The Practical Driving Assessment (PDA) is a 35-minute on-road test taken with a Department of Transport assessor. The PDA assesses your ability to operate and guide the car, put the road rules into practise, fit in with other traffic, and see and respond to hazards.
To attempt the test you must:
- Be 16 years and 6 months or older
- Submit your pre-PDA log book with 25 hours (include signed declaration of completion)
- Present your learner permit AND prove your identity
- Provide a roadworthy vehicle of the correct class
- Pay the licence and test fees
It is important to remember that you are under no pressure to take the test as soon as you qualify. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your progress and believe you are ready to move to the next stage of the licensing system. As such, you can continue to practice on your learner permit until you feel confident in your ability to pass. If necessary, you can get another learner permit after the 3 years for which your original is valid.
When you attend your chosen assessment location, arrive at least 10 minutes before your booked time (if you are more than 5 minutes late, you will not be assessed). You will need to have a number of things with you:
- Booking details
- Your entire Learner Guide and Log Book (pre-PDA section completed with signed declaration of completion)
- A suitable, roadworthy vehicle of the correct class (with centrally mounted handbrake)
- Current learner permit card
- Proof of identity (primary and secondary)
- A method of payment should you pass
- A supervising driver who can accompany you after the test
As assessors are subject to regular auditing and training, your assessment officer may be accompanied by a Department of Transport monitoring officer or assessment officer in training (although having more than just an assessment officer is rare). If present, a monitoring officer, trainer or trainee will sit in the back seat and is there to watch the assessor, not you – so don’t be worried.
The PDA has 5 sections. During 3 sections you will follow directions and during 2 you will perform set exercises. The diagram below summarises how the PDA works.
|Section 1: Follow Directions|
|Section 2: Exercise A|
|Section 3: Follow Directions|
|Section 4: Exercise B|
|Section 5: Follow Directions|
When following directions, the assessor will be telling you when to turn and guiding you on the journey from the PDA site and back. When performing exercises, the assessor will explain what you have to do. You will have to decide the best way to execute. The exercises cover common driver tasks, such as finding somewhere to park.
The assessor uses ‘PDA items’ to judge performance. The PDA items list what you are expected to do. The assessor judges if you do what the PDA items require.
The assessor records by indicating ‘YES’ or ‘NO’. If the assessor writes something it doesn’t necessarily mean you have made a mistake.
You need to perform consistently in the PDA. PDAs assess the ‘completeness’ of your driving and you won’t pass if you haven’t demonstrated important aspects of the skill.
What Will the Assessor Look For?
During each section, your performance is assessed against 5 items. Some faults can cause you to fail. They include all offences for which demerit points apply while on a provisional licence, together with things that indicate you are not ready to drive solo. You will automatically fail if you:
- drive without wearing a seat belt
- disobey a regulatory sign (e.g. stop sign)
What are the PDA Items?
The items against which your driving will be assessed are:
- Flow - assesses how well you combine driving skills together
- Movement - assesses whether you move smoothly when you drive the car
- Path - assesses whether you pick the best track and stay on track
- Responsiveness - assesses if you’re aware of hazards & respond appropriately
- Look Behind - assesses if you use your rear view mirrors and check blind spots
- Signal - assesses if you use let others know what you intend to do
- Vehicle Management - assesses if you keep an eye on vehicle instruments while driving, use the steering wheel correctly and use the clutch/gearbox effectively
The first 3 items are the essence of the PDA. They look at how well you can combine all basic control skills. You need a lot of experience to do well on these items.
The 4th item assesses how you respond to what is happening around you. It is an important ingredient in taking care of your and others’ safety.
The final 3 items assess if you have developed basic routines that are ingrained habits.
If You Pass
The assessor will note that you have passed the PDA on the form and give you a copy.
Even if you pass, you have likely made some errors. The assessor will tell you which areas of your driving did not meet the standard.
Your driving will improve as you gain more experience. Even after you pass you should continue to get as much supervised driving experience as possible.
If You Fail
The assessor will note you haven’t passed the PDA on the form and give you a copy.
The assessor will explain which areas of your driving did not meet the standard. The PDA form will clearly show where your performance needs to improve.
You will also get specific information on how to improve before you take the PDA again.
Know what's coming
You should consult the Department of Transport produced How To Pass Your Driving Assessment handbook to assist in preparing for the assessment. This document will provide you with a complete understanding of the PDA requirements, what you must do to pass and what you must do to avoid failing.
Driving Test WA provides a 33-page summary of this 88-page document. This summary focuses on the most relevant and vital information that can contribute to your success in the PDA and is a highly recommended resource as you prepare for the assessment.
For further administrative details including fees and booking information, refer to the Department of Transport website to ensure you access the most up-to-date and accurate information.
Check out the other resources available to help you pass the Practical Driving Assessment and get your provisional licence (Red Ps):
- How To Pass Your Driving Assessment summary
- Preparation tips
- PDA tips
- Provisional licence details (Red Ps)
- Hazard Perception Test WA Resources
For comprehensive information on the provisional licence and Practical Driving Assessment, please refer to the Department of Transport website. The above information is a summary of this content and although current when published may now be outdated. To ensure you are accessing the most current and accurate information, use the DoT website or visit your nearest Department of Transport centre.