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DSA Driving Test Syllabus – Learning To Drive A Car

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA), the people responsible for setting of the driving test, have produced a syllabus, which covers all aspects of learning to drive a car. This syllabus is the course you must learn in order to pass the practical driving test..

As you learn the syllabus should progress through five skill levels. Once you have consistently reached level five you should be ready to take, and pass, your driving test. The five skill levels are:

  1. the skill is introduced
  2. the skill can be carried out under full instruction
  3. the skill can be carried out correctly when prompted
  4. the skill seldom needs to be prompted
  5. the pupil can carry the skill out consistently and without any prompting.

The current DSA is as follows:

Highway Code

Have a sound knowledge of the Highway Code is essential. You should start learning it before you even start your driving lessons.

Cockpit Drill

These are the checks you should make inside the car before staring the engine.

Vehicle Safety Checks

Also known as the Show Me, Tell Questions. The checks are designed to test your knowledge and understanding of basic car maintenance.

At the start of the practical driving test you will be asked one show me and one tell me question. Failure to answer one or both of the questions correctly will result in your scoring one minor fault.

Controls and Instruments

You will need to understand the function of all controls and switches in the car, especially those that relate to road safety.

  • Foot controls: accelerator, clutch, foot brake.
  • Hand controls: parking brake, steering wheel, indicators, gear stick.

You will also need to show appropriate use of indicators, lights, windscreen wipers, demisters and heaters.

Using these controls needs to be second nature. You should never need to look at a control before or whilst using it, as this means you will be looking away from the road ahead.

You will also need to the function and meaning of your car’s hazard warning lights.

Moving Away and Stopping

You will need to know the correct procedures for moving away and stopping. You will need to demonstrate that you can perform these manoeuvres safely and under control whilst on the level and on a hill.

As with all manoeuvres you will need to use the MSM and PSL routines.

Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre (MSM)

  • Mirror – use your mirrors to check the position of traffic around and behind you.
  • Signal – show others what you intend to do. Always signal in good time.
  • Manoeuvre – a change in speed or position.

Position – Speed – Look (PSM)

  • Position – position your car correctly for the move you want to make.
  • Speed – adjust your speed so it is appropriate for the manoeuvre
  • Look – have a final look to check it’s safe before you start to steer.

Safe Road Positioning

You must be able to drive in the correct position for the road on which you are driving.

You must be able to respond to the positions of other road users. You will need to understand how other vehicles i.e. buses and motorcycles, need to position themselves and how their presence will effect where you position your vehicle.

You must be able to follow the rules and principles of lane discipline.

Use of Mirrors

Mirrors should be used regularly and you must be aware of the presence of others in blind spots. Early use of mirrors must be made before signalling, changing direction and/or speed, and as part of the mirror-signal-manoeuvre routine.

You should know the differences between the different car mirrors and know when and how to use them.

You should understand blind spots and how to deal with them.


You will need the knowledge and understanding to give clear, well-timed signals to other road users and have the ability to respond correctly to signals given by other road users

Anticipation and Planning

You will need to be able to identify emerging hazards and respond to them safely. Constant observation is key to this.

You will need to:

  • Think and plan ahead and anticipate the actions of others road users.
  • identify hazards from clues and respond to them safely
  • recognise times, places and conditions which mean there is a higher risk.
  • Demonstrate safe attitudes when dealing with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders.

Use of Speed

Safe and reasonable progress should be made according to the road, weather and traffic conditions, the road signs and speed limits.

You will need to know:

  • the various speed limits and restrictions for different types of road
  • how weather conditions affect the speed you use
  • the stopping distances for your vehicle in different conditions
  • how to calculate a safe separation distance between yourself and the vehicle in front

Other Traffic

You will need to be able to deal safely and confidently with meeting, crossing and overtaking other vehicles.

Meeting traffic – give way to oncoming traffic when obstacles such as parked cars block your side of the road. On narrow roads you should be prepared to use passing places.

Crossing traffic – when turning right you must position you car correctly, as close to the centre of the road as it is safe to do so, give way to oncoming traffic, make the turn without cutting the corner or taking the turn too widely.

Overtaking – know when it is legal and safe to overtake. Check and assess the speed and position of vehicles behind you, in front and coming towards you.

All the above require appropriate use of the MSM/PSL routines. 


You will need to recognize and identity the different types of road junction and be able to negotiate them safely and without holding up other road users unnecessarily. 


You will need to have a full understanding of the rules which apply to approaching and negotiating roundabouts. You will need to demonstrate that you can use them safely and confidently.

You will need to know the different procedures needed to negotiate standard and mini roundabouts.

When dealing with any roundabout you must:

  • Show effective use of the MSM and PSL routines
  • position your car correctly
  • use the correct lane on your approach and when on the roundabout
  • use the correct procedure on your exit from the roundabout 

Pedestrian Crossings

You will need to know the rules which apply to all pedestrian crossings and you will need to understand the differences between each type of crossing.

You will need to be able to safely negotiate all types of crossings and show:

  • effective observation
  • an ability to recognise different types of crossing
  • use of the correct speed when approaching a crossing
  • an understanding of how different weather conditions affect your ability to see and stop safely
  • a knowledge of when you need to stop for pedestrians who are using the crossing 

Dual Carriageways

You must be able to drive safely and with confidence all all types of dual carriageway.

You must demonstrate you understand the rules and procedures of joining, using and leaving a dual carriageway. 

The Manoeuvres

You must be able to perform all the manoeuvres safely and under control. They include:

  • turn in the road (three point turn)
  • bay parking
  • parallel parking
  • reversing round a corner

Good clutch control is a key component of perform these manoeuvres correctly.

Emergency Stop

You must be able to perform an emergency stop safely and under control.

To safely stop your car as quickly as possible while keeping for control you need to know

You will need to demonstrate that you:

  • can co-ordinate the brake and clutch pedals so the car comes to stop under full control
  • know weather or not your car has ABS
  • know how different road and weather conditions can affect the way you stop
  • can control a skid if one occurs
  • know how to move away safely from an emergency stop

Weather Conditions

You will need to understand how some weather conditions will affect driving conditions. The primary affects will be on your:

  • visibility
  • speed
  • stopping distance
  • handling

You will need to know

  • the warning signs and signals that may need to be used
  • when to use your lights and which lights to use in poor visibility
  • how to avoids skidding and aquaplaning and what to do if they do occur
  • driving in snow and ice – driving in rain – prevent skidding