Frequently Asked Questions About Learning to Drive
How do I get a provisional license?
Your local Post Office will have an application form or you can complete an on-line application at www.gov.uk. The issue of a provisional license currently costs £50.00. You are not allowed on a public road until you have received your provisional license.
Foreign Driving License Holder
The holder of a foreign driving license should check with the DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency) for their individual status. Some licenses can be exchanged direct. Other license holders will require the issue of a provisional license and a subsequent driving test to drive in the UK.
What is the best way to find an instructor?
Good question! I would say the best way is to be recommended to one who has successfully taught a friend or member of your family. But that is no guarantee. It is important that you feel comfortable with your instructor. He/she should come across as wanting to be helpful and has your interests at heart.
You should feel that the learning tasks you are being set are not too demanding. You don’t want to feel inadequate and lose confidence. Learning to drive should be enjoyable but challenging.
If you have found an instructor but feel uncomfortable then you must change – sooner rather than later. You don’t want an instructor who is making inappropriate comments or is impatient with their pupils. If they start shouting or getting annoyed, that is no help to you whatsoever.
If you don’t know of an instructor – come to us!
Why come to you?
We are a small enough driving school that you are important to us. We value you as a customer and we want to ensure that you receive best quality instruction. A large school may be more interested in taking on instructors rather than the standard of driving lessons. (Driving instructors are self-employed and pay a franchise to their driving school). We accept our responsibility to provide good service and as a member of Checkatrade, we are monitored to ensure best practise.
Instructors who are independent and work on their own have no back up, so if it all goes wrong due to lack of availability, car breaking down or ill health, you are left without support.
How long are your lessons?
Usually 1 hour, 1½ hours or 2 hours subject to instructor’s schedule, and of course your own. Concentration can be difficult to maintain, so unlike some driving schools, we do not insist on the longer lessons.
Where are you based?
Near you! We don’t have a high street location or office. Neither do we have the overheads that go with them and this is reflected in our lesson prices. Your instructor lives within reach of you and covers the area local to you. They will also be familiar with your nearest test centre and the test routes.
If I am unavailable to take your call, enquiries are dealt with by an Independent Business Centre (telephone answering service) and collected by me (Benn Hibbert) every day. I will call back as soon as I can to offer advice and instructor availability. Weekend calls divert to my mobile.
What is your 1st time pass rate?
You can ask the individual instructor, but let me answer your question with a question – A test candidate who booked a test without guidance is not quite ready and they are going away for some time. They want to “give it a go” before leaving. Does the instructor let them take the test with the probability they will fail or refuse to allow use of the car to protect their pass rate? An excessively high pass rate does not necessarily mean a good instructor. What is best for the pupil should be the priority.
What grade are you?
Instructors are tested on a regular basis. Since April 2014 the grading of instructors has been simplified to three grades. Instructors are graded “A” (85% Pass), “B” (60% pass) or “Fail” (less than 60%). A failure requires the instructor to be check tested again within 3 months. Three fails could lead to the instructor being removed from the register and no longer able to accept payment for instruction.
A check test is a pre-arranged driving lesson where the supervising examiner sits in and observes the instructional ability of the instructor. The pupil and choice of subject is predetermined by the instructor. This exercise takes place up to once every 4 years depending on the previous grade given, so it obviously does not reflect the day-to-day activities of a driving instructor. The check test is unlikely to reveal any character shortcomings and the instructor’s grade should not be the sole basis of selecting an instructor.
The DVLA do not publicise instructor grades. Nor do we. However any shortcomings by our instructor would be addressed when brought to our attention.
Do you offer cheap driving lessons?
Do you want cheap driving lessons? Surely, quality instruction is better than something on the cheap. If you are not taught properly you could be spending a lot more on additional lessons, thus making cheap lessons a waste of money. Cheap lessons suggest that is the only way a driving school can get pupils. What does that say about them?
Do you do weekends and evening lessons?
Yes we do, but times for lessons are down to the individual instructor. Some work all or part weekends – others do not. Evenings are the same. Evenings and weekends are the times most in demand and an instructor may not always be available. This could lead to a delay in getting started.
Do you have other people in the car?
No. However, friends or family can of course “sit in” at the request of the pupil. What we do not allow is called “Piggy-backing” which is to save an instructor non-earning travelling time between lessons. The lesson finishes at the next appointment and one of the pupils drives the other one home. It is not in the best interests of the pupil.
With the pupil’s permission we may request an additional instructor to sit in to observe for assessing or training purposes.
What cars do you use?
The cars used are down to the individual instructor’s choice. Mainly standard saloons all fitted with dual controls. The training car may be owned or leased by the instructor and ideally less than 2-years old. We have diesel or petrol cars and can also provide automatic transmission, all subject to location.
Do I have to pass the theory test before taking driving lessons?
No. Ideally learning to drive and learning the rules of the road at the same time can help to develop both disciplines. Further support for the theory test can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving/highway-code and on our links page http://www.driving-test-success.com
Further support for the theory test can be found at https://www.gov.uk/book-theory-test
All theory test and driving test centres in the UK are listed on the website http://www.drivingtesttips.biz, together with lots of useful info.
How many lessons would you recommend in one week?
How much time do you have? If you are at work or college, perhaps still at school, there are other demands on your time. A one hour lesson per week can make learning to drive seem to go on forever, bear in mind you are looking at probably over forty hours in all. If you can manage two or three lessons per week, you will develop much more quickly keeping the momentum going and less likely to forget what you have learnt so far.
What about intensive courses, do you recommend I take one of them?
No! The pass rate for intensive courses is well below the national average, but may suit somebody who needs to learn quickly and is available for lessons every day for a specific period of say 1 or 2 weeks.
The problem is you have to pass the theory test before you can book a practical test and it is a question of timing. After your training you may not have developed sufficiently to reach test standard and having spent so much time on learning it is a huge disappointment not to pass. Then it means more lessons until the next attempt. We can offer intensive or semi-intensive courses where necessary if we have an instructor available
How many lessons will I need?
That depends on you individually. DSA, AA and Churchill Insurance all recommend more than forty hours tuition. Some can learn much more quickly, others can take a long time and several attempts to pass the driving test. That is not a slight on them. The skills for driving are not academic and in extreme cases it can take many years to master co-ordination, multi-tasking, awareness and reaction time.
Manual or automatic driving lessons?
When you pass your test in a manual car you are entitled to drive either manual or automatic. An automatic driving license is restricted to automatic only. I would always advise try manual first. If you have difficulty with the gears you can try automatic to get you on the road sooner. Perhaps if needed, take another test in a manual car when you are more experienced.
Which is the best Test Centre to use?
Your nearest. The routes are all designed to be equally challenging. It can help to be familiar with the area. I am not necessarily saying learn the test routes, you need as much variation as possible to develop awareness and planning skills.
Which Test Centres do you use?
Ashford, Chertsey, Croydon, Isleworth, Morden, Reigate, Sutton, Tolworth, Slough and Mitchem test centres are all within our range.
How much for the Theory and Practical tests?
- (From 1st October 2014)
- Theory – £25.00 (from 30th March 2009)
- Practical – £62.00. Evening/weekend – £75.00
- Extended test (following disqualification) – £124.00 (Saturday – £150.00).
These prices are set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
In addition we supply a driving school car for the driving test to include one hour lesson beforehand and return home (or elsewhere by arrangement). Priced from local area at £65.00. See Terms and Conditions.
Beware: Most test candidates book their driving test on-line. Make sure you go to the official Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency website. Other sites offer the same service, but will charge you up to £15.00 or more for doing the same.
How long is the driving test?
Usually 35-40 minutes depending on traffic and conditions on the day. The test must last at least 30 minutes to qualify as a driving test. If you are held up in a traffic jam you still complete the route however long it takes. In extreme cases the next test could be cancelled due to the late return of the examiner. An extended test where required following a ban is 60 minutes long
What is Independent Driving?
Included in the practical driving test from 4/10/10, it is an extension to the driving test to test the candidates ability to make safe decisions following a set route involving up to three directions. This may include road signs, direction signs or both. It will last for about 10 minutes and to keep the length of the driving test the same as before, there will be only one of the three set manoeuvres tested as part of the driving test. Previously there were two manoeuvres.
Can I use my own car?
Yes, you can. The car must be legal. You should provide an interior rear view mirror for the examiner. Seatbelts and head restraint should be correctly fitted for his/her safety. Where there have been recalls by the manufacturer for safety repair work, a certificate of proof (provided and stamped/dated by the garage repairer) must be produced or the driving test will not take place.
A recent survey has shown that those who choose to learn with friends or relatives, and who aren’t taught by instructors, have an average driving test success rate of 2.3 attempts – 15 per cent worse than the UK average. This survey reinforces the importance of professional tuition.
Is the examiner only allowed to pass a certain number of people?
Not true. If you drive to Highway Code standard and complete the various manoeuvres in a controlled and safe manner, you will be successful. Your examiner is not looking for a faultless drive. You are allowed 15 minor faults, but nothing serious or dangerous.
If I make the same mistake three times will I fail?
Not necessarily. It depends on whether making the same mistake several times could lead to problems for other road users. It also depends on your overall drive. I have seen as many as five same faults recorded after a successful driving test.
Should I adjust my interior mirror so that the examiner can see me move my head when I am looking behind?
No need, the examiner is trained to a high standard and will know that you are checking your mirrors regularly. They can see your eye movement and how you respond to the developing traffic situation around you.
What is Passplus?
Passplus is a post test course designed to develop your driving further with a professional instructor. There are 6 modules including motorway driving and must be at least 6 hours in total. DSA will issue a certificate as proof the course has been completed and this can be used to negotiate with participating insurance companies a cheaper insurance premium.