Freshly 18-year-old young adults’ most coveted item, the P-Plate, can be bought from literally everywhere: petrol stations, convenience stores, and supermarkets! But to be legally qualified to use them is not as easy because time, money, and effort are involved. 

Attaining a driver’s licence may be tedious and you can choose between two different learning routes to go about it — driving school and going private.

Like most students who source for their private driving instructors, 22-year-old Tan Zhi Hong got his instructor through word-of-mouth recommendations. While it is uncommon, some people do source from the internet. It is also important to look out for certain criteria in a PDI. Zhi Hong mentioned, “You can look out for the teaching style, passing rates, and the lesson rate compared to the market rate as some PDI might overcharge.” 

20-year-old Jovis Ang did not need to personally source for a driving instructor since he was from the driving school. He simply booked a practical lesson slot on the portal and the system assigned an instructor that was available to him.

Basic Theory Test (BTT) 

Before you get to hit the road, you have to pass your BTT which tests your basic knowledge of traffic rules, signals, and regulations in order to attain your Provisional Driving License (PDL). But, that does not mean that you have attained your licence just yet! Having a PDL means that you are legally allowed to drive on the road with an instructor. 

20-year-old Jovis Ang, who graduated from BBDC realised that he had to pass an evaluation round first before being eligible for the actual test. While taking the basic theory lessons, he opted for lessons that cover the basics of driving and went for an evaluation right before the actual test. 

Jovis shared, “The theory lessons prepared me enough and the test questions were rather straightforward and nothing too technical.” So if you lack the discipline to revise at home, you can consider going for the driving school route as there are lessons provided. In total, he took three weeks to pass the BTT!

Zhi Hong, who attained his driving licence under the guidance of a private instructor did not attend any theory lessons as they were not provided. Instead, he prepared for the BTT by completing the mock test available on the Traffic Police (TP) Test website. The content of the mock test is very similar to the actual test and solutions will be provided for the wrong answers keyed in. 

A tip he shared before booking the actual theory test is to repeatedly complete the mock test until you are familiar with the test questions and answers. Safe to say, he passed his BTT on his first attempt!

Final Theory Test (FTT)  

The Final Theory Test (FTT) is just a higher-level test after the BTT, testing your knowledge of proper driving techniques and how you interact with other road users. Both Jovis and Zhi Hong used the same learning method as their BTT to pass their FTT. As they have passed their BTT, they would have already attained their PDL. The FTT is the final theory test that they have to tick their boxes before they can book for their Traffic Police (TP) Test. 

The cars from the driving school and PDI are required to include the Learning Plate (known as L-plate, which is hung near the car plate, front and behind). Photo Credit: Tiffany Seah

Practical Lessons: Driving on the road with your instructor

This is where the biggest difference lies in choosing between learning at a driving school or from a private instructor: 

  1. Instructors – private students have a fixed driving instructor to learn from while driving school students usually learn from different instructors and have to pay more to request for the same instructor.
  2. Learning grounds — private students have to start their first lesson on the public road while driving school students have access to the school’s circuit. 
  • Driving Schools:

For Jovis’s first practical lesson, he only drove within the school’s circuit to familiarise himself with operating a car. But by his second lesson, he was already venturing out onto the main road to learn the technical skills of driving. 

Booking a practical lesson for him is as tough as booking his BTT test slot. Jovis had to wait for at least a month to book a practical lesson — which typically lasts for an hour and 45 minutes. A tip that he provided to lessen the waiting time is to diligently check and wait for other members of the school to cancel their slots and take over them.

Jovis had different instructors teaching him in the 21 practical lessons he attended. Fortunately for him, Jovis found the process to be helpful as he was exposed to new ways of teaching. This will also be fitting if you’re someone who is open to learning from different types of instructors. However, if you would like the same instructor for your lessons, an additional charge will be incurred, subject to the instructor’s availability. 

After 21 practical lessons, Jovis had an additional step which was to pass an evaluation round before being able to book for his TP Test. This entire process to attain his driving licence took him 5 months. Though, he shared that it could have been faster if not for the long booking process. 

The driving school will be a better option for you if you are someone who needs a step-by-step guide on driving techniques at a slow pace. 

  • Private Instructors:

Since Zhi Hong already has basic knowledge of driving, he requested from his PDI to start his lesson at the pick-up point and hit the road immediately on his first lesson. However, if you need more confidence to drive openly on the main road, you can opt for your PDI to teach you the basics in a more rural area. 

Zhi Hong did not have to wait for a long booking time with his PDI, he could even book up to 3 lessons per week — which was what he did! His lessons lasted for an hour, which was perfect for him. “I preferred a shorter lesson time as I could absorb the information I was taught a lot faster,” Zhi Hong shared. 

In addition, booking a practical lesson under a PDI is relatively fast compared to driving schools as the chances of booking a slot are higher. And the best part of all: your instructor will be with you throughout your journey — unless, of course, you decide to change midway. 

“If you want to learn in a less stressful environment, there are actually fewer cars in non-mature estates,” a tip Zhi Hong shared from his experience. He attended 20 lessons in total and the process to attain his licence only took him three months. 

The practical lessons require a shorter waiting time and cater to your own speed as you do not have to go through evaluations before taking the actual theory tests. If you are looking to finish your practical lessons fast, the private route will be the better choice for you.


You’re about 60% there in attaining your driving licence! Both Jovis and Zhi Hong had to complete four practical lessons before being eligible to attend the mandatory three simulator sessions. If you’re wondering where these sessions are held, they will be conducted at the  school that you are registered to. 

The simulator machine enables you to experience what cannot be done on public roads like emergency braking. Photo credit: BBDC on Facebook

For Jovis, he managed to complete all three sessions within a span of two months while Zhi Hong completed them within three months, mainly due to the lack of available slots. Both of them shared that while the simulation did teach them something new, the overall feel of the virtual simulation is different from driving a car. 

The first part of your TP test will be the circuit which tests your parking skills, manoeuvring around bends, and overall driving skills. Photo credit: Tiffany Seah 

Traffic Police Test (TP)

The price of the TP Test for Zhi Hong ranged from around $400 to $500 as he was under a PDI and $300 to $350 for Jovis as he was a driving school student. Since this is the final step in obtaining your driving licence, your driving skills will be put to the test in a span of 20 to 30 minutes! 

As Zhi Hong was under a PDI, an additional step he had to complete before his actual TP Test was to drive the car to the driving school that he was registered to. Apart from that, his TP process was similar to Jovis, who had to wait at the waiting area of the driving school to be called up to start the test. Both of them started the test in the circuit which lasted around 10 minutes, before heading out of the school to a test route on the main road for the last part of their test.

If you are having your TP Test soon, here is some advice from Jovis and Zhi Hong:

  1. Wear comfortable covered shoes — it gives you a better grip on the foot pedals. 
  2. Repeat the instructions given by your tester verbally — so you will not go the wrong way!
  3. Exaggerate your movements of checking for blindspots —- so that the tester actually notices it. 
If you are registered with SSDC, feel free to take pictures with the congratulatory board after you have passed your TP Test. Photo Credit: Tiffany Seah

Where To Begin?

The beginning of your journey starts when you enrol and register for an account at either of the three driving schools in Singapore. 

These are the three driving schools in Singapore: 

  1. Singapore Safety Driving Centre (SSDC)
  2. Comfort Delgro Driving Centre (CDC) 
  3. Bukit Batok Driving Centre (BBDC) 

The steps to attain your licence: 

  1. Enroll in one of the driving schools
  2. Study and pass your BTT test
  3. Start your practical lessons
  4. Go for your simulators and pass your FTT test
  5. Go for your TP Test

Whichever path is chosen, remember that attaining a driving licence is the end goal! Everyone has their own learning styles — so make sure to choose the path that fits yours the best.

Proofread by: Danial Roslan and Kimberley Caleon