A Driving Instructor's Blog

This article was originally published in February 2014, but I have seen a discussion on a forum on the subject, so I have updated it.


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, find out where – 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 all of them 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?

It’s up to you. My advice would be no, as it is a waste of money. In any case, the 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 hardly behaving in a professional manner. By buying into their scheme, you’re also taking a few steps along the same downward path.

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

There’s the rub. You don’t – and they’re probably not. They might be totally imaginary. They may be just crude, made-up ones from someone who sees a way of offsetting his silly lesson prices by making a few bob on the side after having sat in on a couple of tests. They may be ones which the seller has diligently recorded by sitting in on many tests. Or they may be the original DVSA ones that they stopped publishing in 2010 and which are quite possibly out of date.

For example, since 2010-ish, Nottingham has had two small centres close down (Gedling and West Bridgford), and an MPTC open up (Colwick). Another centre (Chalfont Drive) moved (via Watnall) and finally settled in a new location (Beeston). Two satellite centres have opened (Clifton and Clarendon Street Trent University campuses), and the latest news is that Clarendon Street is closing as of late August 2014, and moving to Watnall again as of mid-September. We have tram works and road “improvements” coming out of Nottingham City Council’s backside. The original test routes for Nottingham, for one, are definitely not worth the paper they will inevitably be printed on, and I would imagine this applies in many other areas.

Even if the ones you bought are halfway close to being accurate, examiners are not forced to stick to them – especially given the variable nature of road works and rush hour traffic. If you pay for these routes, you’ll just be wasting your money if you want anything above and beyond what you could find out for yourself in a few days for nothing.

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

No, not in great detail. The examiner will give you directions as necessary. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – then your instructor should know about them and will 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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