Getting a Driving License: An Outline

Hello, everybody! I know I normally cover things relating to university and internships, but things are a little different — I recently got my driving license! It was a long journey, with many complications, but I did it in the end. However, I remember how confused I was when I started and how difficult it can be to know what to do. Between the three driving schools, the long, drawn-out procedures, and the many cost calculations…I can see how you would lose your head over it.

But don’t worry! I’m here to take you through the ins and outs of everything. So, if you’re looking to get a license but are unsure where to start or what to do, this is the guide for you!

1. The Overall Driving Procedure

First, one needs a layout of the entire driving scene. In Singapore, there are three driving schools: ComfortDelGro Driving Centre (CDC) in Ubi, Singapore Safety Driving Centre (SSDC) in Woodlands, and Bukit Batok Driving Centre (BBDC) in Bukit Batok (obviously). If you’re trying to pick a centre, I suggest you pick the nearest one out of convenience. Some claim certain centres have a higher rate of passing, or have a more difficult circuit etc., so if you want to search about that you can. Personally, I don’t think the rates matter; I think what’s more important is picking a centre nearest to you because you’ll need to visit it very often. It makes it much easier to travel and take lessons if it’s near your house.

Next, regardless of whichever driving centre you go to, you’ll need to follow a set procedure before your practical driving test. I have linked this guide, as it goes into more detail regarding administration, cost, and more. But in general, you need to open an account in one of the driving centres, take a basic theory test (BTT), final theory test (FTT) and three simulator sessions before your final practical test. I suggest you book these as quickly as possible (particularly the simulator lessons) as slots can be difficult to get, particularly during peak seasons (i.e. university break periods).

Of course, you can also learn either automatic or manual — that’s completely up to you. I did manual because I found it more fun, but you can pick. There might be differences regarding the length of time (automatic might be faster), but in the end it’s generally just down to you: how fast you can learn, and how well you can handle nerves during the final practical test.

2. School versus Private

When opening your account, you can choose to either have a school account or a private one. If you’re confused, don’t worry, I was too. Let me explain. You technically have to register with a school so you’re in the system and can book appointments, but you can choose to do it with either a school or a private account. There are two main differences: whether you have to take lessons for your theory tests, and whether you’re learning driving with the school or a private instructor.

Based on my experience with both, I highly recommend the private route. Firstly, the theory tests are really very easy — just do some practice questions and you’ll be fine. You can find past questions online, or search the app store for some practice questions. That is not the main consideration for most people.

What people typically want to know is the difference between school driving lessons and private driving lessons. I’ve taken both, and I think it is much better to take the private route, mainly because of how structured the school version is. With the school version, you need to complete a set number of lessons before being able to move on and learn more things. It doesn’t matter how fast you are; you cannot move forward and take the final practical test unless you complete approximately thirty-something lessons. Additionally, you’re constantly switching instructors, and sometimes different instructors teach different things. This can get very confusing, especially for manual.

Finally, with private, it is much easier to book the circuit. What do I mean? Well, there are two components for the final practical test: the indoor circuit and driving on the road. You will start in the circuit, and have to pass a set number of components before you can drive on the road. For road driving, they will simply tell you to turn left or right or U-turn, and you just follow their advice. Then, you go back to the driving center and get your results. If you take lessons with the school, to practice the circuit, you need to book lessons at the centre directly. But because everyone is booking slots at the centre, it can take months to get a single driving slot, meaning you can’t practice the circuit. Meanwhile, when I booked with a private account, I just handed my account details over to my teacher, and they managed to settle the slots for me within a week or two.

Finally, if you’re worried about the costs, my advice is that driving is going to be expensive no matter what — it can take two to three thousand, depending on your performance. And if you’re trying to save cost, I recommend private. If you’re faster, you pay less. But if you’re slower, you pay the same amount to teacher who knows you and is consistent in lessons. Additionally, you pay around the same amount, but you get to have more circuit lessons, which increases your probability of passing.

3. Finding an Instructor

Assuming you’ve finished all the administrative matters and tests, it’s time to start practising driving! Remember to bring a downloaded picture of your provisional driving license (PDL) — you need it to start learning.

If you’ve opened a school account, congratulations! You can start driving — they’ll assign you an instructor based on the timing and slot you booked. If you want to find a private instructor, you can either find one through word of mouth or by hanging around the driving centre. For me, I tried a few methods e.g. googling, word of mouth etc. But out of all the strategies, the most effective was to hang around and ask for a private manual instructor. After I finished by FTT, I asked a staff member where the private driving instructors were, and I just walked to the locations and asked if they knew a private manual instructor.

Keep in mind that I did my license at SSDC, and I’m not sure if this applies to the other schools. Regardless, it can be a good strategy to try, if you’re looking for one. From my experience, all the private driving instructors are pretty good, so I don’t think there’s much difference in quality. But if you want to check, feel free to ask around.

And that’s all — good luck for your driving exam! See you next round!

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