With long delays for learner drivers looking to book driving tests - as a result of backlogs stemming from the pandemic and industrial action carried out by examiners - motoring journalist and expert Pete Barden looks at what day of the week, and what time specifically, new driving test slots are released to help learners get the best chance of booking one at the earliest opportunity.
What day and time are driving tests released? (Credit: gdsteam)
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The DVSA says new driving test slots are released on a Monday - for the following 24-week period. Availability varies between test centres so it advises candidates to keep looking regularly for a suitable date and time. Widening to other test centres can improve your chance of getting an earlier test date.
Confirming the Monday morning release date on 4 October, a spokesperson for the DVSA said: "If we have availability for the next 24 week window these will be on the system ready to book on a Monday, however please note it is a live booking system so cancellations can appear at any time."
The DVSA has previously also said: “Availability varies between test centres so we advise you to keep looking regularly for a suitable date and time,”
The agency added: “You may want to widen your search to other test centres.”
You'll need to be up early to take advantage of the new driving test slots being released on a Monday morning each week, a spokesperson for the DVSA told Pete Barden Motoring News: "We tend to release dates first thing in the morning. I would advise you to check from 6am when our online system opens."
So start checking from 6am on a Monday if you want to grab a slot within the following 24-week period.
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Learner drivers are having to wait much longer to get a driving test slot than in the past - with waiting times for test dates anything from two to six months depending on where you live in the UK.
As at 16 October 2023, the current national average car driving test waiting time has been set at 18.8 weeks, according to the DVSA.
There are three main reasons for the delays. Firstly, the DVSA has said an increase in forecast demand has been caused by a stronger than expected economy, which has put more candidates into the market - therefore adding increased pressure to the system and pushing up waiting time.
Additionally, the driving examiners' industrial action across many months earlier this year saw many tests cancelled, pushing those candidates back into the booking system and, in turn, pushing up wait times even further. At the moment there is no new industrial action planned by the examiners, so this should see some pressure taken off the system which should translate into reduced waiting times for tests.
Finally, the DVSA says low confidence in the driving test booking system by learner drivers has also led to increased delays. This is because many new drivers are not confident in securing a driving test, so are booking on as soon as they have passed their theory test - before many have even sat behind the wheel of a car. In the past, pupils would take driving lessons for around six to eight weeks and only book a test appointment when the instructor considered them ready. Now they book early and are often not ready when the test comes around, so either cancel late or fail the test - pushing them back into the system and, again, increasing waiting time for a driving test slot.
Don't expect the situation to ease any time soon, with the DVSA predicting that extended delays will continue well into 2024.
Are driving examiners planning any new strikes?
At the moment there are no planned strikes by driving examiners, but this could change. We will keep this page updated regarding potential industrial action by examiners.
Are theory tests being cancelled because of industrial action?
No. The industrial action behind strikes is not affecting theory tests, so candidates should be ready to take this test as normal, or they could lose their fee.
The theory test can be booked online here. It is important to book through the official Gov.UK site or you could pay more than you need to.
When making the booking, you will need the following information to hand:
- UK driving licence number
- email address
- credit or debit card
To take one of these exams for a car, you will need to have resided in England, Wales or Scotland for a minimum of 185 days in the past 12 months before the day you sit the theory or practical exam.
The charge for car and motor bike candidates is £23 and must be paid at time of booking the examination.
No. The examinations are held on site in an approved centre. Currently, it is up to you if you want to wear a mask if in England. However, with the pandemic still seeing new variants of concern evolving, the advice may change at short notice so always check the latest status before heading to the centre.
Are practical driving tests being cancelled?
No. Official centres are currently working seven days a week, with out of hours examinations also being offered. However, with reports of 450,000 - 500,000 examinations having been cancelled during Covid-related lockdowns there are inevitably long delays in booking the practical assessment.
What is being done about third-party booking sites buying up test slots?
Loveday Ryder of the DVSA also spoke out about third-party booking sites using 'bots' to scrape test centre websites to buy up slots as they become available, then sell them on at inflated prices - or even let them go to waste.
She confirmed that new anti-bot systems have been introduced to tackle this issue and help free up more tests for those who've previously had them cancelled or want to book a new one.
If you already have a practical test booked, you can attempt to swap it for an earlier cancellation by checking out the official Government site.
To use this service, log on to the Gov.UK site here.
How likely are driving tests to be cancelled?
While many were cancelled due to industrial action by driving examiners in the first months of 2023, there is no action currently planned for June or coming months. However, this could change if unions decide to announce more strikes. Pete Barden Motoring News will keep this section updated.
Cancellation time limit for driving tests could be changing
The DVSA is proposing that the driving test candidates must cancel their test at least ten days before the appointment if they want to avoid losing their fee. The current time limit is three working days. You can cancel your driving test here.
Making this change, the DVSA believes, would allow more cancelled tests to be taken by another driver and help reduce the waiting list by making up to 117,000 driving tests available each year. These figures are based on cancellations seen between April and December in 2021.
The agency said: "We’re proposing that people would need to move or cancel their car driving test at least 10 full working days before the appointment to avoid losing their test fee, rather than the current 3 full working days."
You can find all contact details for the DVSA here.
READ MORE: WHEN CAN I APPLY FOR MY PROVISIONAL LICENCE?
Candidates must take:
- their UK driving licence
- their theory test pass certificate, if you have it.
Are more men or women passing their driving test - and are pass rates going up (cars)?
|Metric and time period||Total||Female||Male|
|Tests Conducted: Jul to Sep 2022||412,714||197,547||215,069|
|Tests Passed: Jul to Sep 2022||200,966||92,325||108,606|
|Pass Rate (%): Jul to Sep 2022||48.7%||46.7%||50.5%|
|Tests Conducted (%): Annual change||+2.8%||+0.5%||+5.0%|
|Tests Passed (%): Annual change||+0.9%||-1.0%||+2.6%|
|Pass Rate (percentage points): Annual change||-0.9||-0.7||-1.2|
Have you ever wondered if there preferable month to take a practical driving test - giving you more chance of passing? The following data can help add some insight. Summer months would appear to be provide more passes by percentage, but look out for anomalies caused by the pandemic.
|Month||Tests Conducted||Tests Passed||Pass rate (Percentage)|
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