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Learning to drive

How to book the right practical driving test slot for you

Short answer: you go through the GOV.UK practical test booking wizard. But that's the easy bit.

The tricky part is being strategic with your booking. I'm going to tell you some secrets to help you book the test that's going to give you the best chance of passing.

Yes, you should be able to drive competently at any hour, in any situation. But let's face it: you're already shaking like a leaf and hyperventilating - why make it any tougher?

  1. Book the time that's best for success

  2. Not best because you'll get a lie in and miss Business Studies. Best because there'll be less traffic, or more traffic and therefore an easier test route.

    When I booked my first test, I made the mistake of choosing a time that I thought would let me get plenty of sleep, have a leisurely breakfast and get in an hour's practice before hand. Those things are important, sure, but I didn't once consider how the time would affect my actual test.

    Although it can vary from centre to centre, the driving test times are usually: 08.10, 09.07, 10.14, 11.11, 12.38, 13.35 and 14.32. I can't tell you the best time for taking the driving test, but I can give you some pointers to apply to your own area.

    12 (1) 12 (8)

    8.10 / 9.07:

    There will be a lot of traffic.

    That's bad if the only route is through the town centre and you're not too hot on clutch control, but good if it means your examiner is likely to take you on an easier route, outside of the centre.

    Not to help you out, you understand - to make sure you don't get stuck in traffic, which doesn't show how you really drive and risks them getting off schedule.

    12 (3) 12 (4)

    10.14 / 11.11:

    Nice and quiet in town - good if you know you'll be taking a central route but bad if you'd rather avoid the town centre.

    Your driving instructor is going to know things like this, so ask them before you book your test slot - it's no good picking the nearest one if it's going to throw you on the day.

    Driving test times


    Lots of traffic again, as everyone rushes off to get their M&S lunch deal and pop into New Look.

    12 (5)


    Lunch time traffic easing off - so it could be quiet enough for your examiner to take you into town but still quite busy.

    12 (6)


    Less traffic, so if you're nervous about that one-way system in the middle of town, avoid.

    I've done tests at 9.07, 12.38 and 14.32. The 9.07 and 12.38 were undoubtedly the easiest because I was taken on a route outside of the centre, away from the MADNESS that is a large town at rush hour and lunch time.

  3. Failed? Here's how to get a test slot within a few weeks

    It is SUCH a bummer to fail your test and then find out the next test slot is in 2 months. It's worse than the fail. Having lived this a few times now, I have some advice:

    1. Book the closest slot in the list that you'd be OK with (you might get stuck with it so don't just pick the earliest if it's no good for you time-wise)
    2. Go to the Change the date of your practical driving test wizard on GOV.UK - you'll need your driving licence number and test slot booking ref, which you'll find in your booking confirmation email
    3. Check the list of available dates - and refresh until the cows come home
    4. You can exit the wizard without changing your time if there's nothing suitable

    I've found the best time to do this is about 7pm. I came across the tip in a student forum and tested it out that night - and guess what? Nailed it. It's not uncommon to book a retest for 6 weeks' time but then land a new slot in 2 weeks. So, if you just failed - do not despair. It's fixable.

    If you're taking your phone with you to your test (switched off!), as long as you have a bank card with you, you can book another go straight away if you fail. You just have to wait 1 hour after your test start time - then gogogo!

    Remember: you can't book a slot closer than 2 weeks from your last test. Make sure you're giving yourself enough time to work on any feedback from your examiner too.

Rebooking after a fail? Here's how to get over failing your driving test.