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Which Advanced Driving Test is the best?

By September 22, 2016March 5th, 2024ADI's, Advanced, Uncategorized

“Which Advanced Driving Test is the best?/is a equivalent to a Police Class 1/is the toughest/hardest/most like the police/etc etc” Is another question that often comes my way.

First off – Any further driver training, regardless of if you take a test, or just have a couple of hours every few years with a Driving Instructor to brush up is invaluable and would go a long way to increasing driving standards in the UK.

This is just my thoughts based on my background and experience to quantify the different tests for Advanced Driving Enthusiasts, or those who want to think they’re as qualified as police drivers.

Let’s get the first one out the way  – Sorry to break it to you – but no civilian test or course is ever going to come close to a Police Course, simply due to the intensive instruction, the speeds involved and the skill required to consistently and safely handle the vehicle while driving at those very high speeds on the public road.

For Police drivers, strictly speaking  Class 1 hasn’t existed since the late 90’s, when the training was revamped into Police Advanced and Roadcraft was simplified down into IPSGA.

(Class 1 and Class 2 were effectively test scores similar to Pass and Distinction (80% vs 85% if I remember correctly) assessed across the whole course and final drive  Some forces didn’t bother with a Class 2 Pass it was fail or intermediate grade instead)

Also the occasional Force might still call Police Advanced “Class 1” for historical reasons but the official name and pass criteria set by the NPCC is Police Advanced.

Is an Advanced pass is equivalent to a Class 1 or  Class 2 or neither? – Well that depends on who you ask.

I’d simply say Police Advanced isn’t directly comparable to the original Class 1 (depending what time frame you look at) on the basis the course is a different length, the syllabus was slightly different, Roadcraft was different, some the instructional techniques were different, and the power of the vehicles and the technology in them were different, that’s not to say someone passing one couldn’t pass the other and vice versa – just that they were, well – different.

So, a “for instance” – Early 70’s Class 1 drivers would have been driving into three figure speeds, but also using arm signals within the system when appropriate, double de-clutching, and on crossply tyres with drum brakes.

Even then the standard of the original Class 1’s varied depending on the regional driving school in question.

The BMW isn’t just a lot quicker top end , it’s also a lot easier to drive !

a110-westminster   police-bmw

So with that out of the way, what about the Civilian Courses?

Diamond Advanced

The easiest is the Diamond Advanced run by the Driving Instructors Association- Little more than a normal driving test with slightly tighter marking. Trainee driving Instructors sometimes use it as a ‘dry run’ for their part 2 exam. You can either take this test directly via the DIA or undertake training with a Driving Instructor first. Obviously this could work out more expensive than the other courses if you need a lot of training for the test.

IAM Roadsmart

Next up is the IAM Roadsmart – (Institute of Advanced Motorists) Course.

The IAM was the first civilian test based on ‘Roadcraft’ the Police handbook – You buy it as a package for around £150 which includes the course book, sessions with a volunteer observer and the test fee (or if you’re feeling confident you can purchase the test alone with no training provided for about £99)

Over the years the IAM have gradually moved away from the original Roadcraft standards and into a more “user friendly” format, dumping Roadcraft, and developing their own standards on things like Steering and Brake Gear Separation and removing the Commentary requirement to make it easier for the general public. (Strictly speaking the test has two pass levels.  Pass and a “F1rst”.  A “F1RST” is for someone who scores mainly 1’s in the test which is broadly equivalent, depending on who you ask to a RoSPA Gold  No commentary is required for a Pass just if you are attempting the First grade).

Then you can pay extra and sign up as a “Fellow” – This means that like the RoSPA test you undergo a three yearly retest.

They no longer exclusively use police trained examiners, (instead you could be examined by a member who has passed the Masters test (see below) with a Distinction and completed the in house observers qualification.

There was also some discussion early on that, the then new IAM Observers Qualifications was accredited under the Institute of the Motor Industry. The IMI is one of many bodies which accredits qualifications for the RCF Framework   (On closer inspection the certificates actually say “IMI Quality Assured” not accredited and the qualifications don’t appear in the framework so would seem to  have no associated academic credits)

Some might say that the final nail in the coffin is new a non-tested route to membership piloted from  2019 onwards, (known by various names such as membership by portfolio and Group Sign-Off where the associate undertakes a small number of observed runs and is then “signed off” in house with no test, meaning it becomes little more than a glorified Pass Plus course taught by non-professionals. (This may to sail close to the wind with regard to S123 of the Road Traffic Act as the client  is simply paying for a series of sessions and then being signed off.  Observers being unpaid wouldn’t seem to make a difference as S123 has a blanket “instruction is paid instruction if payment of money or money’s worth is, or is to be, made by or in respect of the person to whom the instruction is given for the giving of the instruction”  – and its always been a grey area if this applies to full license holders or not – This doesn’t apply to tested advanced courses  given by the IAM or anyone else as the fee is nominally for course materials, membership of the group and the test itself, but it is an interesting question nevertheless.)

The certificates for the non-tested route are the same so anyone thinking of employing fleet trainers should dig a little further into it or ask for a different qualification if in doubt.


RoSPA – The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents also offer a driving test.

Originally the passing grades were 1,2 and 3 which were changed some years ago to Gold, Silver and Bronze. It’s usually considered a more ‘vocational’ qualification –  in that the Security Industry, the Chauffeur Industry, Private Ambulance Fleets,  and Fleet departments generally all usually recognise it, oddly enough not many insurance companies.

The RoSPA test has to be retaken every 3 years which is one of the original reasons a lot of people rated it above the IAM test (see IAM Fellow above) and for Gold a higher standard of drive is expected. A “normal” IAM pass would get you roughly a RoSPA Bronze or Silver depending on the quality of the drive and who you ask. It was for this reason that many years ago the common enthusiasts route was the IAM test, followed by going on to take RoSPA afterwards.

Many years ago RoSPA used to say something along the lines of “The holder of a RoSPA Gold would expect to do well on a STANDARD Police Course“, note not be at the level of a police standards driver, just be expected to do well if they went on the course.

Over the years this was exaggerated (not by RoSPA) to “A RoSPA Gold is the same as a Police Class One” or “would expect to pass a Police Advanced Course” – They now just say “A RoSPA gold is the highest civilian driving standard available and the holder will be a master of his or her art.”

ADI’s often take the RoSPA driving test because of the ‘halo’ effect of the Diploma which is discussed below.

This is not the same thing. the two are worlds apart and one is a lot more expensive.

RoSPA Level 4 Award in Advanced Behavioural Driver Training

 This replaced the RoSPA Diploma discussed below in around 2019. I don’t have specific details on this because I did the original diploma, but the cost, time, and brief overview of the original diploma are similar. It has a greater emphasis on “Coaching” and can no longer be BTEC accredited like the original. (RoSPA now offer their own additional accreditation via “RoSPA Qualifications” which seems pretty redundant to me.

The Original RoSPA National Diploma in Advanced Driving Instruction. (This section is now redundant)

The Course is DVSA approved and is considered the highest civilian advanced driving instructional qualification. Again you can be awarded a Pass or Distinction – Pass is I think 80%, and Distinction is over 90%. It also costs over £1000 and is 5 days long with 4 exams on the final day. Drivers have to be  Gold at the start of the course to ensure they can reach the required driving standard by the time of the final exam on the Friday. Not only does your driving have to be of a very high standard, you have to be able to give a full instructional commentary, as well as coaching others to a higher standard amongst other things. The exam has to be retaken every 3 years. This is a Diploma retest and is not the same as a RoSPA (Gold) retest.

Local RoSPA Groups used to offer a “Group Diploma” for free or minimal cost. This was either discontinued because the standards within the groups weren’t high enough or because it devalued the paid Diploma that RoSPA HQ offer (depending on who you ask) and Groups now offer an “Advanced Tutor” Qualification instead.

Diamond Elite

The Diamond Elite test was previously called the Diamond Special Test until it was renamed a few years ago – presumably because Special wasn’t Elite enough?!

It’s the second test offered by the Driving Instructors Association.  It’s based on the old style Cardington Test, which allowed 2 faults instead of 3.  There are no volunteer groups for this test, you’ll probably need a trainer to prepare you.

It lasts 90 minutes and covers 2 manoeuvres. Only 2 mistakes (driving faults) are allowed. That aside it’s a less prescriptive test than IAM or RoSPA in that things that wouldn’t be marked as a fault by the DVSA are ignored i.e. brake gear overlap etc, but it does have a commentary requirement. Even so its a very tough test to concentrate for 90 minutes without committing more than 2 errors!. Passing the test as an ADI gives you various CPD options with the DIA such as the fleet course for access to the DVSA Fleet Register, or the Diamond Examiners Course.

DVSA Special Test

Carried out only at DVSA HQ in Bedfordshire by Staff Examiners and better known as the “Cardington Special Test”.

Originally it was based around driver faults (maximum of 2 and then changed to 3. It’s also only available to ADI’s for some reason. (Don’t ask me why, I can hardly imagine they’d be inundated with applications). The test is broadly aligned with the standard required for DVSA Examiners except there is no commentary requirement. Originally candidates who passed with 3 or fewer driving faults received a certificate and were classed as “Cardington Grade A”.  In 2019 the marking scheme moved away from driver faults to align with the standard now used when assessing Examiners.

You are assessed against a  number of competencies and awarded A to D in each of those. The competencies are weighted on risk (i.e. scoring a C in high risk areas will lower your score more than a C in low risk areas),   which when run through the matrix awards a overall Grade of Gold, Silver or Bronze (or fail) –  (Nothing like making it complicated)

Once passed you can join the IAM without taking their test (exempt membership) – Again you’ll most likely need  a trainer for this, and factor in the drive to Bedfordshire and possible accommodation the night before, although Cardington is expected to close in 2021 so the location will be different after that.

IAM Masters

This grew out of the demand for the IAM Special Assessment, which was a more demanding assessment that members could undergo.  The Masters is a £300 course consisting of 6 sessions followed by a 90 minute drive in an unfamiliar area. Pass at 70%, Distinction at 80%.  It’s only examined by a select number of IAM Staff Examiners. You also have to hold an existing advanced pass before you can undertake the training course. (Originally there was a test only option and it was open to non-members) .  The standard is actually probably similar to what the IAM standard was many years ago. For example continuous commentary and rigid on brake gear separation etc.

It’s really only for completeness. You have to requalify every 5 years at around £150, it has no special status in regard to fleet trainers or cheaper insurance and is poor value for money compared to some of the other tests.