The Driving Test. 1975 style

Examiner enters waiting room and puts clip board down on the table, calls out the candidate's name.

"Mrs Jones?" "Would you sign against your name, please?"

"May I see your driving licence please?"

"Would you lead the way to your car"

"Whereabouts is your car?"
This is to avoid asking the candidate to read the number of their own car. Candidate points out her car, in New Road just ahead of us, on the other side.

"Would you stop here a moment? Would you read the registration number of the car directly ahead of us, please?" "Thank you, lead the way to your car"

"Would you get in please?"

Examiner notes registration number of candidate's car and it's year of registration on the DL25 marking sheet, and name of the Driving School, if any.

Examiner gets in, notes category of car, which will be either "A" (manual transmission) or "B" (Automatic transmission). This one is an "A".

"I'd like you to follow the road ahead, unless the traffic signs direct you otherwise, or unless I ask you to turn, which I'll do in good time. Thank you, move off when you are ready"

Candidate starts engine after checking gear lever for neutral, looks round and after waiting for a car to come past from the rear, applies right indicator and moves smoothly off in 1st gear. The indicator is un-necessary but is not marked unless it causes confusion.

Examiner decides to use route 2 and notes this on the DL25. We are at Seven Kings (Ilford) test centre, and this is the 11.30 test, and it is 1976, 36 years ago at time of writing.

"At the end of the road, turn left, please" This is New Road into Green Lane.

Candidate checks mirror, brakes smoothly towards the give way line, taking observation of the junction. It is all clear both ways, does not completely stop but turns in 2nd gear into Green Lane, accelerates away smoothly. Zebra crossing ahead, split into two, both sides busy with pedestrians. Candidate uses mirror and brakes then goes down to 2nd gear and stops at the give way line. Crossing clear now, checks mirror and moves off, reaches 4th gear on main road, all clear ahead. Several minor crossroads, all given a quick observation by the candidate.

Through the staggered junction of Goodmayes Road/Goodmayes Lane, both of which are on Give Ways, using reasonable care and observations, down to 3rd gear for this. "Take the next road on the left please", this is into Mayfield Road. "Would you pull up along here on the left please." This is for the emergency stop instructions, and the place for pulling up is specified quite distinctly to avoid the candidate going on and on to find a "suitable" place, which would probably mean the Emergency Stop could not be performed in what was left of the road. It is always the first exercise done, to get it out of the way because the candidate is usually apprehensive about this. Planned into the route is approximately seven or eight minutes of uneventful driving, before this exercise, to give the candidate time to settle down.

"Very shortly I shall ask you to stop as in an emergency. The signal will be like this," Bangs soft exercise book on windscreen. Not too hard as it has been known for the windscreen to pop out! "When I do that, stop immediately and under full control, as though a child had run off the pavement. Drive on when you are ready please."

The candidate moves off taking proper observations and with good control. No signal given and none needed. Reaches around 25mph and just going into 3rd gear. I see it appears to be clear behind using instructor's mirror, but look round to confirm, turn back to face the front and gently bang the windscreen with my soft note book and say loudly "STOP"! Candidate reacts immediately and brakes to a standstill. Applies handbrake just before properly stopped. Driver error marked. "Thank you, I won't ask you to carry out that exercise again". This is said to avoid unwanted repeat of the exercise due to a misunderstanding, perhaps with following traffic! "Drive on when you are ready".

"Take the next road on the right, please".
This is into Valence Avenue. It is a dual carriageway and sometimes a candidate will try to turn into the first carriageway, when of course it should be the second carriageway. There is no other way to give this instruction here. It is certainly not the second road and we are not allowed to help the candidate by identifying it as a dual carriageway. Recognising it as such is what they are on test for.

"Take the next road on the right please". This is into Green Lane. Candidate checks mirror, applies signal and moves into offside position then in to dedicated right turn lane at the traffic lights ahead, showing red, stops correctly at the stop line, applies handbrake and then into neutral gear. Lights change through amber to green and candidate goes to move off but stalls. Goes through complete moving off procedure, further inconveniencing a car that is behind us. In view of apparent standard so far, I am going to hold that error, though training told us that if another road user was inconvenienced, it was to be marked as serious, and when it happened, not later. However if the standard was upheld to the end, I would not use it on its own to fail someone.

Correctly positioned through the slight double bend into shopping area, speed correct at 25mph. Pedestrian waiting on nearside kerb edge at Zebra crossing. Candidate checks mirror, there is a car behind, goes up to the give way line for the crossing and waits for pedestrian to reach offside kerb, then moves off normally.

Going through busy shopping area, parked up both sides and many pedestrians on pavements. Speed around 20mph which is ok. Adequate clearance from parked vehicles. "Take the next road on the left please". This is into Colinton Road. Parked up to junction both sides. Entry cautious and well positioned. Nothing oncoming. Round 90 degree bend to right and "At the end of the road turn left". This is into Hazeldene Road. Round 90 degree bend to the right into Abbotsford Road, ahead over minor crossroads with Aberdour Road which is on Give Ways to our road. Turns head slightly to observe side roads and "At the end of the road turn left, please". This is into main road Goodmayes Lane. Turn negotiated successfully with due observations and control.

"Take the second road on the left please, this one is the first". This instruction was given just before passing Meldrum Road and was for turning into Mayesbrook Road. This is a very narrow side road at first. Entry speed was too high, fortunately nothing oncoming, driver error marked. "Take the next road to the left, please". This was into Aberdour Road, then immediately, "just before you get to the next road on the left, would you pull up on the left, please". This is to enable giving the Corner Reverse instructions. We always pull up before the road to avoid an accident situation developing because candidates invariably applied a left indicator before pulling up at the kerbside. If pulling up just past the road, with a left indicator showing, and a car at that moment came up to the Give Way in the side road, they would think we were actually turning left and would pull out across our front. An accident would be almost inevitable. We were now pulled up just before the other end of Meldrum Road.

"This road on the left is the one I would like you to reverse into. Go past it and stop, then reverse into the side road for some distance, keeping reasonably close to the kerb. When you are ready then". Candidate reverses slowly and under control up to the bend in the kerb, then applies steering a bit late and too much, trying to compensate, resulting in a wide turn and hitting the kerb with the nearside rear wheel. Candidate then applied more accelerator and actually climbed up on to the kerb before stopping. She then pulled forward and reversed, correcting the error. With one serious already being held, this was marked immediately, and so was the one for stalling earlier in the route." Thank you, drive on when you are ready please, and at the end of the road turn left". This was, of course into Aberdour Road again.

After going ahead at the Give Way at the crossroads with Abbotsford Road, "Would you pull up along here on the left, please". Specific place being indicated because we were now going to do the Turn in the Road, which required the other side to be clear also.

"I would like you to turn your car round to face the opposite way, using forward and reverse gears. Try not to touch the kerbs when you are turning". Candidate completed the manoeuvre successfully, under control and with proper observation. "Thank you, drive on when you are ready. Would you pull up on the left along here please". This was for the "Move off at an Angle", one of the statutory exercises. "Thank you, drive on when you are ready. Take the next road on the right". This was into Goodmayes Lane again.

"At the end of the road turn left, please". This was into Green Lane. All correctly done. "Take the next road on the right, please". This is into Granton Road. "Take the next road on the left, please". Into Felbrigge Road. Through the minor crossroads with Gartmore Road, correctly observed. "At the end of the toad turn right, please". This is into Seven Kings Road. Now at the end of the road we need to turn left, but no instruction is given as it is "Left turn only" with correct advance warning signs and a "Turn Left" arrow facing us at the give way line, with no break in the centre of the dual carriageway there. Candidate stops at the give way line and after a slight pause asks me which way to go. I tell her about the signs and that it is up to her to act accordingly. This is a "verbal intervention" and is marked6 as serious under traffic signs.

"Take the next road on the left please". This is New Road and is back at the Test Centre. "Would you pull up on the left at a convenient place, please? Thank you. Switch off the engine please".

"I would like to put a few questions on the Highway Code, and other motoring matters". Firstly the candidate is shown a few signs to identify, from a loose leaf book, then about half a dozen verbal questions, some of which can be related to what showed up as a possible weakness during the drive.

"That's the end of the test and I am sorry you haven't passed, but your driving hasn't reached the required standard. If you will give me a few moments I will help you by marking the points to which you should give special attention". Serious markings are transferred to the "Statement of Failure" form DL24, which is a large A4 size sheet printed in red, which is handed to the candidate, together with another application form and a booklet (called the DL68) "Help in passing your Driving Test". The candidate does not get a copy of the DL25 Driving Test report.

That is the test as it was in 1975. Is the current test better? Well, I think not, it has been made more stressful. The current test can vary enormously from candidate to candidate. The examiner may or may not include the Emergency Stop, might do the Bay Park or the Reverse Park, and this might be the first thing the candidate does, before even going out on the road, or it might be anywhere on the route. Uniformity used to be the rule - no more. Since the Theory Test came in, you can pass your test without even looking at the Highway Code.

The 1975 test was designed to see if people were safe to drive on their own, to begin the process of learning to become proper drivers. What the current test has done is merely to move some of these things that were learned afterwards, into the test curriculum, such as the reverse park, bay park,and other things. The marking system has been changed so that the examiner largely works with a long list of serious faults, around 200 actually, which he/she marks by rote. If they happen, they are marked, and 16 driver errors and that is a failure.

Tests habitually come in now with just the one serious fault marked, and a handful of driver errors (minors) something which would almost never happen in 1975. The official feeling then being that unless really serious, in which case it should be marked with a "D" for actual danger, it was so near to a pass that this should be granted. This was the basis for the first serious mark being held to see what developed. Although examiners were trained to mark immediately and not hold anything, this soon went out the window. It was quite a shock to arrive at the end of the test with just a solitary "X" staring up at you from the DL25, which would have to be justified in the write up on the test.

Hope you found this bit of reminiscence interesting.

As it happens, for the very latest and best advice on passing the current Theory Test, by a talented writer who has just done it (my daughter) click the link below.

If you would like to go to a site that has everything you could possibly need to know about the current driving test, and more, go to

David Joberns IAM. DSA Driving Examiner (retired).

Advice on how to pass the Theory Test