A Driving Instructor's Blog

This article was originally published in February 2014. Updated in 2015 and again in November 2016.


I get frequent hits on the blog from people looking for test route information. Test routes are no longer published for Nottingham, or anywhere else – they stopped publishing them in 2010!

If you’re an instructor, it isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go. To begin with, anywhere near the test centre is bound to be on most of the routes. If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time as you conduct your lessons, so you can add that location to your memory bank. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests – some of them will be able to give you some details, though many won’t. If they fail their test, find out where the mistakes occurred – the examiner will be more than happy to tell you – and if it crops up more than once, modify your lesson structure and deal with it going forward. Finally, if you’re desperate to know the exact routes you can sit in on tests and learn that way (if you know what you’re doing you can even log the routes for reference).A logged driving route example

Just conducting your lessons on test routes is rather foolish. Apart from the fact that you’re cheating your pupils by not teaching them to drive properly, examiners can change routes or mix and match from several routes any time they need to (i.e. because of wrong turns, road works, traffic jams, and so on). Pupils who try to memorise test routes are far more likely to fail because they’re prioritising the wrong things – worrying about forgetting the route instead of thinking about driving properly. Considering that there are dozens of official routes at any large test centre, it would require a considerable feat of memory to store all of them, and then to be able to recall just one as needed.

Another consideration is that, based on my own experience, many pupils even have difficulty recognising a single street that they may have driven with me a hundred times before. Memorising 20 or more complete routes is nigh on impossible for them.

Having said that, it is important for an ADI to have some knowledge of the test routes so that special features can be covered. Every town or test centre has these – the tricky roundabout with the one-way street and No Entry sign, the unusually steep hill that can only be negotiated in second gear (and which may require a hill start if some jackass in a van doesn’t give way coming down it), the STOP junction immediately after an emerge on to a busy road with a bend, and so on. It doesn’t matter how good someone is at dealing with roundabouts, if they come face to face with ones like the Nottingham Knight or Nuthall roundabouts up my way, without prior practice there’s a high probability they’ll get it wrong, and you don’t want their very first practical experience of either of these to be on their driving test.

I remember when I first became an ADI, and religiously downloading all the published routes at that time. The documents consisted of tables of directions which were cryptic unless you knew roads by name and/or number, and I made a single half-hearted attempt to plot a route before giving up. I simply didn’t have the time, and I realised it was pointless anyway. These days, I’d probably be able to interpret the route plans quite easily, but since those first few weeks I have never bothered. My pupils get to drive all over – sometimes on route roads, sometimes not.

If nothing else, hanging around test areas means you end up having to put up with dozens of other ADIs getting in your way. My own experience suggests these consist mainly of those with “special offers” plastered all over their cars, who appear to have little social awareness, and who will happily try to “steal” a corner while you’re in the middle of a reverse manoeuvre. They’ll park within a few metres of you when you’re about to do a turn in the road, and they’ll enter the car park you’re in preparing to bay park and get so close as to prevent you from doing it. Basically, idiots, and although I never let them get away with it, I also do my best to avoid them.

Apart from a handful of “special features” as I have mentioned near each test centre, if a pupil can drive then they will be able to pass wherever they take their test. Unfortunately, just hanging around test routes is often good for fuel economy, and many of the “cheapos” prioritise accordingly.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t. Not unless some ADI has recorded them and is publishing them independently.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no, as it is a waste of money. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if some smart aleck has recorded them and is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is behaving in an unprofessional manner. If you buy into that then you’re not much better.

A desire to obtain detailed test routes for use on lessons is primarily a trait of the newly-qualified ADI (been there, done that, gave up on it very quickly without ever putting it into practice). Trust me: don’t waste your money.

Is it possible to record test routes?

Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same. I use a tracker and I know where every pupil goes on their test (and I can see where they are while I’m at the test centre, so I know when they are coming back). This is purely for my own information, and publishing my logged routes would be completely against DVSA’s original reason for stopping publication. If it wasn’t already apparent from the rest of this blog, I have absolutely no inclination or desire to go against DVSA.

What is interesting from my logged routes is how they change over time. Sometimes, tests follow precisely the same route as previous ones, but other times new sub-sections of route are added. And knowing where a pupil went on their specific test is useful if they fail and you need to identify exactly what went wrong, and where.

How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?

You don’t – and they’re probably not. They might even be totally imaginary, or simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes in order that the unprofessional person selling them has some justification for the price they charged you. They may just be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010 and which are probably out of date. And as I said above, routes change with time.

Do I need to know the test routes for my test?

No. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – then your instructor should know about them and should make sure you know how to handle them.

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them – and to be honest, even if you drove down your own street on your test the chances are that you might not notice! You will be nervous, and you will be concentrating. The last thing you want is to have to try and remember a detailed list of directions, then to start fretting if you think you might have forgotten something.

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