10 helpful tips for young people seeking to get their driving license in Singapore

Red light, stop. Green light, start. Now if only all driving were as easy as that.

Everyone who wishes to obtain their driving license will have to go through a months-long process where they familiarise themselves with driving standard operating procedure (SOP), not to mention pass a basic and also a final theory test.

In return, you’ll get a driving license that you could possibly use should you get your hands on a car in the future — well, good for you if your family already has one.

But before you get all excited thinking of how you’ll be able to ferry people around and possibly show off in the future, let’s step aside for a quick strategy meeting.

As someone who once got their driving license as a young person (before entering university to be exact), there are some things that I would have done differently on hindsight. Hypothetically speaking, if I had to prepare for and take that dreaded test again… (the horror!), these are some of the things that I would do.

Hopefully, this tip-sharing can be beneficial to you, boosting your learning process!

Basic information you need to know

But first of all, let’s begin with some basic information about your driving license, shall we?

Alright, let’s get into it.

Types of license: Auto and manual

Basically, there are two types of driving license that you could get, Class 3 and Class 3A, or manual or auto respectively. Manual refers to you having to manually shift gears. From gear 0 in resting position, you switch to gear 1 to allow your vehicle to move off, then gear 2 as the car gains speed, then gears 3 and 4 as it cruises along the road. In terms of racing games, Ridge Racer allows for manual driving.

Where manual vehicles have an extra clutch pedal, auto vehicles merely have the standard accelerator and brake pedals. It’s just like a go-kart or most racing games where you just press the acceleration button to go faster and the brake button to go slower. Don’t try drifting in real life, though. You shouldn’t put your precious life at unnecessary risk!

Technically speaking, an auto license should suffice for the typical modern-day car. Why would someone go for manual, though? Well, they may find that auto is too easy and manual is more challenging, and anyway, if you get a license for manual, you’ll be able to drive auto cars as well! Technically, you simply end up with an expanded driving repertoire. Seems a bit irrational and whimsical even, but that was my rationale in choosing, anyway.

Mode of instruction: Driving school vs private instructor

The driving test consists of theoretical and practical components, all of which are held in the three driving schools around Singapore. The three driving schools are Singapore Safety Driving Centre (SSDC), Comfort Delgro Centre (CDC) and Bukit Batok Driving Centre (BBDC), located at Woodlands, Ubi and Bukit Batok respectively. Most people would probably take their tests at the driving school located nearest to their house because well, surely that would be most convenient.

Still, while you have no choice but to take the tests at the driving schools, what about the driving lessons themselves? Now that’s where the private instructors come in. The overall cost of getting the license should still be four digits no matter what, but you can still be expected to save a significant sum if you go for private lessons rather than their curriculum at the driving schools.

What’s the catch? Well, you’ve got to actually go look for a private driving instructor and even then, you may not like the person. For me, I went with the driving instructor recommended by my mother’s friend whose son also got a license and then stuck with him throughout. Still, there would surely be people switching instructors due to incompatibility! Thus, the process might require you to put in a bit of effort, requiring some added initiative on your part. You save money, though.

Brief process walkthrough

Step 1: Get to your school of choice, register your account and sign up for the Basic Theory Test

Step 2: Study for the Basic Theory Test

Step 3: Pass the Basic Theory Test and get your PDL (Provisional Driving License) (it allows you to drive with an instructor beside you)

Step 4: Start taking driving lessons (roads + circuit) while also signing up, studying for and passing the Final Theory Test

Step 5: Book the Practical Driving Test

Step 6: Pass the Practical Driving Test

Step 7: Apply for driving license

Step 8: Celebrate!


Now with that out of the way, it’s time for our ten meticulously crafted tips for obtaining your license!

1: Sit in the co-driver’s seat more if possible

When sitting in a car, are you usually in the front seat or the back seat? Of course, for someone who hasn’t got a driving license, this front seat would refer to the co-driver’s seat on the left. Now, being in this seat, you’ve literally got a front-row seat to see how driving is done!

From such a vantage point, observe how the driver is acting and reacting under different circumstances. Imagine what you yourself would do in their shoes. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask — the caveat is, of course, that you don’t bother the driver, disrupt their concentration and cause them to get into an accident. Um, if something terrible like that happens, you’ll probably get so traumatised you won’t wanna learn driving anymore.

2: Take a break from Burnout Legends

If you’re a young person, chances are you’ve played racing games at some point in your life before. Now, we all know how racing games work. We try to be first to the finish line. In the process we may do crazy stunts like drifting, ramming the neighbouring car a bit, creeping up stealthily on them before pushing towards their centre to nudge them off course… In Burnout Legends specifically, you’ve got kill streaks for offing multiple cars.

No, I’m definitely not saying that we’re all trigger-happy idiots in real life. It’s just that the driving car in real life vibe is a serious, responsible, reliable one. Meanwhile, our young people vibe is more of a carefree and ‘wheeee’ one in general. It won’t be a problem if you’re a solidxgrounded type, but if you happen to be a randomxcarefree type, especially one who’s played many games before, concentrate! Concentrate! Real repercussions!

3: Keep a record of expenditure

So I would hate to sound like your mother, but you should probably keep a record of how much you spend on your driving lessons. Here’s the logic. Let’s say your family is relatively comfortable financially and your parents are sponsoring your license. In that case, chances are you probably won’t feel the pinch of spending hard-earned money. To put it bluntly, you’ll just take it for granted.

Only people with greater life experience (aka perhaps not you) acutely sense that their hard-earned money is ever trickling away. They’ll feel a strong motivation to make full use of it and pass as soon as possible and therefore won’t play-play. Think about it this way, okay. How many burgers can the money you save from saving on a single lesson get you? And how about 10 lessons?!!! Extra budget = your own money = motivation!

4: Spam those free mock tests

So you have those theory tests. Now, feel free to have a different opinion, but I for one think that it would be super boring, lame and a waste of time to go attend theory lessons at one of the driving schools. For that very reason it would be best to choose a private driving instructor rather than going with the ones at the schools (they come in a set alongside the theory lessons).

At the end of the day, the theory tests are just MCQ. Meanwhile, there are free mock questions available online that you can spam for free. Personally, I don’t think I even bought the book for the final theory test — I directly learnt the answers from them questions ha. Now if your English is okay and you’re quite okay at thinking about questions (thank the education system!), self-study shouldn’t be all that hard.

5: Consistency is key

If you’re learning something, you’ve got to be learning it regularly for it to stick in your head. For that reason, it’d probably be best for you to schedule at least weekly lessons. And in the extremely unlikely event that you fail your practical test (gasp), which this article is very solemnly trying to avert, you also shouldn’t lose all motivation for a bit and stop lessons for a while! Stick at it —  don’t neglect it and make negative progress!

Obviously, the standard rules for taking lessons apply. Be punctual or you’re wasting your money (yes, that again!). Go to the toilet before driving because it’s not like your classroom where there’s one just outside the door! But um… please be understanding with your driving instructor if they ask you to pull up for them to visit the washroom ok. Like old people have weak kidneys and stuff. Be compassionate! Old is gold. Age is wisdom.

6: Please mentally show up too

While physically showing up is the foundation of everything, you’ve got to channel concentration and focus into learning as well. Think about it this way. Back when studying in primary/secondary school, however much you studied, however well you studied, it’s not like you could take the exam earlier and spend the rest of your time chilling and having loads of fun.

Here’s the thing — when you’re not in school, lessons follow your pace. If you’re a freaking genius who absorbs everything like a sponge, you’ll zoom through like a rocket. Tbh for some of us, our school system teaches us how to like anyhow-anyhow chill-chill play-play. One work of advice: Focus! If you’re seriously hardcore, I don’t know, you can go record yourself with a camera and analyse all the footage or something. You’ll graduate faster for sure. Just don’t autopilot mode.

7: Don’t forget about the little details

Generally, there are some minor details that we tend to overlook. However, said details are actually essential for the optimisation of our performances! Do you know why those football players wear football shoes and basketball players wear basketball shoes? It’s to max out their performances. For driving, you use the same car, adjust the seat to a similar feet-pedal distance each time, angle the mirror to the same degree, etcetera…

Oh, and speaking of shoes, please don’t like one day slipper one day sandal one day shoe okay. You know how professional esports players will use the same mouse right. It’s all because of the hand feel (手感). Now if you whole day anyhow change shoe, how can you rely on this feet feel (脚感)? One day step like this correct, one day step like that correct, your feet will be very confused and cannot use the correct amount of strength at the correct angle. Do yourself a favour and allocate a usual pair, amateur!

8: Rack up the necessary experiences

The more you drive, the more you’ll be exposed to different situations that crop up when you drive. The more you are exposed to these situations, the more familiar you’ll be with them. The more familiar you are with them, the more adept you’ll be at handling them. A couple of lessons should suffice for this, but luck is most definitely a factor for you to get all the necessary experiences gathered. Some things are just out of your control.

Something that it is advisable to prepare for is driving in the rain. Even if you have a 99% accurate weather forecast source and it predicts that it won’t rain on your test date, what if that 1% ninja strikes? No, it’s better to be prepared for all scenarios, which means a few lessons (okay, 2 at least?) driving under rainy conditions. And let’s not even go into how drizzling is different from raining cats and dogs, okay. In sum, experience = been there, done that, easy-peasy. No experience = mindblank, panic, gg.

9: Scout the battlefield prior

The driving test consists of two parts, circuit in test centre and driving on public roads. These being public roads, it means that you can drive on them anytime with your own instructor and get familiar with them! If you do that, when the invigilator tells you what number road you’ll be tested on, you’ll know what you’ll be facing even before turning that bend. It would be unwise to go in blind. In a war, information is king, is priceless.

Don’t be lazy and drive the test roads several times but not really remember any of them at all like I might or might not have done. Right before the test, remember to do a proper driving warm-up and bring your essence, breath and spirit to their peak state. Since you’ll be near the venue for sure anyway, you might as well just perform reconnaissance one final time. Get yourself into gear and ready to rumble!

10: It’s not over till it’s over

During the test, you can’t make more than 20 points of mistakes (there are immediate failure actions too). Now, unless you’re a super high achiever who wants a perfect score and would rather retake the test than get marked a single point, you’ll probably end up making mistakes. You may even fumble and make a few in a row. Here, there’s the risk of these mistakes pressuring you and crushing your mentality.

Don’t cave in! Ignore it! Don’t let it get to you! Okay, when I passed, uncharacteristically, I ended up making many mistakes in the circuit. I had like 16-18 points stacked up in the circuit itself. I didn’t even know if I could make it out to the roads and I had no idea what I was doing anymore. Still, I just did whatever and controlled the car to traverse the roads somehow. Long story short, I somehow only got 0-2 points there and passed.???


Good luck on the roads! One road smooth wind!


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