After my wife got her full Australian driving license without much hassle, it was now my turn to be ready for the trial by fire. After giving so many tests throughout the life, I am practically immune to any type of test or at least I thought so.
Being an Indian, taking a test is as natural as breathing to me. It is just that someone watching over my shoulders and judging my skills makes me nervous. Unfortunately driving test is all about that. But more about later.
Steps To Australian Driving License
Irrespective of whether you have the Indian driving license or the International Driving License(IDL), you have to pass three tests to get the Australian Driving License.
1. Road Law Knowledge Test
This test checks your knowledge of driving rules and laws in Victoria. It is a computer-based test with multiple choice questions. If you read the Road to Solo Driving handbook carefully, cracking this one should be piece of cake really.
Once you clear this test, you will be awarded with Learner Permit. It is the most basic type of driving license and comes with many restrictions. Major limitation on this license is that you are allowed to drive only under the supervision of a person holding full Australian driving license.
Secondly, depending on your age, you need to hold Learner permit for a certain period of time till you are allowed to move to the next stage. That means you need to hold Learner permit for 1 year if you are under 21 years of age or for 6 months if you are between 21 to 25 years old or for 3 months if you are over 25 years of age.
2. Hazard Perception Test
HPT is a computer based test to see how you respond to different hazards and dangerous situations on the road. Basically you are shown video clips of different traffic scenarios and you are asked to click to do particular action when it is safe.
For example, the clip might show your car standing on an intersection with oncoming traffic. You need to click when you find a safe gap. It is all about timing. Based on how early or late you respond, your answer is ranked. If you practice well, this should be easy enough to pass.
3. Driving Test
This is the most scary and most difficult of all the tests. Once you clear the Road Law knowledge test and the Hazard test, you can book an appointment for the driving test at any of the VicRoads centre of your choice. Here, the VicRoads examiner checks how well you follow traffic rules as well as your road awareness. She judges you based on different parameters such as vehicle control, compliance to traffic rules and limits, safe driving, gap selection, lane discipline etc. The test is approximately 45 minutes long and consists of residential areas, highways, different speed zones and busy traffic areas.
If you pass, you will either get a probationary or full Australian driving license depending on your case. In case of Probationary license, if you are under 21 years of age, you will be given P1 license otherwise you will get P2 license.
Similarly, if you have more than 3 years old overseas license, you can convert it to full Australian driving license after passing driving test. However, if you fail the test, you are no longer allowed to drive on your overseas license. That’s even when you are allowed to drive for 6 months after entering Australia.
Unfortunately I didn’t have Indian driving license, so I knew I had a long way to go.
Get, Set, Go…
As a first step I started preparing to get my Learner Permit. VicRoads handbook is more than enough to understand all the rules and technical terms. Plus, I practised using VicRoads sample practice test multiple times. The practice test has two modes – feedback mode where you are shown correct answer immediately after you answer each question – and practice mode, where you get to see all the answers at the end of the test.
Funnily, almost 30% questions in the real test were repeated from the practice test. As per my experience, you should only book your test when you can consistently score more than 90% in the practice test.
Road Law Knowledge Test or Car Driver Knowledge Test
Total Questions: 32
Minimum Passing Score: 78%
I booked my test at Exhibition St’s VicRoads centre in Melbourne CBD on a cold morning in July. Ironically, it was also my birthday. So I was in no mood to ruin it by failing the test. Even though I was fairly confident about cracking this test, any kind of test makes me a bit nervous irrespective of how easy or difficult it is to pass. May be it reminds me of my school days which were not so pleasant (sigh!).
I carried below documents as requested by VicRoads:
- Current Indian Passport (along with old expired passport even though it was not required)
- Visa grant letter
- Filled and signed Learner Permit form
I was nearly half an hour before the scheduled time, thanks to the early morning train which I took. I was pretty sure the lady on the counter would bark at me – “Wait outside and come back at your scheduled time”.
Luckily, nothing of the sort happened. Lady on the counter was very kind. Once I submitted all the documents, she asked whether I was ready to go for test early as the test booth was available. I was more than happy to do that.
She then took me to my test booth. It was a small cubicle with usual setup for computer based test. Before the actual test starts, there is an optional practice test to familiarise yourself with the test format. I opted for it to make myself comfortable with all the controls.
The actual test contains 32 questions of which you need to get at least 25 right to pass. Time was plenty as it was multiple-choice test.
Format was simple and very similar to the practice test. For each question, there would be multiple answers. You have to choose correct answer and click on Next. You can mark the question and come back to it later for review. At the end, you can review your answers and make corrections if necessary.
As expected almost 7-8 questions were directly from the practice test making it pretty easy to pass. Given the easiness of the test, if someone manages to fail this test, he/she is seriously not ready for driving yet.
As with any other computer based test, once the test is over, result is immediately shown to you. You are given a printed score sheet which also lists topics you were weak at, based on your performance.
Once I passed the test, I was asked to stand in front of a camera and my photo was taken for license. For the first time in my life, I had a better looking photo on a Government-issued ID card. Usually I look like old Hindi movie villain or his sidekick on any ID card. Now I am not Tom Cruise but neither am I Lord Voldemort.
The license came by post to the mailing address, but I got a temporary receipt which could be used as a proof till I received the actual card. I was happy that my birthday didn’t end on a bad note. Woohoo! One down, two to go.
Hazard Perception Test
Total Questions: 28
Minimum Passing Score: 54%
Hazard test is totally different ball game compared to the Driver Knowledge Test(DKT). Where DKT tests your theoretical knowledge of traffic laws, HPT assesses your ability to identify potential risks on the road. In terms of difficulty, it is couple of notches higher than DKT.
You are shown short video clips taken from the driver’s point of view. You are asked to respond at the appropriate time. If you respond too early, you fail. If you respond too late, you fail. Sometimes, some clips are red herrings, meaning you should not respond at all. The test is extremely simple and yet tricky. It’s like playing Super Mario. You need to click at just the right time to win.
Unfortunately, there is no official VicRoads practice test material. However, there is an online program by the Government of Victoria called DriveSmart, which covers many aspects of the HPT and more. You need to register on the site and complete the online course. It is loaded with lots of useful information, scenarios, quizzes and practice tests on topics such as scanning the surrounding, safe driving, driving in urban area and country side, concentration and so on.
Alternatively, there is a short practice test available on South Australia License site which you can use to practice. Although there are very few clips, it gives pretty good idea about the test format and also about some of the red herrings or trap questions.
I booked my test 3 months from DKT as you need to hold leaner’s permit for 3 months before you apply for Hazards test. It was an early October morning exactly an year before. The only document needed was Learner Permit which I carried. Once my identity was verified, I was given a test booth. It had computer screen, mouse and headphone. Headphone is not for the sound effects(That would be fun!), but the question is read out for those who can’t read.
Again, just before the actual test, there are practice questions which you may skip but I opted them to understand the on-screen controls. In the actual test, a scenario is described and you are asked to respond when safe. It is followed by a video clip and you need to click the button when you feel right. At the end of the test, there is no score. You get just dry “successful” or “unsuccessful” result along with list of topics you were weak at.
I hardly took 30 minutes to finish all the questions. The result – Successful – though anticipated was pleasantly surprising. Hooray! Another easy win. Now all I had to do was to show VicRoads that I don’t just talk the talk but I also walk the walk.