Driving Test Change History

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Every now and then, new changes are brought to the UK driving test which affects mostly learner drivers. Those changes are meant for the greater benefit of everyone as they improve safety on our roads by empowering new drivers with better skills which consequently should reduce the number of accidents and injuries.

Upcoming / Proposed Changes

The following rules are in discussion at the moment and the government may apply those changes to the driving test in the near future:

  • Have a minimum learning period of 1 year before being allowed to sit the test
  • Allow people to start learning to drive at 16 or 16 and a half
  • Ensure learners have had experience driving in different weather conditions, on motorways and at night before doing the practical test
  • Extend the probationary period from 2 to 3 years so that young drivers have their licence revoked if they get 6 or more penalty points within three years
  • Offer more incentives such as insurance discounts to newly qualified drivers to encourage them to take more training after they have passed

Please note that laws have not yet been passed for the points mentioned above.


New multiple choice questions introduced – 23 January 2012 In the past, the multiple choice questions asked during the real test at the examination centre were the same ones you could get from training materials but this is no longer the case now. Although the number of questions asked is still 50, all the questions are new and are not available anywhere. The idea behind this is to get people to stop memorising answers but instead to show their understanding of the question so that they are better assessed.

Independent driving added – 04 October 2010 For about 10 minutes during the test, learners will have to drive independently, that is, they will not be given any directions. The route will be explained with the help of a map/diagram before this part of the test starts but you may ask questions if you get lost along the way. The purpose of this section is to see if a driver can drive confidently on their own whilst obeying the Highway Code, so it’s not about remembering routes.

Examiners ask whether you’d like your instructor in the car – 06 April 2010 At the beginning of the driving test, the driving examiner will ask if you want your instructor to sit in the car with you. This could well be a family or friend who taught you how to drive and they would be able to observe everything and pinpoint mistakes to you afterwards so that you can work on those weaknesses.

50 multiple choice questions instead of 35 – September 2007 The number of questions for the first part of the theory test (MCQ) has increased to 50; it was 35 before. To pass the test, you need to score 43/50.

Facility to book practical test online – 24 October 2003 Learners were given the facility to go online to select an appointment for their practical test and make payment via the internet as well; not necessary to go to the testing centre just for that.

Show me tell me questions introduced – 01 September 2003 Just before starting the practical test, the driving examiner will ask 2 questions regarding your vehicle. This will be in the form of either showing him where the engine coolant for your car is located for example or telling him how you would check to see if your horn is working. By knowing the basics of your car, it increases the safety aspect for you and others as well.

Hazard perception test – 14 November 2002 Another element has been introduced to the theory part of the test which is called the hazard perception test (HPT). Candidates will be shown a series of videos clips and they would need to identity hazards in them. The earlier you spot them, the more marks you will get. So to pass the theory test now, you will to pass both the multiple choice section and the hazard perception as well.

Ability to book theory test online – 19 December 2001 Candidates were now able to book their theory test through the internet.

Computer based testing operational – January 2000 The pen and paper exam method was phased out and was replaced with touch screen technology allowing candidates to use their fingers to select correct answers on a computer screen.

New requirements for cars used on the driving test – 06 April 1999 It is now compulsory for a car used in the driving test to have a front seatbelt, head restraint and rear view mirror.

Photocard replaces the paper licence - July 1998 Although the paper driving licence remains valid, new licences issued are in the photocard form, that is, a plastic card with your photo on (size of a credit card) and a paper counterpart (A4 size) which lists your entitlements and convictions.

Photographic ID needed before taking test – 01 March 1997 You will only be allowed to sit the theory/practical test after you have shown a photographic ID of yourself. This is to prevent impersonators sitting the test instead of the actual person.

Written theory test introduced – 01 July 1996 Before this change, questions about the Highway Code were asked during the practical exam itself. Now this has become a separate test and therefore the driving test is split into two; a theory and a practical exam. Candidates were given a pen and paper to answer questions.

Pass Plus scheme – November 1995 Although completing the pass plus course is not required to get a driving licence, a framework to allow new drivers to get experience driving under different traffics conditions was designed to improve their skills. It is optional but highly recommended.

Reverse parking becomes mandatory – April 1991 During the practical test, all drivers need to show their competence is doing a reverse park.

Driving Standards Agency (DSA) created – 01 April 1990 The DSA is born and its purpose is to oversee the safety of our roads. They will be responsible for setting standards for driving and to educate drivers and riders.

Hand signals removed – May 1975 As newer cars were being developed, the need for arm signals was no longer needed as indicators took on that job.

Testing suspended because of the Suez War – 24 November 1956 Due to the Suez Crisis (Tripartite Aggression), tests were suspended as driving examiners took on the role to look after the petrol rations.

Free conversion of provisional to full licence – 18 February 1947 For a period of 1 year, a full licence was issued to those who held provisional licences during the war time without them having to pass the practical test.

Tests suspended for World War 2 – 02 September 1939 Driving tests were not conducted because of World War 2 until 1st November 1946.

Compulsory driving test introduced – 01 June 1935 Anyone who started driving on or after 1st April 1934 was required to take the driving test.

Voluntary driving test launched – 1935 In preparation for the mandatory test for all drivers as specified by the Road Traffic Act 1934, people were encouraged to sit the driving test to avoid a long queue when it becomes compulsory.

Other interesting info

The first person to pass the driving test was Mr R.E.L Beene on 16th March 1935. At that time, he paid 38 pence for the test (7 shillings and 6 pence to be exact).

first driving test certificate

And here's a really old video which introduced the driving test in the 1930s. Watch it and you'll see how things have changed over the years! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbbERUEsQ4Q

gices Level 6
I'm a Software Developer and the co-founder of Clever Dodo. Born in Mauritius and now living in the UK, I usually blog about fitness, music, spirituality and driving topics to pass on my knowledge.
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