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Driving Newsletter - Tips and Advice on Passing your Driving Test

Driving Test Routes

Test routes: driving you round the bend

  • Advice on knowing your likely driving test routes

Knowing your practical test route before you take the exam is a godsend. It means you know exactly what roads you’ll be on, what hazards (roundabouts, traffic lights and the like) you’ll have to deal with, and the likely places they’ll ask you to perform manoeuvres.

Knowing your test route means it doesn’t matter if you’ve never driven on that short-cut that brings you out on the far side of town, because in your test, you won’t need to. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do a reverse bay park for all the money in China, because they’re more likely to ask you to reverse around a corner on that new housing estate.

Knowing your test route, in short, makes your life a hell of a lot simpler. You know this. Your instructor knows this. The DSA know this.

So why on earth have they stopped telling people about them?

New test route rules

As of October 2010, the DSA have stopped publishing their test routes. That means that you won’t know what it is, your driving instructor won’t know what it is… The only person who’ll know is your examiner, and they’re unlikely to tell you, given the circumstances.

The reason the DSA have given is this: they don’t want people to learn how to drive around a set track, like F1 racing drivers. They want people to learn how to drive, no matter what obstacles and challenges the road may present. They want to know that you can perform a turn in the road wherever, whenever, and not just in New St on a Sunday morning. They want to know that if a roundabout suddenly pops up, you’re not going to fall to pieces simply because you’ve never taken the third exit on this roundabout before, and you don’t know what lane you need.

In short, they’ve made the practical test exactly like real driving.

If you take a moment, you’ll see the sense in this. It’s frustrating not knowing what roads you’ll be driving on (especially as drivers who passed a year or so ago still enjoyed that luxury) but at least you know that you’ve passed your test because you’re a good all-round driver, rather than passing because you’ve memorised all the junctions in advance.

It’ll give you more confidence in the long run as well, because you’ll be able to drive on unknown roads and think: well, I drove on roads I didn’t know very well in my test, and I coped fine. That can make all the difference when (as is likely, once you’re qualified) you’re in a car on your own, with no one to help you.

Looking at old driving test routes

It’s no good looking at old test routes either, if you’re still desperate to know what you’ll face in the practical test. The DSA have changed the routes they’re using since they published their last set, so you can’t rely on old routes being anything like the new routes.

Nor can you ask your driving instructor for hints, because they don’t know any more than you do. They can, of course, take an educated guess at the probable routes you’re likely to do – and you’ll often find that those are the routes you take in your driving lessons – but they don’t know for certain.

That’s the way it should be, though. No one ever gets good at anything simply by memorising answers or actions. It’s only through being constantly challenged that we learn new skills (and discover skills we didn’t even know we had).

So while ever the DSA refusing to publish new test routes is a right royal pain, in the long run, we’ll all be better drivers for it. So it’s worth it.

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