Driving test proves an easy ride

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"Which one of the following best describes the new written driving test? (A) a waste of time (B) a rip-off (C) a doddle (D) yet another way for the Government to make money."

Had the first candidate at the Oxford test centre been faced with this multiple choice question yesterday, they would still be there now, trying to decide which box to tick.

As it was, none of the questions was this taxing and everyone was out in good time - some after just seven minutes.

The biggest grumble from the 54 candidates who sat the test in a second- floor office in the Westway shopping centre was the cost. The fact that some of the questions were "pathetic" came a close second.

The mood beforehand was of resignation. They had already got off to an unlucky start. Had they submitted their applications earlier they would not have been there in the first place.

Afterwards, the candidates were incredulous. Bryoni Florey, 17, (pictured), a student who lives 15 miles outside Oxford, had refused to fork out pounds 9.99 for the Driving Standards Authority (DSA) book featuring the 600 questions from which 35 would be chosen. As it turned out, it did not matter.

"Some of the questions were really quite stupid," she said. "Like I was given a picture of a Coke can, a sandwich box, a lemonade bottle and a petrol can and asked where I would carry my petrol. It was quite nice because I knew I had one in the bag. Then they asked me what I would do at a give-way sign: keep going, brake sharply, stop - which was the answer - or something stupid, like reverse."

She was disgusted by the cost of the test. "It's a downright rip-off," she said.

Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Galpin agreed with her, but had bought the pounds 9.99 book for fear of failing and having to pay another pounds 15 for a re- take.

"I can't believe they're charging pounds 15 on top of pounds 28.50 for the practical test, then there's pounds 9.99 for the booklet, pounds 30 for a double lesson before the road test, not to mention travel to and from the test centres," she said.

Daniel Mitchell, 22, from Oxford, was first to finish. You didn't exactly have to be a rocket scientist - or a computer programmer like himself - to answer the questions, he said. "I mean, if you miss your junction on the motorway, should you reverse down the hard shoulder with your hazard lights going? I don't think so. Who's going to put that down?"

But broadly speaking, Daniel approved of their test "It's not terribly difficult once you've been told you need to know things, but it's making you aware of things you need to know," he added.

Ben Simons, 17, wanted his results immediately. "It's a bit off that they don't tell you the results for a week, particularly as I take my practical test tomorrow," he said.

For some, the experience was a throwback to their school days: the neat rows of desks, the invigilators pacing up and down and the strict silence.

"It's like being back at school," said Jan Robins, a 46- year-old civil servant who is a first-time tryer for a licence.