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Passing your driving test seems to get tougher every year. When I learned to drive (15 years ago) there was only one test to take – the driving test. Once I passed, my licence had far fewer restrictions on it than new drivers’ licences do today, too.
All this extra training is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make learning to drive more time consuming and expensive than it used to be. Although passing the practical test is still mostly down to good teaching and practice, passing the theory and hazard perception tests requires some learning and preparation – more than just superficially learning the Highway Code.
This is where the wide range of books and DVDs on the market can help. Some of the leading publications on the market are those published by the Driving Standards Authority (DSA), who set and administer driving tests. They recently sent me a selection of their most popular products to review:
- The Official DSA Complete Learner Pack (electronic version)
- The Official DSA Theory Test for Car Drivers (paperback)
The Official DSA Complete Learner Pack (electronic version, RRP £29.99)
This 3-disc set includes two DVDs and one CD-ROM that cover all three parts of the current driving test:
- Theory test
- Hazard perception test
- Practical driving test
I also received a copy of the Official Theory Test book, which I will compare to the CD-ROM version.
All three are interactive and allow you to check your knowledge and practice for the real thing. Let’s take a look at each of the DVDs in turn.
The Official DSA Theory Test for Car Drivers (CD-ROM or Book – includes all questions until January 2012)
The theory test is a multiple-choice test, based around understanding the requirements of the Highway Code, which includes recognising signs, knowing speed limits and knowing how to handle different traffic situations correctly.
The Official DSA Theory Test CD-ROM allows you to take practice theory tests on your computer, which exactly simulate the theory test you will take at the test centre. For this, the CD-ROM is excellent.
However, I found that for revising and learning the different topics, the book version was much easier to use. Each section of the book ends with a practice test for that section, so the book can be used as a complete preparation for the theory test, but does not enable you to simulate taking the test on a computer, as you will at the test centre. The book is well presented and I found it much easier to learn from than the CD-ROM. Both book and CD-ROM include The Highway Code.
(Both the CD-ROM and book versions of this guide contain all the theory test questions that car drivers can be asked until January 2012 (the Sept 2011 deadline has been extended to Jan 2012). The DSA is then going to change the system again – test questions will no longer be published in advance so it will not be possible for students to simply learn all the possible answers to the theory test. They will have to understand the underlying principles.)
The Official DSA Guide to Hazard Perception (DVD)
The hazard perception test is the second part of the theory test. Its purpose is to test your ability to spot developing hazards on the road ahead of you – hazards that might turn into collisions if you do not spot them.
The Official DSA Guide to Hazard Perception DVD has two purposes:
- Explain how to recognise and handle potential hazards as you drive
- Provide several realistic practice tests so that you can prepare for the real thing
I was impressed with this DVD. The training chapters show you, using authentic footage, how to read the road ahead and spot potential hazards, then how to prioritise and handle them.
These are vital skills for a safe driver but often require experience to learn. Unfortunately, this experience sometimes comes at a high cost. The hazard perception test seems to be a useful way of giving new drivers a head start in developing good, safe driving habits. This DVD provides a very good introduction to some of the most important skills a driver can have, and shows how drivers should be thinking whenever they are driving.
Prepare For Your Practical Driving Test (DVD)
Like the hazard perception test DVD, the Prepare for your Practical Driving Test DVD includes lots of footage showing how each element of the driving test should be performed. The main part of the DVD is divided into 24 key skills, such as moving away and stopping, parking, signals and safe positioning.
Each key skill section ends with a video extract from a driving test, showing how that skill is tested. Some sections also have a multiple-choice quiz, testing you on your knowledge of the theory behind the driving skill.
Overall, I found the practical driving test DVD clear, easy to follow and pretty comprehensive. The video-based format works well as it enables you to see everything being done correctly, making it much easier to understand and remember.
I was impressed with all of the DSA products I reviewed. They were well produced, clear, comprehensive and easy to use. The only slight weak point was the theory test CD-ROM. While this is excellent for taking practice theory tests, I did not find it very easy to use for revision – the book was much better. Ideally, I would suggest buying both – use the book to learn and revise and the CD-ROM to take mock theory tests.
Both The Official Guide To Hazard Perception DVD and the Prepare for your Practical Driving Test DVD were excellent and I would recommend them.
Buy DSA Learn to Drive Guides on Amazon (Amazon⇒)