How does your intensive driving course work?

General Q&A with the owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram

What effect has the new style driving test had on national pass rates?

It is a little too early to know as yet. I appreciate that might come as a surprise to many reading, but the statistics are gathered quarterly so the next batch that covers January – March 2018 have not been published by the DVSA as yet. When they are, I rather suspect it will show a marked overall increase in the pass rate, but that is just my opinion; I will blog for my customers when the hard data is released.

Is it true that the new driving test is easier?

In so far as the technical aspects of manoeuvres, in my opinion, I would say it is. However, regardless of the driving test format, here at BIG TOM we train customers to the DVSA Driving Standard which is freely available online for the public to view and ensures new drivers are confident and competent to drive in a variety of driving conditions.

If I was to fail my driving test, what would happen?

I can offer accurate assistance to pupils if they allow me to observe their test but it is entirely their choice. There is a system in place should you fail a test that invites you to further develop the skills that were exposed as deficient. Another important factor here is confidence and in my experience, not to be underestimated the effect it can have on driving ability.

What guarantees do you provide on your intensive driving course?

The BIG TOM course offers customers theory study resources + pre-course resources + 20 hours of driving training + 2 hours use of the driving school car for driving test purposes. The one thing that cannot be guaranteed for a variety of reasons is the progress that a pupil will make on the course. A previous customer shown here demonstrates that it is possible to turn things around very fast with proper pre-course preparation even when they have minimal previous driving experience. However, the very latest DVSA independent research indicates that it takes pupils on average around 40 hours training with a driving instructor + 19 hours private practice and on average seven months to pass. We are very fortunate to have that very recent research provided to us in the industry and for the public.

Do I have to pass the theory test before doing your course?

I would recommend it yes because it then gives us the opportunity to apply that new knowledge while you are driving around. There are added safety implications as well as pressure on pupils if they do not have the theory knowledge, rules of the road while driving on them. Another important point is that a BIG TOM customer is entitled to a practical test booking for up to 30 days after completing their intensive driving course (with or without BIG TOM involvement), but the DVSA booking system prevents that if the theory test is not passed. For lots of reasons, it makes good practical sense to pass the theory test prior to the in-car training.

Why do your pupils drive in places where they don’t take their driving test?

Some locations are rather limited in what they offer to practice. Boston, for example, has no faster moving dual carriageways to practice entering/exiting or even overtaking. Peterborough has very few hills to practice controlling the car, whereas Grantham has plenty. Also, some customers specifically request to drive to some places due to the type of typical journeys they will do after they pass their driving test.

Can I continue to train with you after my intensive course?

Yes, you can. It is important to recognise that we are referring to practical skills when learning to drive and the ability of pupils to develop them can vary considerably. While some customers will complete their course and then make their own arrangements, others do like to keep going and have the consistency of driving instructor and driving school car. That is an important point to make because we do not switch pupils around at BIG TOM – that could be very unhelpful especially if they are happy and comfortable in their learning environment.

Do I need to be of a certain standard before booking my course?

At BIG TOM we have experience of assisting pupils with a wide variety of needs. We do not put any undue pressure on pupils to complete their training within the 20 hours because when pupils are working hard at learning to drive, they do not need added stress to do with timescales. Sometimes this kind of pressure that relates to focussing too much on driving tests can be very unproductive and inhibits learning. My advice would be to concentrate on developing the skills and have trust in the assessments that are provided to you. Pupils receive constant feedback when in the car training as well as formal assessments and these do offer the pupil the opportunity to realise the driving standard that is required.

Is it true you can fail a driving test for driving too slowly?

Yes it is, a driver who drives too slowly for the driving conditions can become a hazard to other road users. It is a skill to be able to identify what is the appropriate speed for the conditions and you get plenty of practice of that skill on the course.

Is it normal to get so frustrated when learning to drive?

The path we all take is pretty unique. What is apparent, natural or easy to one is not necessarily so for another, so it is unwise to make any assumptions about it. It is a fact that when learning things, humans do have a tendency to overinflate their perceived ability compared to the reality and that can create frustrations for people who have an unrealistic belief in their driving standard. The other thing to bear in mind is that the challenges we face are also pretty varied; physical hand/feet coordination, the perception of risk, the ability to anticipate. I also very much enjoy assisting pupils who have particular learning difficulties. As long as pupils have an accurate understanding of how to achieve goals, how to deal with obstructions to learning, then, in general, it is possible to overcome difficulties. Be under no illusions though; for some, it can be an intensely personal battle which it does pay to have realistic expectations of how much can be achieved in what timescales.


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