The new UK driving test in 2018

  • British driving test changed dramatically in December 2017
  • New UK drivers face new instructions, challenges and standards
  • Using a sat-nav becomes part of the route to a new licence

On 4 December 2017, the UK driving test underwent significant changes. The overall structure of the examination has been overhauled in order to reflect the way that drivers interact with their cars – and traffic – in today's driving conditions.

The big difference facing anyone taking their test now is that there are fewer traditional driving and parking manoeuvres – and more independent driving. Driving under instruction of the new test lasts around 20 minutes.

What about using a sat-nav on the driving test?

The 2018 driving test will see candidates following instruction from a sat-nav.

This is the headline grabber for the updated driving test. Candidates drive without directions from the driving examiner, and instead will follow directions from a sat-nav. But this is not the case with everyone – one-in-five won't be directed by sat-nav.

What other changes are there in the new driving test?

The traditional reversing around a corner and the old three-point turn have been ditched. Instead, candidates will be asked to do one of three manoeuvres during the test – parallel park at the side of the road, park in a bay (either driving in forwards or reversing), or to pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for two car lengths and rejoin the traffic.

In addition, candidates will need to answer a couple of vehicle safety questions while driving. These are in the form of ‘show me, tell me’ questions, such as, 'tell me how you know the power steering is working’ or ‘show me how to wash your windscreen.’

What else you need to know about the 2018 driving test

The pass standard, duration of the test and costs are unchanged, so candidates will still fail if they make more than 15 minor driving faults and/or a serious or dangerous fault. The examiner marks the test in the same way, and the same things still count as faults. The overall time the driving test takes remains at about 40 minutes.

What happened when Parkers took the 2018 driving test

The idea that we're all going to be sat-navved on our driving test might sound like another step down the road towards over-reliance on technology to older readers, but there is a great reason why this is being introduced.

This move is a reflection of how driving is changing – we pretty much all use sat-nav in daily lives – and the test should continue to evolve to reflect this. The big question is: does it make the test easier to pass?

Thanks to IAM Roadsmart, now we know. Parkers Editor, Keith Adams strapped himself into a Citroen C3, and underwent the new test alongside experienced IAM instructor Richard Gladman.

What's it like in the hot seat?

Parkers recommends that all drivers should keep up to date with their driver training, and undertaking a driving test is a great way of reminding any driver, no matter what their experience is, that bad habits are easily picked up – and more difficult to lose.

Citroen C3 and Parkers on the 2018 driving test

The test itself starts off normally, with an explanation of what's about to happen, followed by the drive away, and the parking manoeuvres detailed above. Once you're into the test, the examiner pulls you over, and explains that it's time to switch over to sat-nav for the next segment of the test.

Keith said: 'this part of the test actually feels much more natural than expected. Despite it being 30 years since I passed my test, the pressure was intense, so anything that alleviates this, and allows you to focus on your driving is a good thing, surely?'

Richard added: 'Passing the driving test should just be the start of it. We recommend continous driver instruction, and anything that makes the roads safer is a very good thing. We like the new format, it's a reflection of modern driving, and as you found, it's still a challenging driving test.' 

So, is the sat-nav driving test better than before?

The conclusion is a simple one to reach: the test is no easier or harder than before. It's all down to the driver's ability, and how they react to the traffic around them – if you're prepared for the test, how you take your driving instructions shouldn't make a difference.

The new UK driving test in 2018