A better option for the ‘new’ ADI Part 3 test??

ADI Part 3 test changesHaving read the DVSA’s Press Release on changes to the ADI Part 3 test, I would like to share my concerns about the announced changes and to offer a suggestion for a better, safer option.

First, let me share a short experience I had in a test centre waiting room a couple of weeks ago…

Whilst waiting for one of my trainees to return from an ADI Part 3 test, a driving school owner struck up a conversation with me about expanding his driving school.

He’s been trying to expand his business for a number of years now because it is so busy and turning work away, but the owner has found it difficult because he feels ‘unqualified’ to train people up to become driving instructors. He has tried to help people with their ADI Part 3 tests, but they keep failing. He is an ADI but has never received any form of specialist trainer training.

He expressed his joy at the ADI Part 3 test changing to the Standards Check, because he sees it as being a MUCH easier option. He currently has 12 fully qualified ADIs working on his franchise, so his aim is to get another 11-12 PDIs into the system now, and onto a trainee licence ASAP. When I asked if he was using an external trainer to help with the final test, he simply told me that all the 12 PDIs would be trained toward taking a full licence holder out and “do something like motorway or developing anticipation”, just like he does with his franchised ADIs who come to him for help when their Standards Check letter arrives.

stunnedI was visibly stunned. But this highlighted a big problem to me. In my opinion, the proposed swapping of the current ADI Part 3 test for a Standards Check, is flawed.

I wholeheartedly agree that the ADI Part 3 test should be overhauled. In its current format, it is clearly outdated and doesn’t align with current standards. I would even go so far as to say that without the proper training to back it up, the ADI Part 3 test doesn’t prepare PDIs for life as a driving instructor.  I don’t think the question here is whether the ADI Part 3 test should change from its current format – the question is whether the proposal to simply use a single Standards Check assessment is a thorough and reliable way of testing an ADI before permitting them entry onto the ADI register.

The DVSA has one opportunity to get this right, one opportunity to make a change for the better.  It’s not financially viable for the Agency to introduce a ‘new’ Part 3 test and then regret it months later and change it again.  Nobody wants road safety to take a backwards step, so it’s massively important that the Agency listens to the honest opinions of all ADIs and Trainers before finalising their plans for the new Part 3 Test of Instructional Ability.

The two recent DVSA research surveys were sent out to approximately 160 trainers on the ORDIT register, of which only around 46% responded (myself and Claire included).  It therefore seems that the latest DVSA plans to shape the new ADI Part 3 test are largely based on the views of approximately 0.18% of ADIs. There are many non-ORDIT registered trainers who should have had the right to have their say, too.  On top of that, this decision ultimately affects ALL ADIs, so ALL should be involved in any discussion, not just a select group of ORDIT trainers.  The research pool was simply far too small to reach any meaningful conclusion. 

The National Associations Strategic PartnershipI understand the National Associations Strategic Partnership (NASP) were also involved in discussions around the changes to Part 3, but as a member of one of these associations at the time of writing (the DIA), not once have I been invited for my views on the changes.  So I do wonder exactly who’s views are they representing?

The National Standard for Driver and Rider Training (NSDRT) and the Car and light van driving syllabus (category B) provides ADIs and Trainers with a really good foundation on which to work from and a good structure on which to build a proper ADI training course.  These documents also provide the DVSA with an ideal benchmark against which to measure all new ADIs – if it chooses to use them properly.

Whilst still far from being perfect, the introduction of the Standards Check was definitely a positive development. It has successfully brought us away from a negative, fault-based assessment and now embraces a broader range of client-centred approaches and focuses on instructional skill.

national-standard-for-driver-rider-trainingThe Standards Check looks for evidence that the ADI meets the criteria laid out in the NSDRT.  However, it does not ensure that the ADI meets all the set performance standards, nor that he/she possesses ALL of the knowledge and understanding requirements outlined within the NSDRT. In addition, it does not ensure that they ADI is able to address ALL of the learning outcomes listed in the driving syllabus.

A Standards Check is merely a one hour snapshot of an instructor’s practical performance, measured against a list of 17 competencies related to the NSDRT.  It is ideal as a test of an instructor’s continuing ability, but is it really adequate in itself as an entry examination?

A single Standards Check alone simply cannot provide sufficient evidence that the ADI meets all the requirements laid out in the NSDRT and the learning objectives listed in the driving syllabus.  I do not therefore believe that achieving a pass on a Standards Check should be sufficient for a PDI to gain entry onto the ADI register.  

Some have argued that the Standards Check is open to abuse and that the outcome could be manipulated by ADI’s “priming” their pupil and rehearsing the lesson.  Those opposing this view say that the DVSA examiners will be able to see through it.  The DVSA themselves state that this practice “would need monitoring for”, which seems an admittance that this could be an issue.  I do believe that some examiners may often be able to detect when a lesson has been rehearsed prior to the assessment, but I do know of two ADIs who have rehearsed the Standards Check lesson and successfully passed the assessment (not advised or condoned by me, I might add!). I really don’t believe that lesson rehearsal is a viable fear, however – surely it’s harder and more stressful for both instructor and learner to try and ‘fake’ a lesson, in the hope that everything runs as planned, rather than to deliver a normal, natural lesson which the pupil is used to?  Things rarely go to plan – different things pop up and the instructor couldn’t possibly plan for every eventuality.

By focussing on tackling the problem of lesson rehearsal however, it seems people are missing the more subtle point around lesson ‘manipulation’.  The point is, the ‘new Part 3’ test candidate will be able to choose the pupil and their agreed lesson topic.  They can take at least a week or so to plan the lesson content, develop some good questions, plan the area and work on a contingency plan. Picking a very early stage topic such as moving off and stopping, for example could be seen as an ‘easy option’. I find it hard to disagree with that. But let’s be honest here – that is no different for many conscientious ADIs who are looking to present themselves to an examiner in the best way possible on a regular Standards Check.  This may not seem truly ‘client centred’, but we all want to play to our strengths – we invariably choose a pupil we enjoy working with and look to cover topics which we are comfortable and familiar with working on. We are, in effect, ‘manipulating’ the situation to increase the chances of a favourable outcome.  With this being the case, it does once again beg the question as to whether a Standards Check alone enables an examiner to assess the full extent of a PDI’s ability to deal with more challenging pupils or topics which the ADI might not be as familiar or confident with.

The examiner marking a Standards Check is not really too concerned with the lesson topic or learning outcomes listed in the driving syllabus.  Instead, he/she is interested in how the instructor measures up against the 17 competencies listed on the marking form.  The examiner is interested in instructional skills and technique, the ability to manage risk effectively, the ability to adapt and change the lesson plan and/or teaching style if and when the need arises, and so on. All of these are skills in teaching/coaching, and I would absolutely agree that this is the key aspect of being a successful driving instructor.  It is a good assessment of an ADI’s ability to teach effectively, which is an acceptable measure of whether they should remain on the register after qualification.

Car and light van driving syllabusHowever, I do believe that in order to gain entry onto the ADI register, a PDI needs to demonstrate much more than this.  A PDI should be able to provide evidence that they have a strong foundation and knowledge in all of the learning outcomes listed on the driving syllabus as well. 

Some argue that the Part 1 test is designed to ensure the PDI has an adequate knowledge around all aspects of the driver training industry.  But I can assure you that in my experience, it does not do this sufficiently. In fact, most of those who come to us for Part 3 training who have simply ‘practiced the questions’ (as so many well-meaning qualified instructors recommend) have an appalling knowledge and understanding of rules and regulations and how to deal with specific lesson topics.  So I do feel it’s important for PDIs to get training in all of the learning outcomes listed in the driving syllabus, especially as this is not really tested to any great extent on the Standards Check.

Requirements of the current ADI Part 3 test and the proposed ADI Part 3 test

The current ADI Part 3 test, although flawed and not in alignment with current standards, at least ensures that the candidate has a good grasp of at least 12 different subject areas (from the driving syllabus) which a pupil may will need to learn. As the examiner presents the test candidate with two different subject areas at random literally minutes before the test starts, a candidate presenting for the current Part 3 test must ensure they are equally well-prepared for all the lesson topics.  This means that they need to have an in-depth theoretical knowledge of a broad range of topics, and be able to teach and develop a pupil’s skill level on those particular topics.  This requires lots of study, training and practice.  Nevertheless, the Part 3 examiner makes his assessment not so much on the topic itself but on the instructional techniques and fault assessment, i.e. the ‘core competencies’.

The lesson plan and topics on a Standards Check are set by the pupil and their instructor in advance of the Standards Check date, therefore the examiner will only see evidence of development within one or two areas.  There is currently no requirement for the candidate to receive any formal training from a reputable training provider who would almost certainly focus on developing excellence in a broad range of skills from the NSDRT and topics from the driving syllabus.  Instead, any trainee can simply work to hone their skill in one or two different subject areas.

The current ADI Part 3 test ensures that the candidate has the ability to adapt their level of instruction to pupils at two differing skill levels (chosen randomly from: complete beginner, partly trained, trained and full licence holder).

A single Standards Check only demonstrates the instructor’s ability to work with one pupil at one particular level.  A PDI could choose to hone their skill in working with very early stage pupils, teaching basic control skills, for example.  Or they may prefer to focus on working with full licence holders, who generally all have very good control skills, but may need more development in the attitudinal aspects of driving, for example.  A single Standards Check alone doesn’t ensure that the candidate is able to work with pupils at different stages of learning.

The current ADI Part 3 test ensures that PDIs have a sound and thorough knowledge of 12 key subject areas, including rules and regulations around those subject areas, as the examiner has the opportunity to test it through the use of questions.

During a Standards Check, depending on the nature of the pupil, it may be difficult for an examiner to know whether the instructor has a thorough enough knowledge and understanding. If the pupil is very quiet, for example, they are unlikely to ask many questions of their instructor.

So whilst the current ADI Part 3 test does have its flaws, it does offer some level of assurance that the test candidate is adequately equipped to deal with different pupils, within different subjects, at different skill levels.

I would like to see the new ADI Part 3 test to still maintain some of these elements, rather than just a single assessment of instructional skill.

Driving Instructor training courses and their impact on road safety

Let’s be honest here – most ADI training courses in the UK are test-focussed, rather than centred around the skills of good driving instruction and coaching.  The focus is on the 12 different subject areas listed on the pre-set tests, rather than in key instructional and coaching skills. Many people in the industry would agree that this is wrong, but that’s just the way of the world.  More often than not, human beings want to find the shortest, easiest, quickest and cheapest route to the end goal.  There are some, of course, who don’t mind taking a longer and more challenging path, especially if it means they will learn and develop more along the way.  But invariably, that route is more expensive.

Whilst there is no legislation governing those involved in the training of ADIs, and no set syllabus or training structure that trainers must adhere to, companies will continue to offer courses which get people to the end goal in the shortest, easiest, quickest and cheapest way possible.  The mere suggestion, whether true or not, that the ‘new’ ADI Part 3 test will be much easier to pass than the current one means that training is likely to become even poorer, particularly as the PDI is able to ‘manipulate’ the test to suit their preferences and strengths.  Some training providers are likely to focus their training towards subjects which are perhaps somewhat easier to teach and lessons which are easier to control.

Speaking from a personal perspective, our ADI training course is constantly undergoing development to ensure it aligns with the NSDRT and the driving syllabus and covers absolutely all the elements.  This is covered through both theoretical and practical-based training.  The vast majority of the extensive course is delivered on a one-to-one basis in-car.  PDIs also have the opportunity to observe real driving lessons whilst they are in training. The course is not short, easy or cheap.  But our aim is to ensure ADIs are fully equipped to deliver excellent quality tuition to all of their clients.

I know there are many other driving instructor trainers that have the same philosophy towards their work, but I already know of at least two companies that plan to move all their training into an online format and offer in-car training as an ‘additional option’ because they believe that the ‘new’ test will be much easier to pass without any practical training.  How can that be a positive way forward?  Driver training is a practical skill – you can’t learn it all from a book, words on a screen or video demonstrations.  Although they can help with the foundation, it takes practice, feedback, self-reflection and development. 

My suggestion for an improved, safer solution

I can only assume that at this late stage, changing the DVSA’s plans is going to be difficult (if not impossible).  So, having given some thought to the new Part 3 test and maintaining the belief that passing a Standards Check in itself shouldn’t be sufficient to gain access onto the register, I have come up with an alternative solution that would work better, whilst still keeping the Standards Check as part of the ADI Part 3 examination. The proposal does not, however, resolve the above ‘challenges for trainers and their PDIs’, so I would welcome thoughts on how to circumvent those issues.

To ensure the test candidate measures up sufficiently with the NSDRT and driving syllabus, I think the ADI Part 3 test should be a two part assessment.

Part 1 – An evidence-based assessment

ADI Reflective logThe first part should be an evidence-based assessment.  It might take between 30 and 45 minutes to carry out properly.

The candidate should present a DVSA assessor with evidence of their knowledge, understanding and practical learning, perhaps in the form of a log book, which aligns with the NSDRT.  The candidate would need to demonstrate that they have sufficiently covered all units and elements of the NSDRT and driving syllabus.  Evidence could include answers to written questions or printouts from online learning programs, for example.  It might also be reasonable to expect the test candidate to present a full log of their training, including a list of syllabus topics covered during training and copies of trainer feedback reports, signed by both trainer and test candidate.  If the candidate has worked with pupils (whether or not whilst on a trainee licence), then they should be able to show the assessor their full student records and reflective logs.

During the meeting with the assessor, the candidate should be expected to answer questions or elaborate on the evidence presented, e.g. “tell me more about this pupil…” or “what are the reasons you decided to employ this technique in that particular situation?”.  There can be no real ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers here – but at least the candidate can elaborate on the evidence of learning they are presenting.

Questions could also be asked which test the candidate’s understanding of rules and regulations, e.g. “explain to me how you would ensure, on or before their first lesson, that a new learner is legal to drive your car and that they are fit to drive?”

If the assessor can see sufficient evidence of learning and development, the candidate should be signed off for this element.  If not, the assessor can advise on where there are holes or weaknesses, or insufficient evidence that they are fully prepared and equipped to be an ADI.  The candidate can then work towards improving and collecting further evidence to satisfy this element.

This really should not be that difficult an element to implement – after all, much of this is similar to what an ORDIT examiner assesses when carrying out a premises and trainer inspection.

Part 2 – A Standards Check

As proposed, the candidate should present at a local test centre with a pupil and deliver a lesson in exactly the same way that an ADI is asked to do.

(Although I appreciate role play is almost certainly being abolished, it does have its merits when the driver role plays properly and outside the constraints of a pre-set test marking sheet.  It would be nice to have this as an ‘overlap’ option during the first 3-6 months of the new ADI Part 3 test coming into action, to account for those who may have been preparing for an old-style test or don’t have a pupil to use at the allocated Standards Check time.  In this case, the candidate would of course have to attend for test at a centre familiar to the examiner, rather than the PDI’s local test centre.)


This is the only option I can see that ensures a new ADI has received training in all the areas required to satisfy the performance standards and knowledge and understanding criteria listed in the NSDRT and driving syllabus.  A simpler, less preferred option would be for a qualified ADI to simply ‘sign off’ that everything within the NSDRT and syllabus have been covered with that PDI.  But the falsification of documents such as the Pass Plus forms and ADI 21T (PDI Training Record) is well-known in our industry, so at least a more interactive discussion with an examiner/assessor would go some way towards ensuring this doesn’t happen with ADI Part 3 test candidates.

Additional challenges for trainers & their PDIs

I appreciate the need for examiners to see an ADI Part 3 test candidate working with a real pupil and understand that the DVSA are definitely moving away from the role play model. So there will obviously be the need for trainers to provide pupils for the trainees.  This does present a number of issues for trainers, so I would be interested to hear how DVSA would recommend if/how these could be resolved.

Aside from the potential insurance issues and the increased chance of my premiums being affected, there is no way that I would permit PDIs to teach learner drivers in my training vehicle, whilst I am sat in the back seat with no ability to physically intervene, should the need arise. I mean this with no disrespect to PDIs, but accidents can and do happen, particularly with inexperienced PDIs in the passenger seat and learner drivers in the driving seat.  Even some Part 3 examiners that I have spoken to have told me that they are very uncomfortable with the idea, particularly if the training vehicle being used is not fitted with dual controls.  At least on a regular Standards Check with a qualified ADI, the ADI has some degree of experience and the car is almost always fitted with dual controls. I do think this point requires some serious consideration.  Yes, it’s true that untrained members of the public can supervise learner drivers without dual controls, but we do see crashes (and near-crashes) caused by such situations.  Here’s just one related article which I literally just saw posted on Facebook.  Besides, just because it’s currently allowed in law doesn’t make it right.  There is a potential safety risk here which needs addressing, particularly if there are no plans to ensure all PDIs can prove they have a strong training foundation before being permitted to work with novice drivers.

An alternative option to cover the insurance issue would be to ask PDIs to buy/lease their own training vehicles, which they would then need to insure for any learner to drive in.  Aside from the fairly significant cost implications in expecting them to do this (without any guarantee of even qualifying as an ADI), how is that even going to be possible without them signing up for a trainee licence?  Driving school insurance brokers do not currently offer insurance to anyone not registered as a trainee licence holder or fully qualified ADI.

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  • IMO: The part 2 pdi test is adequate to show ability to drive in such a manner that would be passed on to pupils if not, then you fail the test.

    The current part 3 with roll play is the same as rehearsal and that is how most of the training is carried out by some sub standard training bods. The same is true of the current driving test training given by a lot of adi’s in other words, pupils are taught to pass a test rather than how to drive safely.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the intent of the new part 3 test, it is a matter of rehearsal, why would you want to bog things down with additional paperwork? other than to increase levels of training to earn more money for trainers perhaps.