test will still be approximately 40 minutes long and you’ll still fail if you get more than 15 faults. But to know more about what is changing, here’s a handy list below:

1. Independent driving will increase to 20 minutes

This more or less speaks for itself: currently, the independent driving part of the test – the bit where you drive independently with no instruction from the examiner – lasts for 10 minutes.

As part of the changes, that’ll be doubled to 20 minutes. Don’t worry though, as the length of the test itself won’t change and should take about 40 minutes in total.

2. Following directions from a sat-nav

Because so many people now use sat-navs to find their way about, you can now be asked to follow sat-nav directions as part of the test. You don’t need to worry about buying your own sat-nav though, as the examiner will provide one and also set it up for you.

One out of every five driving tests won’t use a sat-nav though, and learners will instead be asked to follow traffic signs. Make sure you’re well prepared for both, just in case!

3. Reversing manoeuvres are being changed

The old ‘reversing around a corner’ and ‘turn-in-the-road’ manoeuvres have also gotten the boot as part of the new test, after driving examiners ruled them to be out of date and not much use to drivers in real-life situations.

Instead, they’ve been replaced with one of three different exercises that are supposed to be much more applicable to the kind of things you’ll be doing in the real world. They are:

  • Parallel parking onto the side of the road
  • Driving into a parking bay in a public car park and reversing out
  • Pulling up on the right of the road, reversing a short distance and rejoining the traffic

4. Answering a safety question while you’re driving

This is virtually the same as the standard ‘show me-tell me’ questions, where you’re asked to explain and demonstrate how you’d carry out a safety-related task like turning on your fog lights.

The difference is that these two questions will now be asked while you’re driving the car rather than while you’re stationary to prove that your multitasking skills are up to scratch.

Who does this affect?

It’ll affect all driving tests taken from December 4th onwards in England, Scotland and Wales.

That means that if you failed your test before that date and re-take it after 4th December, you’ll take the new test. If your test was cancelled or moved for any reason, then if your new test date is after December 4th you’ll take the new test too.

Should I be worried about the new test?

The changes might seem a bit scary, particularly given that the driving test has existed in its current format for quite a while, but it’s not really anything to worry about.

Your driving instructor should make sure that you’re adequately prepared for the test before you take it, so you shouldn’t be nervous – or at least any more nervous than you would be anyway!

At the end of the day, it’s all for a good reason too, and if the changes can help you be a better, safer and more confident driver then it’s a win all round!

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