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Learning How to Drive – Guide for Provisional to Pass

Contents - This articles is a guide to learning how to drive and covers five main areas:

1. Applying for a provisional

2. Choosing a driving instructor

3. How many lessons are needed?

4. Booking a theory test

5. Passing your practical


1. Applying for a provisional

Before you can even think of starting to drive, you need to apply for a provisional license. This type of license gives you the permission to drive on the UK roads whilst under the supervision of your driving instructor or another driver over the age of 21 who has held a full driving licence for at least three years.

When can I apply for a provisional?

Your provisional license is only valid after you turn 17 however you can apply up to two months beforehand to start the process.

How do I apply?

You have to compete a DL1 application form which is available from the main Post Office branches or MOT test centres. To download these documents, go to the NI Direct website and remember that you CANNOT apply online for a NI Driving License.

What will I need?

You can either send your documents and payment to:

Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA), Driver Licensing, Coleraine County Hall, Castlerock Road, Waterside, Coleraine, BT51 3TB.

Or hand in your application to one of the seven MOT test centres in Northern Ireland – Armagh, Coleraine, Ballymena, Belfast, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Derry/Londonderry and Omagh.

How soon will I get it?

It usually takes about three weeks from the day you post your application form until you receive your licence.

It may take longer if your health or personal details have to be checked. Remember, you need to wait for your new licence to arrive before driving. 

If you’re licence hasn’t arrived within four weeks, you can email the DVA at

2. Choosing a driving instructor

Finding a good driving instructor can make all the difference to your driving experience. While you may be tempted to save money and ask someone you know to teach you, it might not be worthwhile in the long run.

A qualified teacher will teach you what’s to be expected and it may save arguments with friends and family. An instructor will also provide their own car that has dual controls; therefore, they can take over or help out when needs be. 

How do I choose a driving instructor?  

The best way to choose a driving instructor is through references. If you’re a young driver then you may know other people learning to drive at the same time as you - ask them if they would recommend their instructor.

Alternatively, you can head over to the NI Direct website and find an approved driving instructor in your area – all you have to do is type in your postcode.

What will a driving instructor charge?

Driving instructors in NI typically charge £20-25 per hour. The RAC states that on average it takes learners 45 hours of lessons before they are test-ready however be mindful that everyone learns at different rates.

Do I need learner driver insurance?

If you are looking to practice with family or friends to compliment your lessons, you may want to consider learner driver insurance.

To be added on to a standard policy of a friend or family member can be quite costly and could affect their insurance if you have a bump – but with Learner Driver Insurance this cover protects them and is much more cost-effective. You can choose to be covered for up to a month or more - it is a flexible and short-term policy.

3. How many lessons are needed?

Starting lessons can be pretty unnerving but you’re under the best care with an instructor who will guide you through every step (mile) of the way and don’t worry, they won’t throw you in at the deep end!

How many lessons is normal?

When it comes to learning to drive there are no set amount of lessons, everyone will be different. The average learner needs 20 hours of practice to pass the driving test, in addition to 45 hours of driving lessons.

Some will take fewer and some longer but the most important thing to remember is to take your test when YOU feel ready. Your instructor will also have a fair idea when they think you will be prepared.

Driving Lesson Tips

As a learner, you must pass your theory test before you take your practical. Typically, this is done when you’ve been driving for a while so you should be a little educated about the rules of the road.

4. How to book your theory?

The quickest way is book through the NI Direct website, or you can call their theory test booking number on 0345 600 6700.

The current cost is £23, and you will need to pay with a Debit or Credit card.

You may have to wait up to a week or two to get a booking slot at your local theory test centre, there are six in Northern Ireland.

What do you need to bring with you?

You will need to bring both parts of your provisional driving licence and it is advised to arrive 30 mins before the schedule time of your test.


There are several ways to study for your theory test, but the main thing is to study. Winging it will more than likely end up in failure and a complete waste of time and money. There are so many revision materials available, from apps to online quizzes. It’s worthwhile going on the sites that you can take free mock tests; this will prepare you for the real thing.

Theory Test Parts

The first part of the theory test is a multiple-choice test consisting of 50 questions on The Highway Code. The second part of the theory is a hazard-perception test. There are 14 one-minute video clips that will show various hazards, you have to click on the mouse when you see a hazard develop – a hazard is anything that will make you change your speed or direction. The earlier you spot the hazard, the more points you will get it.

5. Passing your practical

You’ve had plenty of lessons, you’ve passed your theory – now your instructor thinks it’s time for you to take your practical test!

How do I book my practical? 

The easiest way to book your practical is online through the DVA website or you can call and book on 0345 247 2471.

You will be guided through to ensure you find the nearest local test centre and the earliest available slot for you. Normally there is a waiting list of up to four weeks.

To book, you will need:

What will you need to take with you for your driving test?

How long will the test last?

It will last around 40 minutes

What will I be tested on?

There are five steps to your practical driving test:

  1. Sight Check – You are asked to read a number plate of a car from 20 meters away. This is to check that your eyesight is in good order and you can see from a distance.

  2. Show me, tell me Questions – You will be asked one Show Me and one Tell Me question at the beginning of your practical test. For e.g. “Tell me how you would check your tail lights are working?”. You can take a look at the full list of possible show me questions here.

  3. Driving ability – You will be asked to drive on various roads and traffic conditions, and you will also be asked to safely pull over and away during the test which might include pulling out behind a parked vehicle or a hill start.

  4. Reversing your vehicle – The examiner will ask you to one of the following manoeuvres; Parallel park, park in a bay, pull up on the right-hand side of the car, reverse and re-join the traffic.

  5. Independent Driving – Some drivers will be asked to drive for 20 minutes by following either:

You might also be asked to make an emergency stop.

Top Tip

It’s important to remember that if you get confused, you can ask the examiner for confirmation of where you’re going and if you do make a mistake, it’s okay – you won’t be penalised for driving in the wrong direction.

Majors and Minors

You can make up to 15 minor faults and still pass your test however one major fault will qualify as an instant fail. Minors are simple errors you might make that cause inconvenience to other road users, but Majors consist of errors that could cause an accident. For example, if you were to change lanes and forgot to check you mirrors this would be deemed a major because even though something might not be there you could have caused an accident by not checking.

You won’t find about how you’ve done until you get back to the test centre, you will then be given a pass or fail certificate.

Can I drive as soon as I pass?

You can drive immediately after you pass as long as you are insured for the car you will be driving. If you have learner driver insurance this will be void after you pass your test therefore, you’ll need to take out a full annual car insurance policy if you wish to drive after.

First time driver’s insurance can be pretty be quite expensive, however with ChilliDrive, our telematics insurance policy can offer significant discounts to new drivers using a device which monitors your driving style and actively encourages better, safer driving.

For more information on ChilliDrive, how it works and whether it’s right for you, you can check out our About ChilliDrive page or give us a ring on 028 3005 0111!


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