As driving instructors, this is probably the question that we get asked the most, and, in all honesty, it is one of the hardest questions to answer. Contrary to popular belief, there is no law, or legislation in place setting a minimum amount of hours that is necessary, so there is no black and white answer. The honest answer is that it varies massively from pupil to pupil, but there are a lot of factors that can have an effect, and I will try to address some of these now.
How will you decide when I’m “test ready”?
To pass the driving test, you need to be able to deal with any situation that you may encounter on the roads. You should be confident that you can drive into any situation, completely independently, and deal with in a safe and confident manner. At the start of your lessons, your instructor will help you to assess situations, and decide on the best way to deal with them, as you become more experienced, we will hand over more and more responsibility to you to make your own decisions. When you get to a stage where your decisions are generally correct, well timed and confident, the your instructor will start to discuss your driving test. The ultimate decision of when to book that will generally be a joint decision between the learner driver and the instructor. A lot of people just want to get through test as quickly as possible, but it is important that you remember, the test is just the start of your journey. Once you’ve passed and got that driving licence, you will be out on those roads on your own, so it is important that you have the skills and the confidence to be able to stay safe.
How long do most people take to pass?
As I said earlier, it varies massively between person to person. I’ve seen people pass their test, first time, in as few as 15 hours, but equally I’ve known people who’ve been learning for over 3 years and passed at their 5th attempt. Both of those are extreme ends of the spectrum though, so the average person will generally lie somewhere between the 2. The DVSA (The people who set the test) publish this chart, which gives a rough idea of the average amount of lessons people may need. They generally advise that the older you are, the longer it can take to learn, because the mind isn’t as accustomed to learning new things. Again though, this is a massive generalisation.
What affects how many lessons I need? Can I make it quicker?
There are a lot of factors that can have an effect on how long it takes to learn. Overwhelmingly though, the biggest factor is you. How quickly do you pick up new things? Are you good at retaining information? Do you learn well from making mistakes, or do you get frustrated? How confident are you? Are you nervous about the roads and other traffic? These are all things that make up your personality. The people who learn quicker tend to be really confident, they don’t worry too much about making mistakes, instead they learn from them, and quickly correct what they’ve done wrong. They are focussed and committed, and generally retain information really well. Most of this is generally out of your control though. To put it bluntly, some people are just more natural than others. General advice would be not to put too much pressure on yourself, learn at your own pace and allow that confidence to develop.
There are a few things that you can do to help the process though. Private practice is a great help, if you have that option available to you. Once you’ve had a few lesson and got up to speed with the basics, if you have the option to get insured on a car to practice between lessons, that can really help to bring on your confidence. You will need to accompanied whilst you practice, by a family member or friend, but anyone over the age of 21, who has held a driving licence for over 3 years is legally allowed to accompany you. Ask your instructor for advice about insurance, or what to work on if that is what you are thinking. Also, think about how many lessons you are doing. A lot of people learn by dong an hour a week. Whilst that is fine, if you can get 2 or 3 hours a week (or more), you’ll generally find it much easier to retain that information, as you are practicing more regularly. Finally, the other big stumbling block we often see, is your theory test. You cannot book a driving test until you have passed your theory test. If you hoping to fly through your lessons quickly, you really need to be starting work on that as soon as you start to learn. Get that passed as quickly as you can. Not only will that mean it can’t hold you back, but it will also give you much more knowledge of the theory, which will really help you to learn much more quickly.
In summary, my top advice would be to enjoy your driving lessons. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, don’t compare yourself to other drivers, just take your time and allow yourself to be confident. Remember, mistakes are the most important part of learning.