Instructor Blog

Hereford Driving Test Centre

On the 3rd of December 2015 the Driving Test Center in Hereford moved from its long standing and well established site on Faraday Road to be accommodated within The Herefordshire Council offices on Plough Lane, Whitecross.

The move has been a long time coming and was officially announced to the public in September 2015.  The previous site was quite an old building and no doubt became expensive to run and in need of repair.  Although the full reason for the move has not been officially communicated I believe it is safe to assume that this is part of much larger strategy to reduce costs across government departments.  Indeed the Driving & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are using commercial sites in some parts of the country so this move is not really anything out of the ordinary.

I think it is fair to say that among the driving instructor community the move was not particularity well received with many holding the view that it would have a negative impact on the ability of test candidates to pass and for tests to be conducted fairly.  This view was apparently based upon the volume of traffic prevalent in the immediate vicinity of the new location although in truth this was probably driven by the fear of change that is so common, and at times understandable, but on this occasion unwarranted for if a test candidate is properly prepared the location and traffic volume should not be an issue.

I would go as far to say that it is quite likely that some driving examiners might also have preferred to maintain the status quo but the plan to move was set in stone. With the last driving test taking place at 2.40 p.m on Friday 27th of November (sadly a fail for one of my clients) the team had a just a few days to up sticks and be open for business with just three working days to ‘bed in’ and adjust.  It is to the credit of the Test Center Manger and her team that they have made it work.

4 parking spaces have been reserved in the car park adjacent to the offices and a small waiting area has been established inside next to the reception desk.  The experience of attending a driving test has changed from arriving at a sterile site (internally and externally) to being in a live environment where the vast majority of people both in the car park and in the main building either are not aware a person is about to undertake a driving test or if they are, care very little if at all.

Some folk seem not to notice, or hinder, the signs stating the spaces are reserved for driving test candidates but to my knowledge this has not caused a serious problem but may so in the future.  Cars in the car park do need to display a pass issued at the reception desk so once in the building another trip to the car park is needed.  Not really an arduous task but one which may save the wrath of a parking attendant and a fixed parking penalty.

The toilets are just a short walk from reception and in terms of comfort and cleanliness are far superior to the facilities at the old site.  The recently refurbished building has a large, and very light, open space on the ground floor which boasts a lovely looking cafeteria which I have yet to explore.  This area is a hive of activity as workers meet and discuss their daily business in public or crouch over laptops tapping fervently away compiling their latest report or email.

Upon entering the building candidates are required to give their name to the very welcoming receptionists who, once confirmed against a list provided by the DVSA staff, will point out the waiting area a few meters away.  This waiting area is dedicated to driving tests, is quite public and but does feel tucked away into a previously unused corner.  candidates and supervising drivers (instructors in the most part) are left feeling like they are on display and some have commented that ‘it is like waiting outside the headmasters office’.  It is not however compulsory to sit down!

The DVSA driving examiners have now taken to wearing hi visibility vests.  Presumably aimed at preserving their safety and health when they step into the public car park.   They tend to appear from there office on the 1st floor at the prescribed time and from that point the only difference is that some information about the test is delivered on the walk to the car park which does serve to break the ice a little and doubtless saves a few moments.

With two tests completed from Plough lane I have a pass rate that is commensurate with the national average – 50%.  I sat in on both tests and of course routes have had to be adjusted a little but are in no way any harder, or indeed easier, than before.  Roads are roads and driving is driving after all. I am looking forward to my next test at Plough Lane and, if I am not asked to accompany the candidate, to tasting the coffee from the cafeteria.

It is always my aim to ease any nervousness prior to a test.  Performance anxiety is dealt with by building confidence in driving ability and fear of the unknown by familirisation of the process.  Of course it is never actually my tests and always that of the candidate but as an Instructor I would have to have very thick skin not care about the outcome or share the sorrow as much as I share the joy of each result.  For that reason I always try my utmost to make the experience as painless, if not enjoyable, as I can.

Driving test recovery

What happens if I fail my driving test?

‘That’s the end of the test and I’m sorry you haven’t passed.’

Once the Driving Test Examiner (DTE) has uttered these morale busting words there is only one thing most candidates want to do.  Get out of the car fast and bang their heads against the nearest wall!  If the following words are even heard they are rarely listened to and hardly ever remembered in any detail.

‘To help you I’ll explain why. Here is a copy of your driving test report’

The DTE will give feedback on all serious and dangerous faults.  This should include a description of when/where the incident occurred and what happened in the eyes of the examiner.  The examiner should also explain why the incident has been marked as it was which may be either the cause or the effect of the error made by the candidate.

Extract from DVSA form DT1 – Standard Operating Procedure for Driving Tests

‘If the effect is greater than the cause then the effect is marked. For example if a candidate approached a junction too fast and emerged – then the effect would be greater than the cause and although the speed approaching the junction caused the fault only the effect would be marked.’

Confusing?  It certainly can be and many situations can also be quite subjective. Especially when you consider the different seating positions they are observed from.  It is therefore not surprising that candidates often forget, or can certainly have difficulty repeating, the debrief points when they meet up with their driving instructor.

This is why I believe the DTE should be able to say;

‘I’m really pleased your instructor is here. And I’m sure they will be able to help you further.’

How will my driving instructor know what the examiner has marked me on?

At the start of the driving test the candidate is asked;

‘Would you like your instructor to accompany you on test and be there for the result and end of test feedback.’

If you answered yes your instructor will seat in the back of the car, usually behind the driver, taking no part in the test and observe in silence.  I always ask my customers if they would like me to accompany them?  Some feel that my presence will put extra pressure on them and some feel it will help.  Although my preference is to ride along I do not attempt to persuade the candidate either way as it is their test and the individual has to follow their own feelings on the matter.

Even if I do not observe the test I certainly come over the car to listen to the debrief.  Although instructors are not trained as examiners they do have knowledge and experience of what the examiner is looking for and how they might mark certain events.  Even just sharing the same vocabulary and being familiar with common terms and phrases makes it easier to interpret what the examiner is saying and what the candidate did to attract the mark they did.

More importantly for me, although not easy to do due to me being as disappointment as the candidate,  when I listen to the debrief I listen without an emotional attachment so that I am able to recall later exactly what was said as I read through the driving test report.  By doing this I am able to identify the cause which will naturally help avoid the same or similar happening again on the next test (for their is always another test!).

In some cases, and this happened to me recently when I observed a test, the candidate will drive differently on test than they have done during lessons.  This may be due to nerves a perceived preferred driving ‘style’ or some other reason. Knowing the candidate and knowing what they are capable of the DTE’s comments can be put into perspective and if the fault is out of character I will recognise this and can communicate it which can help ease the disappointment.

So what happens if the test is failed?  If I observe the test and/or listen to the debrief I am able to identify what happened, what should have happened and what needs to happen next time.  When the dust has settled and I meet the customer again,  I treat the ailment not the symptoms. Ultimately I will try developing strategies and skills that can be applied in all aspects of driving rather than just going back to the same junction, roundabout or stretch of road where the fault occurred previously.

At the end of the next test we should be hearing;

‘That’s the end of the test and I’m pleased to say you’ve passed’

The Practical Driving test

Two learners pass their driving tests in Hereford with just 6 minor faults between them!!

Great work from two lads for passing their tests and a big thank from me for being so receptive to input. Both guys had very different situations but similar difficulties finding time for lessons and practice with the complications of life getting in the way. Josh (17 years 3 months) and Colin (32) only took as many hours as was needed (16 & 6 respectively) during which time we worked hard and made the time count so they that were well prepared and ready to show an examiner that they had the knowledge and skills required to drive safely.

So what did they face on their driving test?

The practical car driving test can be booked online at www.gov.uk/book-practical-driving-test or by calling DVSA booking support on 0300 200 11 22. Candidates with special needs should declare this, so that appropriate arrangements can be made, if possible, to help them during the test.

Important – Do not use an unofficial website to book your Theory Test, as you may pay more than necessary, and your test might not even be booked.

To book your test you will need your driving licence number and possibly your Theory Test Pass Certificate number although the online booking system will know if you have passed your theory or not.

On the day of the test, the candidate must take their driving licence with them.  If they do not they will not be able to take the test and will lose their fee.  For peace of mind it may also be worth taking your theory tests certificate and booking confirmation even those these are not ordinarily needed.

The practical driving test takes place on public roads in typical road and traffic conditions and lasts about 40 minutes. It is designed to see if the candidate can drive safely, knows the Highway Code and can demonstrate this through their driving.

After checking the candidates identity and the examiner will ask the candidiate to sign the declaration on the test marking sheet.  This is to confirm insurance is in place for the vehicle to be used and that the individual is a UK resident.  The examiner will ask the candidate if they want their instructor, or another person, to sit in the back of the car during the test to observe and/or be with them for the result and feedback. Any person can observe as long as they are over 16 years old but cannot take any part in the test.  If you have a friend who is due to start driving this could be a good chance fro them to see what the test is all about!

The test begins with an eyesight test (if the candidate fails, the test will not continue). In good daylight, drivers must be able to read a vehicle numberplate, made after 1 September 2001, from 20 metres. If the learner needs glasses or contact lenses to read the numberplate, they must wear them whenever they drive.

All drivers must meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving.

Vehicle safety questions: ‘show me, tell me’

 

They will be asked two ‘show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions. The examiner will ask the candidate to show how they would carry out a vehicle safety check, and to explain how they would do it.

During the driving test the examiner will be looking for an overall safe standard of driving in various road and traffic conditions. This will include normal stops, an angle start (pulling out from behind a parked vehicle) and a hill start. The candidate will be asked to do one reversing exercises, such as reversing around a corner, turning in the road or reverse parking. They may also be asked to do an emergency stop.

The driving test includes about 10 minutes of ‘independent driving’, during which the learner will be required to follow road signs or a series of directions, without step by step instructions. This is much closer to the normal driving conditions they will face after their test and is designed to assess their ability to drive safely while making decisions on their own. More details about the independent driving section of the test can be found at www.gov.uk/practical-driving-test-for-cars/independent-driving-section-of-the-test.

Types of faults

There are three types of faults that can be marked in the test:

  • A dangerous fault – involves actual danger to driver, the examiner, the public or property
  • A serious fault – could potentially be dangerous
  • A driving fault – not potentially dangerous, but if the same fault is made throughout the test it could become a serious fault

Candidates can make up to 15 driving faults and still pass the test – but over 15 faults will result in the test being failed. If one serious fault or one dangerous fault is committed, the candidate fails the test.  If more than one minor fault is recorded in a single area the examiner can deem this to be a systematic error in the candidates driving style and convert this to a serious fault.  There is no minimum or maximum number of faults that can be recorded in each section and each and every tests is judged individually with all the circumstances taken into account.

At the end of the test, the examiner will tell the candidate whether they have passed and explain how they did during the test. They will also give feedback about the eco-efficiency of their driving. The candidate’s instructor can listen to this if they wish.

If the candidate has passed the test, the examiner will give them a pass certificate, and ask if they want their full licence to be sent to them automatically. They can start driving straight away, without waiting for their licence to arrive. If the candidate has not passed, they must wait another 10 working days before they can take another test but can book this right away.

After Passing the Driving Test

Passing the driving test is just the first step in a driver’s career. This is when the new driver faces their greatest risk, especially during their first year of driving. There is much that you can do to help your new driver stay safe on the roads.  Further details about the practical car driving test are available at www.gov.uk/practical-driving-test-for-cars.

Passing the Driving Test in Hereford

Driving Instructor Hereford
Well done to Em after a well deserved driving test pass in Hereford after just 12 weeks of driving lessons with Safe Pass Driver Training.

Driving Test Preparation

Failing to prepare is  – as a wise man once said  – is preparing to fail.  Or as Alexander Graham Bell put it;

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.

So it came as no surprise to me that my latest customer who took a driving test was successful and came away with a Pass Certificate and a huge smile instead of disappointment and the prospect of paying for another test and more lessons.  

The preparation started a few weeks before the test when during lessons I started to talk a little about what happens on test day and spent periods of the lesson driving independently where I observed and made mental notes instead of continually offering instruction, guidance and support.

I encouraged Em to self assess her performance and through discussion she developed strategies on her own of how to deal with certain situations.  Of course her actions have to be safe and within the bounds of the Highway Code which is what I am able to advice on but through self reflection and learning a deeper understanding is achieved and real learning is taking place.

As the date loomed closer we conducted mock tests; some where I came in and out of ‘Examiner role’ when learning opportunities arose and some where I stayed in role throughout. We also visited the driving test centre and discussed what would happen on test day so that the fear of the unknown was not added to natural nerves.  I directed Em to some useful reading to strengthen her confidence in her own knowledge and to identify any gaps that we were not aware of.  Of course we practiced the manoeuvres that Em may ave been asked to complete and got to a stage where these were completed safely and accurately every time.  The show me tell me questions were discussed and the controls and parts of the car to be used on the test where identified .

On the day of the test we meet up in plenty of time and had a short practice before we went through the Show me Tell me questions for a final time. Although Em was a little nervous as we got close to the time of the test, on a scale of 1 – 10 she claimed a 4, this I think was healthy and helped her focus on the task ahead. In the first couple of minutes of the test these nerves did surface but where soon overcome as a very competent display of driving followed which was duly rewarded. This even included dealing safely with a situation, just as we were heading back into the test centre, which involved a Mother and two young children on bicycles trying to cross the road at a junction as Em was turning into it.  This made harder by one child crossing and one staying put with the Mother trying to control both!

All in all a very rewarding day.  It has been a pleasure helping Em to learn and I wish her well for the future.

 

The Driving Theory Test

The Theory Test

The Theory Test must be booked in advance, at www.gov.uk/book-a-driving-theory-test or by calling DVSA booking support on 0300 200 11 22. Candidates with special needs should declare this, so that appropriate arrangements can be made, if possible.  These include audio for the multiple choice part and/or extra time.  Some form of proof that these adjustments are really required may be needed

Important  – Do not use an unofficial website to book your Theory Test, as you may pay more than necessary, and your test might not even be booked!

Both parts of the Theory Test are taken on the same day at a Driving Theory Test Centre, details of which can be found at www.gov.uk/driving-theory-test-centre.  There is a Driving Theory Test Centre in Hereford in Penn House which is on Broad Street next to Santander Bank.

There are two parts to the Theory Test: a multiple-choice part and a hazard perception part. If a candidate passes one part but fails the other, they will have failed the whole test, and will need to take both parts again.

Candidates are given the results of their Theory Test after taking it. Those who pass will get a pass certificate, which they will need to book and take their practical test. This certificate lasts for two years; if a learner does not pass their practical driving test within those two years, they will need to take and pass the theory test again.

Those who do not pass the Theory Test will need to wait at least three clear working days before taking another test. They will have to pay the test fee again.

The multiple-choice part

Before the test starts the candidate is given instructions on how it works, and can do a short practice session. The real test, which takes about 57 minutes to complete, will then begin.

A question and several possible answers appear on screen. The candidate selects the answer they think is correct by touching the screen or using the mouse. Some questions may require more than one answer. Some will be a case study, or a real life example, of a situation the driver could come across when driving.

To pass, the candidate must answer at least 43 out of 50 questions correctly.

The candidate can then take a break of up to three minutes before starting the hazard perception part of the Theory Test.

The Hazard Perception Test

A short video is shown to explain how the hazard perception part of the Theory Test works.

Candidates then watch 14 video clips featuring everyday road scenes. Each film includes at least one developing hazard, which may need the driver to take some action, such as change speed or direction. One clip will show two hazards, so there are 15 developing hazards in total.

The candidate needs to click the mouse or touch the screen as soon as they see a hazard. To get a high score, they need to spot and respond to each hazard as soon as they see it, but if they click continuously or in a pattern they will score zero for that clip. The maximum points that can be scored on each hazard is five.

The pass mark for the hazard perception test is 44 out of 75.

Preparing for the Theory Test

It is important to prepare well for the Theory Test. This increases the chances of the young driver passing the test, as well as improving their safe driving knowledge and attitudes.

The best books to use to prepare are The Highway Code, Know your traffic signs and The Official DSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills. The Highway Code is available from bookshops or free from www.gov.uk/highway-code. The other books are available from book shops or www.safedrivingforlife.info/shop.

The multiple choice part of the car theory test can be practised online at www.gov.uk/practise-your-driving-theory-test. The practice test has 50 questions and is similar to the real theory test taken at the test centre.

The Official DSA Guide to Hazard Perception, an interactive DVD that will help the learner prepare for, and practise, the hazard perception test is also available at www.safedrivingforlife.info/shop/product/official-dsa-guide-hazard-perception-dvd-software.

Customers of Safe Pass Driver Training also receive free and full access to Theory Test Pro which is a leading online tool for training, practice and support.

Further details about the Theory Test are available at www.gov.uk/driving-theory-test.

How to get a Full UK Driving licence

You can apply for a provisional licence online by visiting the Gov.UK website. Alternatively you can apply by completing the D1 application form which can be picked up at your local Post Office. If you are sending your application via the post, you will need to make sure you include original documentation that confirms your identity, a colour passport photograph, a fifty pound cheque or postal order and the completed application. The address is DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AD.

The UK Driving licence

If your provisional driving licence application is accepted you will be sent a green photo card. This photo card is important and will be needed in the future, so keep it in a safe place. You will need to take photo card of your driving licence to your driving theory test and practical test. Once you have passed your practical driving test, your green photo card will be sent off and replaced with a pink full driving licence photo card.

Rules for provisional drivers

Provisional drivers must have someone supervising them whilst they are driving. The person must sit in the front passenger seat and be fit to drive the vehicle. This includes not using a mobile device even though they are sat in the passenger seat.  They should be aged over twenty one and have held a full driving licence for at last three years. Learners must display an ‘L’ plate on the front and back of their vehicles and they are forbidden from driving on a motorway.

The theory test

Before you can take your practical test you will need to pass the driving theory test. Some driving schools will require you to take the theory test before you start your driving licence lessons. Once you are ready to take your theory test you can apply online. You will need your provisional driving licence number, an email address to get your booking confirmation and your debit or credit card. It costs £23 to book a car theory test on the Gov.UK website.

The practical test

Once you have passed your theory test, and are ready to take the practical driving test, you can book it online. In order to do this you will need your provisional driving licence number and your debit or credit card. On the Gov.UK website it will cost you £62 to book a week day practical driving test and seventy five pounds to book a driving test at the weekend. Apply online here >>

Replacement driving licence

If your provisional or full driving licence is lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed then you will need to apply for a new one. Stolen driving licences should always be reported to the police. In order to apply for a replacement driving licence you will need to be a resident of Great Britain and not be disqualified from driving for any reason. You will need a valid UK passport or other form of identity, your National Insurance number and the addresses you lived at in the last three years. It also helps if you know your driving licence number. It costs twenty pounds to replace your driving licence. Your lost driving license should be replaced as soon as possible.

Renew driving licence

Your photo card licence must be updated every ten years. The DVLA will send you a reminder before your current driving licence expires. Providing you have sent in a valid application and have not been disqualified from driving for any reason, you can continue to drive until you receive your new licence.

Driving licence categories

There are a number of different driving licence categories, so it is important to make sure that you only drive the vehicles that your licence permits you to. If you hold a full valid driving licence and want to be able to drive large vehicles, minibuses or buses then you will need to complete the DL1 application form and the medical report form DLM1. The medical report form should be completed by a doctor. Once you have received the provisional licence for the new category, you can take the test and upgrade your driving licence.

Medical conditions

There are certain medical conditions that prevent individuals from being able to drive, for example Epilepsy. You must tell the DVLA about any health condition which may affect your ability to drive. It is important to tell the DVLA if you develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability or your condition or disability has got worse since you got your driving licence. If you do not inform the DVLA of your medical condition or disability you may be fined £1000 and could be prosecuted if you have an accident. Individuals that are told they are unfit to drive by their doctors must surrender their licences to the DVLA.

With the help of the internet, it is now easier than ever to apply for a UK driving licence. Providing that you can meet the requirements and supply the correct information, you will be in for a quick and easy application process.

Three main steps to get a full driving licence:

  1. GET PROVISIONAL LICENCE
  2. PASS THEORY TEST
  3. PASS PRACTICAL TEST

Driving lessons and tests in Hereford

October is getting busy and exciting as I have 3 customers with driving tests in Hereford booked.  I am working closely with all three to fully prepare them for their test and I am confident all three can pass. Of course no one can be complacent but that is something I am paying close attention to much of what we talk about in the run up to test is about personal preparation and strategies for dealing with nerves and how best to show the examiner the very best drive possible.

I will ride along with as many tests as I can to not only aid my own development but in the unfortunate event of a fail I can listen to and interpret the examiners debrief as the test candidate will not hear anything after the pass/fail verdict.  That way I am best placed to either challenge the decision (if appropriate) or fix the fault for any subsequent test.  Of course the candidate gets to decide if I go along as it is their test but I am hoping all will agree.  Unless of course the Test Center Manager sits in to observe the examiner in which case I will step aside and wait nervously at the test center for their return and listen in to the debrief from the side of the car.

I will of course update the site on the results of each test and hope I can post smiley pictures of people with pass certificates.

Driving Theory Test in Hereford

A big well done to Josh B who passed his Driving Theory Test today with an outstanding scores of 48/50 for the multiple choice and 70/75 for the Hazard Perception Test. Josh used https://safe-pass-driver-training.theorytestpro.co.uk/ for study and practice. Full access to this fantastic resource, ,including free app download for smartphone or tablet, is provided free of charge to all customers.

Passing the driving test in Hereford

Another driving test success this week by a customer of Safe Pass Driver Training although a completely different situation to the previous one. I was asked by an individual who held an international driving licence, and was coming up to the point of needing a full UK license, to assist him in preparing for his driving test. Within the first few minutes of driving it was clear he was safe and competent and just needed a few pointers to deliver the driving display the examiner would be looking for.

We quickly and easily covered the manoeuvres using explanation, demonstration and imitation. We worked on polishing his general driving techniques and it may come as no surprise that we worked on his Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre routine. A mock test was conducted which served to highlight some areas which needed some attention and as importantly we were able to discuss what was good about his driving. We also had a chance to familiarise with the Driving Test Centre in Hereford and talk about what could be expected from the examiner to alleviate the natural anxiousness that surrounds any test regardless of ability or experience.

We had just 3 hours together but it was long enough to get to know each other a bit and I am genuinely pleased to have been able to help this man to be able to continue in his employment and look after his family.

Passing the Driving test in Hereford

Driving Instructor Hereford
Driving Test Hereford

I paced like an expectant father as I waited for Pupil A to return the Driving Test Centre (DTC) in Hereford yesterday.  I am not sure who was the most nervous of the two us but I certainly know who did all the hard work and earned herself a well deserved pass with just 5 minor faults along the way.

I had asked if I could observe the test from the back seat however Pupil A thought that would heap extra pressure on her so respecting that decision I took my place in the waiting room and made small talk with a fellow driving instructor. (Actually it was a an interesting chat about the industry especially when we were joined by the regional Senior Examiner, who was their on other business, the very same fellow who took me on my Part 2 & 3 tests just a few months ago.) Just as well I did get in the back seat really as the Test Centre manager chose this test as one where she would ride along and observe the Examiner.  This is something that the DVSA do to ensure consistency and the development of their staff and is not something to be feared if it were to happen to you.

After a short warm and a recap on the ‘show me tell me’ questions we arrived at the DTC with time to prepare and relax a little before the process began.  At that stage it was all over to Pupil A and I had no further part in her success.  I will not tell her story of the test except to say that from the sound of it she was fully prepared for what she encountered and nothing really took her by surprise; except I think a bus emerging from a really tight junction as she was about to turn into it!!

At the end of the test I eagerly awaited the signal form the examiner that it was OK to walk over to the car and listen to the test result and the debrief.  It was not immediately clear to me what the result was as Pupil A was fairly non emotional and I had difficulty hearing what was being said form outside the car with the door open .  After looking over the examiners marking sheet however I soon saw the beautiful tick in the pass box and if I am to be honest heard very little of the de-brief points from that moment for I was more than a little overcome with joy and happiness for Pupil A and, I must confess, also a little for myself.

After the examiner had finished and the paperwork complete we had a little moment of self congratulations and some big smiles before the photo opportunity to show the world.  The journey back to Pupil A’s home was tinged with a little sadness that it would be the last time I would be travelling that road so much have I enjoyed not only helping her to learn but have enjoyed getting to know her.  I will see her again soon though as she has asked me to take her on a Motorway soon and I look forward to extending her experience in that way.  I wish her all the best for the future and truly feel privileged to have been able to contribute to the positive affect a full driving licence can bring to a persons lifestyle.