S is for Sitting in on tests


When you take your practical driving test, you will be asked if you would like your instructor to sit in the back of the car during your assessment. It’s entirely your choice but Inclusive Driving recently attended a presentation by the DVSA (the organisation that conducts the test) and they actively encourage allowing your instructor to observe your test.

Driving test examiner sitting in a car with a learner

The key points from the presentation were that it benefits the learner and the instructor. This helps you improve your driving whether you pass or fail. It also helps the instructor to improve, thereby benefiting future learners.

  • Disappointingly low number of ADIs accompanying tests
  • ADIs accompanying tests will conduct more realistic mock tests.
  • They will see how an examiner gives directions and instructions.
  • Seeing assessment first hand, as opposed to fault marking, will improve their own level of recording faults
  • ADIs will see how pupils are performing under pressure and give better feedback/development even on successful tests
  • Consistent areas of weakness will be highlighted more readily to allow self-reflection and better personal development to improve instruction in those subject areas
  • ADIs should sell the benefit of being on the test to reluctant pupils. Further development needs are likely in most cases

While it is always the learner’s choice, I also encourage “sitting in”, and for the majority of tests, I do so. So when the examiner says, “would you like your instructor to accompany you on test”, there’s a good reason to say, “YES”.

There are a few strict rules that have to be followed during an observed test; to ensure that I don’t influence your driving in any way that might be seen as cheating:

Who can observe driving tests

You can observe a driving test if you’re 16 or over, but you can’t take any part in the test.

There are different rules for filming or recording a driving test.

Before the test starts

Turn your phone off or make sure it’s switched to silent.

‘Tell me’ vehicle safety question

You can help the candidate to lift the bonnet if they’re struggling, but don’t interfere unnecessarily.

Where you sit

It’s usually least intrusive to sit behind the candidate, However, the best position is wherever it’s the most comfortable, providing you can sit upright with the seatbelt correctly fitted.

During the test

When the test has started, you can:

  • take notes to help the candidate
  • change position to improve the candidate’s visibility during the reverse exercises


  • answer your phone
  • prompt the candidate by coughing or nudging the back of their seat
  • nod enthusiastically or make excessive eye contact with the candidate – it can be seen as a pre-arranged code

The test won’t be stopped if you naturally look left, right and behind you – but try not to put the candidate off.

At the end of the test

Listen carefully to the feedback so that you can give the candidate more detailed feedback later.

Speak to the test centre manager or follow the complaints procedure if you’ve genuine concerns about how the test was conducted.

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