Hey everyone! Finally, after a very long overdue period, I am back. So much has gone on since I last gave you all an update, including a week-long intensive course, buying my first car and failing my test (again!). I am still yet to pass my driving test but I drive daily with my boyfriend – if you’re a provisional driver make sure you ALWAYS have someone with you who is over the age of 25 and they have also been driving for 3 or more years – which keeps me on the road and also helps to ensure I am ready for that next and hopefully final test! In this blog, I will be giving you every detail of my Intensive Driving Course! Please remember that these are my own views and my own experiences so please don’t let my heavy opinions and experience put you off, I know for some people an intensive course is one of their only options.
Just before Christmas (it really was that long ago?!) I sat down with my boyfriend, and we both decided that the quickest way for me to be able to get back onto the road and hopefully get those now faded L plates off of my car, would be an intensive driving course. I felt at the time this was the best option as I had already had plenty of experience on the road and felt it was just the last little bit of help I would need in order to help me pass my test. We looked at a 5-day course which was pretty near to where I live.
The course price of £964 seemed reasonable as I was under the impression that I’d be receiving loads of hours driving for this price and they also have on their website this includes your theory and practical test price – one problem was that I had already passed my theory but when I selected this option the price stayed exactly the same which I was a little disappointed about. Nonetheless, I continued and went on to book the course which took place in early January. I wrote notes on my break and when I got home so I was able to fill you all in on my experience!
The training begins
Day 1: I received an email stating that my course begun at 9am, so to be there for no later than 8:45am. Being my total practical and sometimes annoying self, I got dropped off nice and early at 8:30am. Upon arrival I realised being this early was a complete waste of time, as I was the first person to arrive and all the doors were locked and the car park was deserted. Around 10 minutes after my arrival, a middle aged lady arrived, and also looked a little lost so I took it upon myself to approach her and soon learned she would also be taking the course with me.
Within time, other members of my group arrived – there was 8 of us in total – soon to be followed by the course instructor. We were taken upstairs to what can be described as an old classroom, there was desks set out in sets of 2 each with their own computer and a large projector at the front of the room. We were each given a booklet with the breakdown of the week, this is where my major disappointment begun and the day was timetabled as followed:
9:00 – 9:45: Morning Briefing
10:00 – 12:00: Driving with Instructor
12:00 – 12:30: Lunch
12:30 – 14:30: Driving with instructor
14:30 – 14:45: Small Break
14:45 – 17:00: Theory Practice
Naturally, my first question (I asked so many questions!!) was that I have already passed my theory test so what did that mean for me during the practice time, once I had asked this question there was another member on the course who also made the tutor aware that he had also passed his theory prior to booking the course. The tutor seemed slightly taken aback by this and asked for our certificates with our pass numbers, which we both had seemed to come prepared with. Both myself and the other member of the course said we selected the option for already passing our theory when we booked the course to which the tutor didn’t really seem to know what to say.
Not quite what I had in mind
He made us both aware we had two options either we could practice and resit our theory tests for a better score or that we could go home after the small break and registration at 14:45. We both made our tutor aware that we would be leaving early so we were able to get home, he was okay with this. I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t an option to get a portion of your money back if you’d already passed your theory seeing as we had both selected that we had already passed. Theory tests expire within two years of pass date if you haven’t passed your practical, again both myself and the other member of the group both had well over a year left on our theory certificates so didn’t see this as something we needed to do.
The brief went quite quickly and we were soon all getting our belongings together and heading outside to meet our driving instructors for the week. I had no idea where we were going but soon learned that we were just going over the road and there were eight branded cars all lined up. We were introduced to our instructors, I was paired with mine whom after a short half an hour in the car I knew how well we would get on and was very happy. As I first got into the car, I made the instructor aware that I had previous driving experience already, which he seemed pleased with! He asked me to drive for a short while and then he gave me directions so he could see what I already knew.
At the end of each day, the instructors update a booklet on progress, scoring from 1-3. With 1 being that the learner completed the set task but with full instructions, 2 being the learner was able to complete the task with little to no instructions, and finally with 3 that the learner was able to complete all tasks with no help or instructions at all. I was happy to learn that I received all 2’s with a couple of 3’s and a single 1. I went away from my first day happy with what I had achieved, despite having only a short 4 hours driving.
Growing my confidence and feeling ready
Day 2, 3 and 4: I’ve grouped these days together as being completely honest we done the same routine! Each day myself and my instructor covered all the manoeuvres and each day my confident grew enabling me to perform all manoeuvres with no instruction and practically faultless and I was able tackle a well known roundabout in my area which can be a nightmare for any driver! My instructor made me aware on the Wednesday, so only 2 days in that he felt I would be ready for my test by Friday which I was slightly wary of yet at the same time pleased!
Even though I was confidentially performing all manoeuvres and driving by myself, we hadn’t run through any test routes and other than my driving in the previous days I hadn’t had any other experience of driving around these areas so didn’t know the roads that well. I expressed my concerns to the instructor, and we spent the fourth day going through different areas, performing each manoeuvre as spots that were most likely to crop up in my test. Once my driving was complete for the fourth day the instructor and I discussed booking my test and he said to go for it! I went home and explained it all to my boyfriend, who also said to go for it as he too felt I was ready…
Day 5: The most crucial day of my course! This was the day I was booking my test and at the time, little did I know it would actually be the day of my test. I woke up in the morning and said to my boyfriend I was going to book my test through the course provider's fast-track DVLA link, which gave you timeslots faster than going directly through the DVLA. I think this is a great idea as the website claimed to “get your license within 5 days”. I registered to book my test and received an email which stated I would receive a text, which would confirm my test date and time. I got ready and followed my usual morning routine and checked my phone shortly before I left the house, only to learn that my test was at 12:38 pm that day! My test was in 5 HOURS, instantly alarm bells were sounding in my head and I was very nervous. Was I ready? Could I do it? Do I want to do it?!
The Test: I continued the normal schedule and arrived at the centre – it was empty as on the 5th day you take your theory test in the morning if you haven’t done so already – and spoke to the course tutor and shortly met up with my instructor, who took me through a mini practice test and performed some manoeuvres too. Midday soon rolled around and we set off to the test centre, my nerves flying left right and centre and not to mention I’d worn UGG Boots and was beginning to get very hot! We arrived in the test centre - my phone was in my bag far far away this time – and I was shortly called by the examiner to come forward and sign a document about the test just to ensure I was who my license said and all the details were correct. We then set off outside where I was asked to read a number plate from a distance and I was given my “show me tell me” questions. Shortly after we were off!
A smooth start, then things took a turn for the worst
The examiner asked me to turn left as I came out of the top of the road where the test centre was – My instructor assured me this normally meant I wouldn’t go near the horrible roundabout I'd had problems with previously, as it’s to the right of the centre – I felt confident and treated it like any other lesson, listening to all instructions given. Everything was going fantastic, I was feeling confident and ready for my manoeuvre, which as soon as we turned down a particular road I knew it was going to be a parallel park (the least favourite of mine). This is where all my problems began, I had done the correct procedure in ensuring I checked all around me, went super slow and was alert at all times, yet as I begun to turn my wheel in a full circle to the left, I had to come to a stop as another car approached me.
I sat there for what felt like forever waiting for the car to either move or to allow me to continue, which eventually he waved me forward to continue, yet as soon as I went on to move he started to attempt to drive. This leads me to have to stop again as he was still continuing to drive on. He managed to finally get around the car by putting half of his on the curb to drive past, after this, I turned to my examiner to ask if I could continue and by this time he told me to just drive on and turn left down the next road.
I was filled with instant dread as I knew I had failed at this point, I didn’t let this knock my confidence and still continued to the end of my test which I learned I only received 7 minors at the end, but with a serious on my park for observation which leads to an instant fail! I was disappointed I hadn’t passed but knew I was going to go for my test again as I had my car at home already, which is insured with a learner driver policy allowing me to drive it anywhere as long as I have someone with me who meets the criteria.
Consider all your options if you look to do an intensive course
Overall, my outcome of the driving course wasn’t fantastic especially as I learned that the “free correctional lessons” you receive if you fail your test are actually in a classroom learning about driving and not actually out on the road. To drive again is an additional extra which you have to book separately with your instructor in their free time outside of the course provider, which created problems as I work usually and the instructor i had was also a private instructor outside and his normal day to day, which meant time was limited.
I naturally expected to have to pay for my test again, yet didn’t expect the ultimate stinging price of £137 that the course provider intended to charge if you failed. Your test fee which is £62, a £25 fast-track free through their DVLA quick link and a final £50 charge to use the instructor’s car! After careful thought and consideration, I came to the decision I will be re-taking my test but in my own car and booking directly through the DVLA website – the wait times aren’t very long at all if you book in advance – which will save me a small fortune. I personally feel that the week's course could be quite a dangerous way to learn to drive if you never have, out of 8 of us who took the course only 2 have still passed their test to this date. On the course, only 3 of us had previous driving experience before we took the intense course, which meant 5 people had never driven before and felt they weren’t ready despite driving every day.
Watch this space for my next blog, I will be giving you all the details of the purchase of my first car and hopefully how I have finally passed my test - Speak soon!