Driving Legally in the UK Part 2

We’re back to {hopefully} finish off how to get your UK license as an American. So you have your provisional license, you’ve signed up for your theory test, and you’ve been studying. If you got the app (which I strongly recommend) and have been taking practice tests, you might find yourself in fits of laughter over some of the questions. These are a few of my favorites:IMG_0605 IMG_0604 IMG_0601 IMG_0603 IMG_0602 IMG_0596 IMG_0597 IMG_0598 IMG_0599 IMG_0600

What did you notice from those? A lot of sheep questions, questions about towing things, first aid questions, and a question about how to drive in an ecosafe manner. What the what? Yeah, your theory test covers a wide range of questions with the likes you’ve never (or would ever) see on a USA driving test. I think you have to apply to get a towing license, but that doesn’t stop the possibility from being asked about it. You also need to know first aid stuff and other random car stuff like how you would tell if your brake fluid is low or how to properly adjust you’re the head restraint in your car. Oh and there are questions about different shifting into different gears and things even if you’re only taking your test on an automatic. They don’t care. Car maintenance questions can be on the theory test, but even more so when you take your driving test. I’ll be back to that.

So you come to take your theory test and it is NOT taken lightly here. You will be checked in with a valid photo ID, sign a form, and then have to put all your belongings in a locker. No jewelry, phones, watches are allowed. You then will be called up again, ID checked again by the receptionist, then go to another women who’s in charge of the room where the test gets taken. She’ll check your ID. Then you have to pull up sleeves and show her your arms, turn your pockets out (literally), and I had to lift my hair so she can see behind my ears and neck. She’ll keep your ID while you go to the computer to take the test. After the test, I think she checks your ID again and you wait for a couple minutes to see if you’ve passed. The receptionist calls you up then and tells you if you’ve passed, and after another check of ID will give you the piece of paper stating you’ve passed. They say you cannot loose this sheet of paper because you need to give it when doing your driving test. Though I did NOT have to have this piece of paper, it’s probably better for everyone if you don’t lose it.

Back to the theory test. It’s 50 multiple-choice questions. You can flag ones you are unsure of to revisit. I think I flagged 5 so I was a little worried, but I ended up missing 3 of them so I passed that. The next part is the hazard awareness driver stimulation part. I’m sad to say I didn’t have to dodge any sheep, but E had two different stimulations dodging sheep. You get points based on how quickly you see a potential hazard. But if you press too soon (before it actually becomes a hazard) it won’t count. You get 5 points for being spot on, and as each second goes down less points. You can click a few times but you can only click so many times (maybe 5?) for the entire video or they think you’re trying to cheat the system. So whenever I would see a hazard I would click, wait a second, then click again because if I was too early it would get me 0 points. You can get up to 75 points total on that part- 14 clips, 13 of them with one hazard and one with two hazards that they don’t tell you about beforehand. E did worse than me and only got 44 out of 75 but still passed…. Have no idea what I’m talking about. Click HERE for a little example of our hazard perception test hell. http://www.theory-test-online.co.uk/free-hazard-perception-test-demo.htm

The day after you’ve passed your theory test you’re allowed to sign up for your driving test. So I passed my theory test on Monday August 10th.   I went to sign up Tuesday morning and the earliest driving test appointment available was November 23rd.  You’re allowed to log in as many times a day as you want and change test dates to earlier if appointments open up, as long as you don’t cancel your appointment less than 24 hours in advance- you’d be charged for that. So I checked the website several times a day and got my November 23rd moved up to November 2nd, and then another jump up to October 27th. At the end of August my driving instructor tipped me off that there was a demand for it so they’ve added a bunch more appointments, I was able to log in and get one of the new appointments for October 1st and then never looked again. But that was over a month and a half after passing my theory test. Meanwhile, I wasn’t supposed to be driving after July 28 and was driving illegally the whole while. NOT IDEAL. But what else could I do…be housebound with the sheep?

I should also note you can sign up to take your driving test anywhere in Scotland. There are two locations near me, by the Bridge of Don (north) or Cove, just south of me. I had always heard Cove was easier so both E and I went there. Apparently you can see pass/fail rates online and someone just told me the pass rates for those two locations are about 50% where as if you go out to Ballater it’s 70%. Something to think about if you’re that scared.

So test day came. E had warned me in advance, “Lauren….I don’t care what you think, tell them you love Disney World.” Because there’s this awful bit that a lot of Brits that come to the USA only go to Florida to go to Disney or go to Las Vegas. And I mean I love Vegas, but I don’t think that’s where you should go coming to America on your only USA holiday. And Disney…I am just not a Disney person. The idea of the hot, acne-ridden, sweaty man hiding behind the mouse head gives me the willies. And the little girls with the princess package…it’s like they come out ready for preemie prostitution tryouts. I digress. Sure enough my instructor did tell me all about his timeshare right outside the gates. And yes, I played along and said how much I looooove Disney! “Oh the kid in all of us, it’s just magical!” Hork.

Anyway so at Cove you go into the building and you’re the only car in the lot and the only person in the waiting room and you just sit there and wait and it’s weird. Finally the instructor comes out and you head outside where you have to read some license plates that are zip tied to the fence to make sure your vision is alright. Then you get to the car and you are asked a “show me” and a “tell me” question. Word on the street is if you don’t get these right, you fail automatically and don’t take the test. E’s questions were show me how to turn on your fog lights and tell me how you’d use your horn. My questions were tell me how you’d know what your tire pressure should be and show me how you’d correctly set your head restraint. You can see the whole list here but this is where you need to know some stuff: how to check your oil (and maybe more so hot to pop the hood of your car!) and the exact way they want you to answer the question.

In the test you can have 15 minor errors, but there are a list of things that if you foul up will be an automatic failure. For example: improper signaling in a roundabout equals automatic failure. Driving over a curb when asked to do one of the four maneuvers is automatic failure. I think I was told if you happen to drive past a car in the right lane (fast lane) from the slow lane it’s an automatic failure. Even if that person is going 15 mph below the speed limit, you are NOT allowed to be passing (or overtaking as they say here) from the left lane. All kinds of random stuff. And if you do one minor thing more than 3 to 5 times, that counts as a major and you’ll be automatically failed. Like if you pull out from a random pull over (which they’ll have you do at least 8 times) and don’t turn your head to look in your blind spots. Get that wrong 3 times and you could fail. I also heard they don’t tell you you’ve failed until you’re all done, which sucks.FullSizeRender (11)

So I got 3 minor errors on my test. In the maneuver I was asked to do (back around a corner) I hit the curb. I thought that failed me but I didn’t drive over the curb (it’s spelled kerb here just FYI) so I guess that’s why I passed. But I got two minors for that, I think 1 for hitting the curb and one for lack of control in reverse since it obviously went narrow. I just straightened the car out and then backed up again. I also had one deduction for mirror use- not sure when. But they want you to constantly be using your mirrors…when you take the test just move your head around like a parrot on crack.

FullSizeRender (10)The test lasts about 40 minutes. Afterward I wasn’t sure if I passed or failed due to the curb. In fact I spent the last 20 minutes of the test doing a pep talk in my brain not to cry, that it’s okay, I’ll just take the test again. So we pull back into the center and he (I think) says I passed, but then starts talking about all the stuff I did wrong. And then he mentioned something about doing something wrong at the roundabout, but I got stopped by the light, and if I hadn’t I would have been endangering lives and would have automatically failed (oh yeah, life endangerment is automatic failure) but I was able to correct whatever it was I did wrong when I got stopped.   No idea. But then I really thought I failed, but next thing I knew he was filling out my Test Pass Certificate.   I got that and had to turn in my provisional, but in exactly 2 weeks my real license came in the mail.


So that’s the process…let me know if you have any questions. I’ll also be providing a little tips/tricks/lessons post for UK driving next week.


  1. Claire

    Goodness, that sounds like quite the trial! Glad you passed, but also glad that I will have no need for a UK driving license. 😀

  2. Mary De Bastos

    I take my test Dec 1st (thanks for the driving instructor rec!) and this post just scared the crap out of me. It’s so crazy HOW perfect they want everything when in all reality it NEVER happens that way. It’s insane. I’m freaking out that I won’t pass!!! I hope I do because I’m tired of paying Scott for driving lessons. I’m 35 and have been driving for 20 yrs!!

    1. Lauren (Post author)

      I’ll send you all my good vibes! You can do it. Just think, you can make 15 little errors. Just drive slow, extra, extra slow and give yourself time to think it all through.


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