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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Making driving test information better on GOV.UK

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Driving test, Learning to drive, Resources for instructors


In this guest post, John Ploughman of the Government Digital Service talks about recent work that’s been done to improve driving test information on the GOV.UK website.

Making changes to help people get things done

Until early December 2015, I worked at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). I’m now a content designer working at the Government Digital Service on the GOV.UK website.

In one of my first tasks here, I’ve been helping to improve the information about the driving test on GOV.UK. We want to make it as simple as possible for people to find the information and services they need.

I wanted to tell you a bit about what’s changed and why.

Acting on feedback

We started by looking at feedback left by people who use the site using the ‘Is there anything wrong with this page?’ link at the bottom of each page.

We also looked at what people were searching for, and how they moved between the pages of the site.

So what did we find?

What people are searching for has changed

As you know, there's currently a longer wait to get a driving test than DVSA would like. They’re working hard to reduce it.

So more learners are looking to change their test when they’ve got it booked. The page on GOV.UK and the websites that went before it have always been described as ‘Change your driving test’. But people aren’t searching for that any longer.

They are, of course, searching for ‘earlier driving test’ or something similar. And the appointments that do come up at short notice are sometimes known as ‘cancellations’, so that’s a word being searched for too.

So we’ve changed the page at to make it clearer that this is the service to use to find an earlier test (a ‘cancellation’). It should mean that this page appears higher up in search engine results for people wanting to find an earlier test.

Change the date of your driving test appointment - before and after
Change the date of your driving test appointment - before and after

We found gaps in information and filled them

As we looked at how people were using GOV.UK, we found gaps in the information. Here are a couple of examples.

Upgrading an automatic licence

People were struggling to find information about upgrading an automatic car licence to a manual licence.

They weren’t sure if they had to take another theory test, or how to book the driving test. And what happened if they failed their test in a manual? Could they carry on driving an automatic?

The information was all on GOV.UK, but scattered across separate pages. So we’ve published a new page about upgrading an automatic car driving licence to address all of these points in one place.

“I’ve deleted my booking confirmation”

As we looked at all of the data, we found people searching for what to do if they’d deleted their driving test booking confirmation email.

The page about changing your test did mention in passing that you could use the service to ‘check your test date’ – but that was about it.

So we’ve published a new page called check your driving test appointment details. We’ve made sure it’ll be easy to find for people searching for deleted or lost booking confirmations. And we’ve made it clear that you don’t need to bring the booking confirmation to your test.

A guide designed with mobile in mind

Just 3 years ago, 28.5% of people viewing the driving test guide were using a mobile phone or tablet. That's now at 62.0%.


Making it work better for people on a mobile phone

It’s not surprising that people reading the guide on a mobile phone use the guide differently to someone reading it on a PC.

So we’ve reorganised the guide to make it easier for the majority now reading on a mobile. We’ve gone from 11 individual pages to read through, down to 7.

So for example, the information about the independent driving section of the test is now with the rest of the information about what happens during the test.

Links that are simpler and clearer

Another big change we’ve made is improving the links for this latest version of the guide.

The driving test guide can now be found at It’s easy to read, and give out to someone.

It hasn’t always been the case.

As an example, let’s have a look at how the link to the page about what to take to your test has evolved over the last 6 years.

2010: ‘Reporting for your practical test’ at the not-so-catchy address of
2010: ‘Reporting for your practical test’ at the not-so-catchy address of
2013: ‘Documents to bring to your test’ at the more meaningful address of - but it’s still very long
2013: ‘Documents to bring to your test’ at the more meaningful address of - but it’s still very long
2016: ‘What to take to your test’ at the simpler and clearer address of
2016: ‘What to take to your test’ at the simpler and clearer address of

Thinking of linking?

We always encourage people to link to the official services and information on the GOV.UK website.

So if you have your own website, or just want to share the links on social media or write them down for your pupils, here are the most useful for the driving test.

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by Ruth posted on

    Why does the "what to bring to your driving test " still contain "theory test certificate" ??? The examiners no longer ask for the theory test certificate, and haven't needed to see this for the last 12 months or so.

    • Replies to Ruth>

      Comment by Mark posted on

      In 10 years, I don't think I've ever known an examiner ask for a theory certificate.

  2. Comment by Gary Fossey posted on

    "Making changes to help people get things done"??? HOW ABOUT SPENDING THE MONEY THAT'S BEING WASTED ON NUGATORY JUNK LIKE THIS ON RECRUITING MORE DRIVING EXAMINERS SO PEOPLE CAN GET TAKE THEIR TESTS?!? Simples! Then people won't need to waste their time on looking for cancellations several times a day for weeks on end.

    I can't believe that even an organisation as woefully inept as the DVSA have failed to get the point that people are sick of having to go through the rigmarole of dragging through the DVSA's long winded website process several times a day for weeks on end to find there's an even longer wait for tests. WHAT THEY WANT TO DO IS FIND WHERE THEY WILL GET AN EARLIER TEST & WHERE THE NON-EXISTENT MYSTICAL HIDDEN CANCELLATIONS ARE! Yes, people can't believe they don't exist.

    DVSA MUST STOP wasting resources on activities that nobody but they care about and focus on their primary objective of delivering driving tests within an average 6 week waiting time. Once DVSA can consistently deliver their primary objective then maybe they can enjoy a bit of bureaucratic play time.

    • Replies to Gary Fossey>

      Comment by Philip Lloyd posted on

      Thanks for your comment, Gary.

      In 2014 to 2015, a total of 4,634 car driving tests did not go ahead because the candidates didn’t bring the right documents or a suitable vehicle. As this had cost each of those candidates £62 for the test that couldn't go ahead - over the year, this had totalled to £287,308. This amounts to 662 days of driving examiner time that couldn't be used, which in turn, puts back the date of the next available test for other candidates.

      This highlighted that some candidates were not clear on what documents they needed to bring or the type of vehicle they could use on test. This showed that there was a need to update the information on GOV.UK.

    • Replies to Gary Fossey>

      Comment by John Ploughman posted on

      Hi Gary

      I'm sorry that you think it's not worthwhile work.

      Just to be very clear, this work has been done by the Government Digital Service (where I work), and not DVSA.

      When we started the work, we looked at lots of data to find out what the problems are. This included things like what people were searching for, but also included things that actually happen at the driving test.

      One thing that we found was that in 2014 to 2015, a total of 4,634 car driving tests didn't go ahead because the candidate didn't bring the right documents or a suitable vehicle on the day of their test.

      As well as costing each of those candidates £62 for the test that couldn't go ahead (£287,308 in total), it's a test slot that couldn't be used. In total it's 662 days of driving examiner time that couldn't be used. Which puts back the date of the next available test for other candidates.

      So we hope that by improving this information and making it easier to find, it will save candidates both the cost and heartache of their test not going ahead. It should also contribute to the work that DVSA is doing to reduce waiting times.

  3. Comment by John Langley posted on

    Impressive changes, well thought through: well done.

  4. Comment by Jane Hinis posted on

    As an adi who relies on my pupils to tell me their test date and time, I would find it extremely useful if a confirmation email could come to me as well as my pupil. Obviously, I would only expect this to occur with those pupils who have entered my adi number. This would ensure I get an accurate record of the event.
    Thanks for listening

    • Replies to Jane Hinis>

      Comment by Dave Harrison ADI posted on

      I'm an ADI who would love to see that happen but I can't imagine that DVSA would go for it.

      Data protection law is the barrier.

      The contract for the test is between the DVSA and the candidate. There are circumstances where some candidates might change instructors just before the test and they may not want their previous instructor to know when or where their new test is. DVSA would have to be very sure about which instructor the candidate 'belongs' to and probably aren't going to risk passing on that information without the express permission of the candidate.

      The answer is to get your pupil to forward the confirmation email to you and if they don't then don't book it in your diary.

      • Replies to Dave Harrison ADI>

        Comment by Jezelle O posted on

        In regards to the above comments, if they have placed thier instructor reference number when booking the test- surely it is okay to send a confirmation email, as they are making them aware. If they have not entered their instructors reference, then it should be confidential. Im a student who booked my test with my instructors reference no. However i have to forward the email to him. Not complaining its not a hard task but efficiency can always be improved. Thanks

  5. Comment by Norman Williams posted on

    Much improved-well done.

  6. Comment by Richard Warner posted on

    When driving tests are booked by the people taking their test and they include the driving instructors ADI Number why can't a link be made to send an email to the instructor? Now that a lot of tests are booked by mobil there is no hard copy to show the confirmed test date to the instructor, also when a change is made the student 'forgets' that they have changed the test date, a link email to the instructor would be nice!

  7. Comment by Suzzanne ADI posted on

    This is so much simpler ... May improvements continue to be sought

  8. Comment by Derick Wood posted on

    I agree with jane Hinis, this would stop a lot of confusion on the day of tests , well done very good work .

  9. Comment by Derek Wormald posted on

    I agree with Jane Hinis comment above that would be useful. Likewise if their test gets changed or cancelled in any way.

    Derek Wormald ADI

  10. Comment by Jackie Willis posted on

    It's good to see changes have been made based on customer search data and behaviour on the site. Thank you for the links to put onto our own websites as I've had to spend time in the past searching for the best links to publish.
    I think it's wise to tell candidates to take theory test certificates as the need to present them seems to vary from test centre to test centre. Better to have it and not need it than risk test cancellation!

  11. Comment by John Billingham posted on

    I like these comments. This is a big ask as it will involve several government departments. Would it be possible to change how the driving licence number is presented on the licence card? I for one find it a pain having to count back eight digits. Having the last eight digits separated by a space will ensure the candidate and instructor gets this information correct. Cutting our administration time and be more efficient.
    What is the percentage of errors made for this issue?

  12. Comment by Alan Pocock posted on

    Good changes but when will we see the use of text messaging to confirm tests and for when tests are cancelled by the DVSA. This may help bring down the number of missed tests and is already widely used in the health sector for appointments.