Learning to drive: Charlotte's story, part 2

L-plate on back of car.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 29 September 2023

In part 2 of Charlotte's story, she talks about driving at roundabouts. There's also some great advice about where and how to revise for the theory test.

As my lessons continued, my driving instructor, Angie, took me to a few other areas to help me practise my driving on different roads, with new hazards to look out for. I tackled traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, which really tested my clutch control and I stalled a few times!

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I was nervous about roundabouts, and, on my 7th lesson, the time came to take them on. We went to an out-of-town industrial estate at 9am on a Saturday, so the roads were initially quiet. I practised and, to my great surprise, I did not struggle too much. That’s not to say I find roundabouts easy. It’s daunting sitting at the front of the queue to join busier ones and there’s a lot to think about when negotiating them, but now I have learnt the basic driving skills and can put them into action, roundabouts are not as scary as they first seemed.

We also talked through the different types of pedestrian crossings, including how to identify each one and how they operate, which will help with my independent driving and hazard perception skills.

Then, at the end of this 7th lesson, Angie asked if I’d like to drive myself home. A few weeks ago, this prospect would’ve terrified me, but I now felt confident enough to give it a go. The 20-minute drive went well, I had to overtake a bus and a cyclist on the way and cross a notorious local roundabout, so I was happy when we reached home safely!

The theory test

I booked my theory test (through GOV.UK) test 3 weeks in advance, and took it the day before my 8th driving lesson. Just some quick information about the test itself: it’s split into two parts, the multiple choice section and the hazard perception section.

For the multiple choice section, you get 57 minutes to answer 50 questions on all aspects of driving, and for the hazard perception section, you watch 14 short videos from a driver’s perspective and must click on the screen when you spot a hazard that would cause the driver to react by changing speed or direction. You’re scored from 5/5 to 0/5 depending on when you spot and react to the developing hazard.

My test was on a Friday, so I spent every night after work that week revising– it was like being back at school! I’d recommend taking any quick online test to see what your learning style is, as this will give you a good idea of how to approach learning the material for the test.

I knew that my learning style was ‘visual’, which means I learn best when I can see and read information in front of me. I’d already got halfway through The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills book, so I finished reading through that. I found it extremely useful, as it covers all of the different aspects of driving in detail, with handy diagrams and illustrative pictures. My copy is all marked up with notes and highlights to help me remember all of the information in there.

I also used DVSA eLearning apps to practise all of the multiple choice questions and to take mock tests. That gave me a great breakdown of which subject areas I needed to improve on – road and traffic signs, hazard awareness and rules of the road. With this in mind, I focused my revision on reading The Highway Code, learning traffic signs and practising lots of hazard perception clips. I’m glad I did loads of practice for the hazard perception section, because I found this part of the theory test really challenging.

At the test centre, I sat at a small desk with a computer screen and mouse, and put on the headphones to get me focused for the test. I completed the multiple choice section questions in around 20 minutes, so I used the leftover time to go over the section again thoroughly, making sure I’d read the questions properly and was confident of my answers. The test lets you ‘flag’ questions, so I flagged a few tricky ones that I was not so sure on and came back to review them at the end.

Once the multiple choice part is over, you get 3 minutes to prepare yourself for the next section – hazard perception. In all honesty, I found this section quite stressful, as you must really concentrate on spotting the hazards and click at just the right time to get 5/5 points for each one. One of the 14 clips has 2 hazards to look out for, so you have to pay close attention or risk missing out on 5 additional points.

I scored zero on one clip for clicking too many times, which made me really worried that I’d ruined my chances of passing – I was kicking myself over this when I came out of the test room. I collected my belongings from the locker and went out of the test centre to open the letter they’d given me after my test. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I read that I had passed – with 49/50 on the multiple choice questions and 60/75 on the hazard perception clips!

The day after my theory test, I drove off from my house and Angie guided me around a few busier roads in and about the city to build my confidence. I actually found that a lot of my theory test revision really helped me to notice potential hazards and made me more aware of not only my own driving but other people’s too.

Now that my theory test is done, I can start to focus on booking and then working towards taking the practical test. In the next few lessons, I’ll be driving on dual carriageways for the first time and attempting the 4 reversing manoeuvres.

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