I noticed that a few people have found this site using the above search term (or “what are S and D on the test report”), so I thought I’d reproduce a copy of an explanation sheet I have. When you take your test, pass or fail you get a results sheet (DL25), and on the back you also get an explanation sheet telling you what the examiner is looking for and therefore why he or she marked you as they did.
I always give out copies to – or at least run through certain sections with - my pupils.
1(a). Eyesight Test
At the start of the test the examiner asked you to read a vehicle registration number. If you required glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them whenever you drive. If you had problems with the eyesight test. you will need to consult an optician.
If you can’t read the number plate of a car the driving examiner (DE) chooses outside the test centre then you can’t take the test, i.e. you “fail” immediately.
Make sure you always adjust the:
- seat belt
So that you are comfortable and can reach all the controls. Before you start the engine make sure the doors are shut properly, the handbrake is on and the gear lever or selector is in neutral or park. If you need to restart your engine quickly, for example after a stall, you must make sure that you keep the vehicle under control.
Most DEs aren’t expecting you to play around with your seat and mirrors (i.e. go through your full ”cockpit drill”) when you get in the car outside the centre. After all, you drove there and set it all up earlier. You hear the occasional story which, if it is true, points to an over-zealous examiner who gives a driver fault for not doing it. One thing you really should do, though, is make sure your seat belt is on and check the handbrake/neutral before starting the engine – and I think it is this that those stories might be referring to. Leaving your seat belt off or lurching forward or backward if you left it in gear will likely get a “serious” fault.
This section covers the use of the accelerator, clutch, gears, foot brake, handbrake- and steering. Always try and use the vehicle controls as smoothly as possible. This means less wear and tear on your vehicle and a smoother ride for your passengers. Make proper use of the accelerator and clutch to make a smooth start. Always depress the clutch just before you stop. Select the correct gear to match the road and traffic conditions. Change gear in good time but not too soon before a hazard. Do not allow the vehicle to coast by running on in neutral or with the clutch down. There should be no need to look down at the gear lever when changing gear. Use the foot brake smoothly and progressively. Brake in plenty of time for any hazard. Make full use of the handbrake whenever it would help you to prevent the car rolling backwards or forwards if you are parking. Steer the vehicle as smoothly as possible. Avoid harsh steering, or steering too early or too late as it may cause you to hit the kerb or swing out towards another road user.
This covers your driving throughout the entire test. DEs are not looking to fail you for the slightest mistake, but persistent errors can point to a lack of driving knowledge or skill. For example, if you stall a couple of times you are unlikely to fail – but if you do it repeatedly then you probably will, because it means you can’t control the car. And if you take a look at the gearstick a few times you’ll be fine – but do it coming up to a junction and have to brake harder as a result, and the DE might justifiably consider that to be “serious”.
4. Move away
The Examiner will have asked you to move off safely and under control on the level, from behind a parked vehicle and if practicable on a hill. Remember always to use your mirrors, and signal if necessary. Just before moving away check that it is safe looking round for traffic and pedestrians in your blind spot. Move off in a controlled way making balanced use of accelerator, clutch and brakes, and steer safely. Make sure you are in the correct gear. Do not allow the vehicle to roll back.
This is dead easy. Don’t stall, don’t roll back, and look for other road users before you go. Again, DEs tend to be flexible – if you move backwards a few centimetres when moving off on a hill, but otherwise have the bite, it isn’t an automatic fail. Roll back half a metre, or floor the gas pedal in panic, and it probably will be. The same is true with looking over your shoulder – you will most get away with forgetting to look a few times if no one is there, but if there is and you miss them it is “serious”, and doing it repeatedly is also “serious”.
5. Emergency Stop
If you have to brake in an emergency remember to brake evenly and progressively and try to avoid locking the wheels. Remember that in wet weather it can take twice as long to stop safely. If you are riding a motorcycle you must make correct use of the front and rear brakes to make sure that you stop the machine as quickly as possible.
Just do it how your instructor taught you. If you don’t, you run the risk of picking up driver faults or worse. For example, your instructor taught you not to put the clutch down before the brake. If you do, you won’t stop anywhere near as quickly and you immediately haven’t met the “emergency” part of the situation.
6. Reverse to the left or right
Whenever you are reversing a vehicle, you will need to control your speed. Steer a course reasonably close to the kerb. Remember that your vehicle will swing out as you turn the corner. Avoid hitting or mounting the kerb, or steering too wide. You must take good, effective, all-round observation throughout the manoeuvre and show consideration to other road users.
Again, do it how your instructor taught you. The only thing the DE is looking for – as I tell all my pupils – is that you are in control and take effective observations. In other words, don’t hit the kerb, don’t go too wide (any more than about ¾-1 metre and you are pushing your luck), and make sure no other cars turn up without you seeing them and dealing with them.
It’s also worth pointing out that you can be asked to do a left OR a right reverse. I specifically asked my local test centre manager a couple of months ago if the right reverse was ever done, and he was absolutely clear that it is on the syllabus and can be requested if a left reverse isn’t possible for some reason. It’s actually easier than the left reverse, so make sure your instructor shows you how to do it.
7. Turn in the road
Keep a look out for traffic and pedestrians whenever you are turning your vehicle and be prepared to give way to them. Control your vehicle smoothly. Do not let the vehicle mount the pavement. Try not to touch the kerbs as this could damage your vehicle and endanger other road users and pedestrians.
Same advice as above. Be in control and take effective observations – and act appropriately on what you see.
8. Reverse parking
You must take good, effective, all-round observation and show consideration to other road users whilst parking your vehicle. Control your vehicle smoothly making proper use of the clutch, accelerator, brake and steering. Remember, as you steer your vehicle into the parking space, the front of the car will swing out. Keep a special look out for cyclists and pedestrians who may pass close to the front of your vehicle.
This can be either the parallel park or reversing into a bay in a car park. You won’t have to do both of them. Again, you must be in control and look for other road users – and act appropriately on what you see.
A lot of pupils deliberately choose a test centre which doesn’t do bay park (i.e. it has no bays to do it in), thinking that it is one less manoeuvre. If you’ve been taught properly, the bay park is probably the easiest manoeuvre of the lot.
9. Use of mirrors/rear observation
You should use your mirrors often, including exterior mirrors where necessary, and always be aware of what may be in your blind spots. Just looking is not enough. You must know what is happening all around you and act sensibly and safely on what you see. You must always check carefully before:
- changing direction
- changing speed
Use the Mirror Signal manoeuvre (MSM) routine. Do not signal or act without first using the mirrors.
The MSM routine is like a blanket that covers everything you do on the road, and DEs are usually watching like hawks to make sure you know how to use it. After all, there’s no point indicating after you have checked your mirrors and started to change lanes – you have to check first, then indicate, then carry out the manoeuvre.
10. Give appropriate signals
You must signal clearly to let others know what you intend to do. Signal:
- only using signals shown in the Highway Code
- if it would help other road users, including pedestrians
- in plenty of time
Other road users need to see and understand what you intend to do so that they can react safely. Your signals, or lack of signals, must not mislead others. Always ensure that the signal has been cancelled after the manoeuvre has been completed. Do not beckon to pedestrians to cross the road, you could put them in danger from other vehicles.
Late signalling, not signalling at all (especially on roundabouts), or leaving a signal on if it doesn’t automatically cancel catches a lot of people out.
11. Response to signs and signals
You should understand and be able to react to all traffic signs and road markings. You must act correctly at traffic lights, and check that the road is clear before proceeding when the green light shows. Obey signals given by police officers, traffic wardens and school crossing patrols. Look out for signals given by other road users, including people in charge of animals, and be ready to act accordingly.
For goodness sake, make sure you know what road signs and road markings mean – and look carefully at the whole picture, not just a small part of it. New drivers sometimes slam on the brakes when a traffic light changes to red – totally ignoring the fact that the green arrow applying to them is still on.
12. Use of speed
You should make safe, reasonable progress along the road bearing in mind the road, traffic and weather conditions and the road signs and speed limits. Make sure you can stop safely, well within the distance you can see to be clear. Do not speed. Remember that as a new driver you will lose your licence if you get more than six penalty points, and will have to retake both your theory and practical test.
Don’t go too fast, and don’t go too slow. Don’t take chances. Plan ahead.
13. Following distance
Always keep a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles. Remember, on wet or slippery roads it takes much longer to stop. When you stop in traffic queues leave sufficient space to pull out if the vehicle in front has problems.
A lot of people are caught out by getting too close to the car in front – either when driving or when stopping at lights.
14. Maintain progress
In order to pass your test you must show that you can drive at a realistic speed appropriate to the road and traffic conditions. You should be able to choose the correct speed for the:
- type of road
- type and density of traffic
- weather and visibility
You should approach all hazards as a safe, controlled speed, without being over cautious or interfering with the progress of other traffic. Always be ready to move away from Junctions as soon as it is safe and correct to do so. Driving excessively slowly can create dangers for yourself and other drivers.
I once had a pupil who was a great driver, but collapsed mentally whenever she took her test. One day, just as we were going off to her test, her mum came out to give her a pep talk: “Now don’t forget what we told you, Jane. Drive everywhere slowly”. I could have screamed. Less than 90 seconds after driving off she tried to merge with a busy 50mph dual carriageway (where most people do 60mph) at just under 30mph.
Don’t hold other people up, and don’t drive differently to the way you do on your lessons.
15. Junctions (including roundabouts)
You should be able to judge the correct speed of approach so that you can enter a junction safely and stop if necessary. Position your vehicle correctly. Use the correct lane. If you are turning right, keep as near to the centre of the road as is safe. Avoid cutting the corner when turning right. If turning left, keep over to the left and do not swing out. Watch out for cyclists and motorcyclists coming up on your left and pedestrians who are crossing. You must take effective observation before moving into a junction and make sure it is safe before proceeding.
This is self-explanatory. Speed is the learner driver’s worst enemy in these situations – if you can’t do the damned things at the best of times, why should attempting them at Mach 3 make them go any better? Think and plan ahead – and make sure you know how to handle them in the first place before you take your test.
16. Judgement when overtaking, meeting oncoming traffic, turning across traffic
Only overtake when it is safe to do so. Allow enough room when you are overtaking another vehicle. Cyclists and motorcyclists need at least as much space as other vehicles. They can wobble or swerve suddenly. Do not cut in too quickly after overtaking. Take care when the width of the road is restricted or when the road narrows. If there is an obstruction on your side or not enough room for two vehicles to pass safely, be prepared to wait and let the approaching vehicles through. When you turn right across the path of an approaching vehicle, make sure you can do so safely. Other vehicles should not have to stop, slow down or swerve to allow you to complete the turn.
Again, speed comes into this for learners. If you see a car coming towards you and there is a narrow gap that only one of you can get through, do not try and plough through – even if you technically have right of way (i.e. the obstruction is on the other side of the road). The Golden Rule to Safe Driving For Life, as far as I’m concerned, is don’t trust anyone else out there (and especially not if you’re in a car with L plates on it). Check your mirrors, slow down, and watch the other driver carefully… and remember that for most people messing this up, it isn’t that they have deliberately decided to take the other car on – just that they haven’t thought anything at all!
You should position the vehicle sensibly, normally well to the left. Keep clear of parked vehicles and position correctly for the direction that you intend to take. Where lanes are marked, keep to the middle of the lane and avoid straddling the lane markings. Do not change lanes unnecessarily.
Don’t weave all over the road, and stay in lane (unless you are deliberately changing lanes for some reason). And watch the kerb, especially on bends (and when looking at the speedometer, and when checking mirrors, and… you get the idea).
18. Clearance to obstructions
Allow plenty of room to pass stationary vehicles and be prepared to slow down or stop. A door may open, a child may run out or a vehicle may pull out without warning. Keep a safe distance from builders’ skips or other large obstructions, as you may not be able to see pedestrians or workers close to the obstruction.
Getting too close to parked cars or other obstructions at the side of the road is the problem, as is going to fast and not planning ahead.
19. Pedestrian crossings
You should be able to recognise the different types of pedestrian crossing and show courtesy and consideration towards pedestrians. At all crossings you should slow down and stop if there is anyone waiting to cross. At zebra crossings you should slow down and be prepared to stop if there is anyone waiting to cross. Give way to any pedestrian on a pelican crossing when the amber lights are flashing. You should give way to cyclists on a toucan crossing as you would to
You’ll have been taught how to handle crossings. Look out for pedestrians and don’t go too fast to give yourself time to think and act.
20. Position for normal stops
Choose a safe, legal and convenient place to stop, close to the edge of the road, where you will not obstruct the road and create a hazard. You should know how and where to stop without causing danger to other road users.
Don’t stop a mile away from the kerb (any more than about 40cm and you’re really pushing it), and don’t hit it. Stop in a sensible place.
21. Awareness and planning
You must be aware of other road users at all times. You should always think and plan ahead so that you can:
- judge what other road users are going to do
- predict how their actions will affect you
- react in good time
Take particular care to consider the actions of the more vulnerable groups of road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. Anticipate road and traffic conditions, and act in good time, rather than reacting to them at the last moment.
Think ahead all the time, and don’t take risks – especially with pedestrians or other vulnerable road users.
22. Ancillary controls
You should understand the function of all the controls and switches, especially those that have a bearing on road safety.
- windscreen wipers
You should be able to find these controls and operate them correctly when necessary, without looking down.
Another blanket one. If it rains, make sure you know how to use the wipers and washers. If it’s cold, make sure you know how to demist the windows inside. If it gets dark, make sure you know how (and when) to turn on the lights.
So how does the examiner mark you? If you look at the driving test report itself, you can see columns with “S” and “D” over them – that’s for “serious” and “dangerous” faults, and you are not allowed to get any of those (you’ll notice that the eyesight check only has a box under “S”).
You can get up to 15 driver faults (often called “minors”) and still pass – but you need to understand that there is no way any DE is going to let someone get all 15 in a single category. So if you stall the car once, for example, you might get a single driver fault. Do it two or three times and you are sailing close to the wind. Do it more than that and it will more than likely become “serious”. And it is also quite possible to stall once – but do it in the wrong time and place, or react to it incorrectly – and end up with a “serious” or “dangerous” fault.
What is the difference between a driver fault, a “serious” fault, and a “dangerous” fault? There’s no definitive answer, but an example would be moving away safely: if you don’t check over your right shoulder and no one is there (and you only do it once), that might be a driver fault. If you don’t do it and someone is coming (or do it repeatedly), that would be “serious”. And if you don’t do it but whoever is coming is close enough for you to cause a problem, that would be “dangerous”.
It is amazing how many people go to test without knowing the basics, and yet are fully clued up on how many faults they can get away with!
Don’t rush going to test. Failing is not nice. Passing first time is – and it gives you great street cred!