Overseas Pupils

The language:

A driving test candidate must have enough English for safe driving.

In effect this makes the driving test a English test as well.

  • Interpreters are no longer allowed
  • The Theory test must also be done in English

This could be the difference between:

  • Pull up on the left
  • Take the next left
  • Take the next available left
  • Take the second left
  • Bear left
  • Take the left hand lane

Quite often a pupils level of understanding is much better than their spoken English

It will quite often be the case that they will have good reading and writing English but not spoken.

They can have a limited command of spoken English but first and higher degree level qualifications in their own country.

As you spend time with them they will get used to your voice and the way you use words. You will get used to them.

Pulling over more frequently may be an option as you will be both putting effort into communication.

Greater use of visual aids may help. Get them doing diagrams.

As always it is good practice to use the examiner phraseology. More so where the pupils’ understanding is limited.

Follow this link for more information Driving Test Wording


Remember cultural differences may also come into play

  • A general respect for a teacher and expecting you to lead
  • A more hierarchical social structure where you are in a more dominant position 

The driving test and learning to drive is part of the process of making themselves better able to fit in.

  • For some of them it has been a case of fleeing a regime that may want to imprison or kill them
  • Others might have been expected to serve in the army and kill on behalf of the regime
  • Another group may be just trying to make their life better either for themselves and or their children
  • Everyone’s journey will be different 


Two main groups here, ordinary learners and those on an international licence.


The international is valid for 1 year from the date of entry.

  • Once they have an address here it’s a good idea to get the UK licence
  • Going on holiday and claiming 1 year from your last date of holiday entry into the UK will not work
  • Anything complicated, get advice!
  • To convert to a full UK licence they must start with a provisional licence

Provisional Licence all the normal rules apply.

  • They may not be familiar with the system here so check
  • DVLA licence check if not sure of anything
  • Eyesight and general health for driving

If from a country where they drive on the right.

  • Interior mirror check can be over right shoulder with blind spot to the left
  • Gear stick and handbrake will take getting used to
  • Beware of them defaulting to driving on the right side of the road
  • The above can be more so at junctions
  • Be aware of going the wrong way at roundabout

If the written language of where they are from looks like scribble to you. Imagine what ours looks like to them.

  • Get them used to following road signs
  • Make sure they are okay with the satnav being in English

You can look at your high street and know things about the people and shops that you would not know if you had not lived here.

  • Looked at a similar scene in downtown Bombay and it will be colors and shapes without the same meaning as your own street
  • There is a discipline and predictability to UK traffic 
  • Sometimes being safe just will mean going very slowly

Their model of what good driving should be like will be very different to ours. 

  • For instance often the safe place is the middle of the road
  • Driving along tooting your horn is expected
  • Giving way is an act of cowardice
  • Waiting till nothing is coming is not a sign of weakness but wisdom

If the paragraph above sounds like your UK pupils as well, it was meant to. Treat them all as individuals and do your best.