The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Driving Tests

Once you feel confident in your driving capabilities and your instructor agrees that you are ready, the first step to becoming a driver is to book your test.

There is usually a waiting time when booking a driving test, so it’s often a good idea to book in advance.

The Driving Theory Test

The driving theory test is designed to ensure you understand the rules of the road and the principles behind them, and are capable of responding in an appropriate and safe fashion when driving.

There are two parts to the driving theory test – the multiple-choice section and the hazard perception section. You are required to pass both sections in order to pass your theory test.

Multiple Choice Section

The multiple-choice section presents you with a variety of questions about the rules of the road, a variety of difficult driving situations, aspects of vehicle maintenance, and other driving-related queries. Prior to undertaking the test, you can take a practice theory test online. These give you an opportunity to get used to the design and functionality of the test.

Hazard Perception Section

The hazard perception section is a test of your response times and your ability to anticipate dangerous situations on the road. You must pass this section before you take your practical driving test.

The hazard perception test consists of a series of video clips of ordinary driving scenes. You take on the role of the driver, observing the world from behind the wheel of a car. Each of the clips in the hazard awareness test contains at least one potential hazard, but one of them will contain two. For this reason, you must be constantly aware of developing hazards.

How quickly you respond will indicate whether you are sufficiently aware of the dangers that may be faced by motorists.

If you pass your driving theory test, you will receive a certificate – you need this certificate to book your practical driving test. This expires after two years, and once it has expired, you will have to take the test again.

The Practical Driving Test

During the practical driving test, an instructor will assess your driving ability to make sure that you can operate a motor vehicle safely and competently. Before the driving segments of the test, you will take an eyesight test, which involves reading the registration plate on another vehicle, as well as answering two vehicle safety questions. This involves showing the instructor how you would perform a vehicle safety check, and then explaining the details of how you would perform a particular vehicle check.

Operating a vehicle in various motoring situations will form a large part of your driving test, with the instructor gauging your ability to deal with a wide variety of road layouts and traffic scenarios. You will also be tested on various motoring manoeuvres, including reversing. You may also be required to perform an emergency stop.

A portion of this driving will involve the instructor giving you directions, but there is also an independent driving section where you are expected to make your own decisions.

After your test, you will be told if you passed or not. If you performed a dangerous action during the test (known as a dangerous fault) or one which was potentially dangerous (known as a serious fault), you shall not pass. Other, non-dangerous errors in driving are less of an issue, and you can gather up to 15 of these without failing the test.

If you successfully pass your test, you will receive a certificate from your examiner. Once you have passed your test, you can begin driving immediately.


The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is the UK organisation which monitors the registration of drivers and vehicle ownership, distributes driving licences, collects vehicle tax and sells private number plates. If you drive or hold a driving licence, you will most certainly have dealt with the DVLA at some point.

The DVLA maintains a vast database which catalogues the vehicles and drivers which fall under its remit. It is used to ensure that untaxed cars do not drive around without authorisation, and is utilised by law enforcement agencies to match the registration plate of a car to its owner in situations where they need to be tracked down and brought to justice. They also keep track of any medical conditions that may affect an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

The DVLA does not actually add endorsements and points to the driver’s licence – they do not have the legal authority to do so, and these penalties are added instead by a magistrate and then added to the DVLA’s database. However, the DVLA does track the state of a drivers’ licence, which may be where the confusion stems from.

If you require contact details for DVLA Swansea, they are as follows:

Vehicle Customer Services
SA99 1AR

They may be reached via telephone on 0300 790 6802 for vehicle registration and tax enquiries and 0300 790 6801 for licence enquiries. The DVLA is open from 9am to 5pm every weekday.

Booking your test

The easiest way to book your practical driving test is to use the GOV.UK website, where the service is available between 6am and 11:40pm. You can also book your theory test on their site. In order to book your test, you’ll need your provisional driving licence number and a credit or debit card. If you have lost the certificate, you will need to contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) who can send you the details you’ll need.

The waiting time is usually around nine weeks, although it varies by location and time of year.

It is also possible to book your test over the phone – the contact numbers are available on the GOV.UK website; again, you’ll need to have the same details for this as for booking online.

It’s also possible to apply for a practical test by post. This can be done on GOV.UK, or by calling the DVSA.

If you have any special needs, it is important that you inform the DVSA of this when you are applying for a practical test. This will ensure that any assistance is in place, enabling you to undertake the test in comfort.

Other legal topics that may interest you