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 In October 2017, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) introduced the independent driving element to the UK practical driving test.

The independent driving element makes many learner drivers nervous when it comes to the test. Independent driving during the test is actually rather simple and there’s little in fact to worry about. This section explains independent driving along with help and tips for this part of the test.

What Is The Independent Driving Test

The driving test lasts for approximately 40 minutes and once used to incorporate two driving manoeuvres from the possible four. See What to expect on the driving test for a full explanation of what’s involved on a driving test. Since the introduction of the independent driving element that lasts for 10 minutes, one of the manoeuvres have been dropped and learners are requested to demonstrate one manoeuvre to the examiner instead of two.

A little way into the test, the examiner will request that you park up and when the car is secured, they will explain to you that the independent driving phase will begin.

The examiner will show you a independent driving diagram or map as it is also referred to. This is a very simple line drawing map that is likely to include junctions, crossroads, roundabouts and possibly high speed dual carriageway roads if applicable to your test centre. If we look at the independent driving diagram to the right, an example of the examiners explanation is as follows:

This is our current position (referencing to the arrow on the diagram), when you are ready, I would like you to move off and when we reach the roundabout, I would like you to turn right, second exit. After the roundabout, I would like you to take the second road on the right.

The examiner will then ask you if you understand the directions and if you would like them to be repeated. If you are in any doubt, ask them to explain again. During the independent driving element, the examiner will not be asking you any questions, although you are permitted to ask the examiner questions if you wish.

 Essentially there are no rules for the independent driving part of the test. The point of independent driving is to see if you can follow road signs and markings whilst driving safely and not letting stress affect your driving.

There are no rules stating that you must follow the diagram map correctly, in fact if you take a incorrect turn it has no impact on the result of your driving test. The examiner simply assesses your ability to keep calm and drive safely. If you have forgotten the directions whilst driving, ask the examiner where you should go, they will tell you. If you take a incorrect turn and are not sure where you are, the examiner will guide you back onto the independent driving routes by verbal directions.

Independent Driving Fail

Remember, you can’t fail the independent driving element by taking a wrong turn. A learner driver may fail the entire test on independent driving because they become stressed and their driving becomes erratic. Try and keep calm and where ever you end up, whether still on the map or not, drive safely and you will pass this section of the driving test. Ultimately, if stress levels are becoming too much, pull over to the left in a safe, convenient and legal position and explain to the examiner that you need a few moments to get composed. The examiner understands that you are nervous and should be acceptable of this.

If you have successfully completed the first map, the examiner will request that you pull up on the left once again, they will now show you a second map to follow. The independent driving will use 2 or 3 maps and at the end, the examiner will once again request you park up and inform you that is the end of the independent driving part of the practical test.

Learning Independent Driving

A qualified driving instructor will help learners on independent driving with the use of maps on the test routes. If you are learning to drive privately by family or friends, incorporate independent driving diagrams into your lessons by using simple hand drawings. It’s important the routes on your maps have clear road signs and road markings for the learner to see and that the maps have only 2 or 3 exits per map. As the learner gains proficiency at driving, rely less on verbal directions and more on following road signs.

Independent Driving Test Tips

  • If you are not entirely sure of the directions you need to take on a diagram map after the examiner has explained, ask them to repeat.
  • Once you are driving during the independent driving element and you are unsure where to go, ask the examiner for directions.
  • It makes no difference to the result of the driving test if you make incorrect turns during the independent driving providing you do so safely.
  • If you feel that you are becoming excessively stressed (at any point during the driving test not just independent driving) pull over in a safe, legal and convenient location to take a few moments to compose yourself.

Independent Driving Test Diagrams

Independent driving diagrams used on the practical driving test are designed to be easily followed as there is no test to be read and the diagrams follow a map routes for a very short journey only. This is for easy understanding of driving test candidates and individuals with dyslexia.

Independent Driving Test Routes

independent driving routes are a section of the normal driving test routes and are designed by examiners at the test centres. Gaining an understanding of the normal test routes will provide you with an advantage for independent driving.