Sat Navs: Training, Practice, and what role they play in a driving test

By Lewis on 3rd February 2020 - View Comments

The sat-nav is an integral part of the driving test and a fundamental area of practice in training.

At WrightStart, we utilise our in-built sat navs, which are top of the line Mini/BMW versions. The version that examiners use, the TomTom Start 52, is a little different.

Today, we’ll take you through the features and tips of using both, plus an insight into what you’ll have to do with it on your test.

Mini/BMW sat navs

Look and Feel

Both the mini and BMW’s sat navs have a sleek, modern look. The BMW sat nav system is displayed on the same screen as all your other in-car technology, and is controlled by the iDrive controller. Youcan input your destination in a variety of ways, from the traditional on-screen keyboard to actually handwriting each individual letter via the touch pad on top of the controller.

How to Use

You can give a range of detail about your destination. This can be simply the name of a town or city orfull addresses including street names and house numbers. You can also use your BMW’s connectivity and complete a points of interest search with the online feature, returning live results from the Google database. The recent destination menu shows previous addresses, which can be reselected at the touch of a button, and from here, commonly visited locations can be saved as favourites.


The BMW’s sat nav system can tweak guidance so that it works for you. By scrolling down the menu on the left of the map screen, you can set your route criteria, enable or disable spoken instructions, access detailed traffic information and choose your preferred map view. The larger screen size facilitates split-screen mode, where several pieces of information can be displayed at once.Navigation preferences can be automatically saved so that they activate whenever the key fob associated with them is used.

Top tip

If you have a BMW and know, for example, that a certain area always has really long tailbacks on your route home, the navigation system can alter routes so that you never have to cross that area..Just bring up the navigation menu, and select ‘Route Preferences’ on the left. Scroll down to the ‘Areas to Avoid’ tab and select it. The next menu that comes up will allow you to add areas to avoid – you’ll be taken back to the map, where you’ll navigate the cursor to the center of the area you want to avoid.

Press down on the iDrive controller to select; you can choose how big the avoided area will be by rotating the iDrive controller. Once decided, just press down again, to confirm. From then on, your specified area will appear under the “areas to avoid” subsection of the iDrive menu, in order to activate and deactivate it easily.

Examiner Sat-Nav (TomTom Start 52)

Look and feel

The TomTom Start 52 has a 5cm touchscreen and a vehicle mount though during your test, it will most likely be sat on the front of the dashboard. You won’t have to set the route yourself – your examiner will do this for you.

How to Use

The TomTom Start 52 has lots of features – and though you probably won’t use many in the course of your actual driving test, it’s useful to know the main ones.

1. Switch view button this changes between map and guidance view. The latter will be most used, and is pictured above. Map view, on the other hand, looks like this:

2. Zoom buttons: zoom the screen in and out.

3. Instruction panel – shows information like the direction and distance of your next turn.
4. Route symbols – these show points of interest along your route, like petrol stations, as well as your starting point and destination.
5. Main menu button – surprisingly enough, takes you back to the main menu
6. Speed panel – shows the current speed limit, and the speed you’re travelling at.
7. Current location arrow – shows where you are on your route
8. Route bar – shows how far you’ve travelled on your route

Sat navs and the practical driving test

The sat nav will be used as part of the independent driving section of your test. This will last for 20 minutes – that’s half of your test – and is designed to showcase your driving without support.

To reiterate, the route to follow will be set for you in the test by the examiner. This means it doesn’t really matter what model of sat nav you practice with – as long as you stick to using the examiner’s one during the test.

If you’re not sure where you’re going, don’t panic – you’re allowed to ask the examiner for confirmation of this. Going the wrong way isn’t an instant fail either; you just need to make sure you don’t commit a driving fault whilst doing it.

Those of you who dislike traffic signs might be breathing a sigh of relief, but beware – despite the changes, 1 in 5 driving tests still won’t use a sat nav, defaulting to the usual traffic signs instead.

In many ways, the sat nav is one of the easiest parts of the test. Just remember to not get too engrossed in where the technology is taking you – the less driving faults you accrue, the better!

Share This Post