After a long arduous journey with Bukit Batok Driving Centre, I am finally certified safe and legal to operate a car. I took a couple of months to complete my driving venture – and of course I must admit that I made way too many mistakes/ wasted way too many opportunities.
There were so many times that I wished someone could share with me in detail how the journey was like, what classes do I have to take first, how much do I have to spend, etc etc… the list is endless.
So here’s some tips that I’ve gathered along the way:
This is NOT a post on whether to decide on school or private – but really school can be soo much more expensive – so brace yourself if you’re going for school. I’ve spent around… $3k for my manual license with a driving school – Bukit Batok Driving Centre.
Auto or Manual?
The first question that will kickstart this costly journey with the driving centre/ private instructor.
When people first heard that I was going for a manual license, they were like “HUH for what?! Singapore mostly auto car leh” “There aren’t any manual cars around” “You training to drive sports car ah?” And my reply to them? Yah I wanna drive lorry. HAHAHA kidding. Well, since a manual license can drive both auto and manual cars – I guess I don’t lose out learning manual!
Of course, do take note that this WILL affect how much you eventually pay for your classes and license. I’ve friends who spent just $1.5k to get their auto license..
Registration at the Driving Centre
I’m not sure if you can register online – but I would suppose you can’t since they gave me the practical book upon registration. Queue wasn’t too long when I arrived on a weekend morning. I had to take a photograph at the centre though – and I wasn’t prepared – so obviously I look really bad haha.
Your Online Booking Account
Booking of classes and tests will be via an online booking account. The practical textbook is also inside – although I almost never touched it.
After registration, just load your account with around $2k or more. Rest assured, un-utilised amounts will be refunded via cheque when you pass or withdraw. This is super important to book classes because the last thing you want to happen is that there is available slots but your account has insufficient value.
FYI, online banking is available but transferring the money into your account takes about 2 – 3 days for the value to reflect (so effectively you can’t do anything until then). The only immediate way is to load the money into your accounts with the self help kiosks at the driving centre itself. Time is money, especially when trying to book slots in BBDC.
Fixed Instructor or Group Instructors
Although this only affects your practical sessions when you really get to drive around with supervision – this is addressed the moment you enrol with your driving centre. There is a one time fee to opt in for group instructors and you can choose your desired group – if you have – else, they will just auto allocate one for you. There’s a noticeboard at the driving centre for you to check out which instructors are in which group.
Group instructors just mean that you’re more likely to get the same few (around 8 if I didn’t remember wrongly) instructors every lesson. However, last minute sessions (I’ll cover this below under Practical Sessions) will just mean you get anyone.
You could also fix a particular instructor during your session – at a an additional fee EACH session. I didn’t really find a point to do that. Although it’s undeniably true that each instructor has different teaching styles, you’ll just have to adjust and see which works for you.
Your money sucking journey to getting a car license begins…
Basic Theory Test (BTT)
The first thing you have to pass, the basic traffic rules test. You can easily get the latest copy of the basic traffic rules book from Popular bookstore at around $6. However, there is an updated pdf copy online: https://www.police.gov.sg/~/media/spf/files/tp/online%20learning%20portal/final%20english%20updated%20v1%2010th%20edition%20btt%20(260218).pdf?la=en (in case this link stops working one day, you can just google for it!)
For driving centre learners, do take note on the following:
(1) You need to attend 2 Basic Theory training lessons. Compulsory. And they are not free, or interesting. Since I have to attend them before being able to book the BTE, I just cramped all the 4 lessons (2 Basic Theory, 2 Final Theory) into one day, just to save time.
There is “attendance taking” where they will scan you NRIC at the start and end of class just to make sure you don’t escape mid way.
(2) You’ll have to pass the Basic Theory Evaluation (BTE) first before being able to book for your BTT. Chargeable of course.
(3) You have to book your BTT within 2 weeks of passing your BTE, or it’ll be forfeited and you’ll have to re-take and pass your BTE again. *ka ching ka ching* So book your BTT immediately after passing the evaluation, as close as possible so in case you fail, you’re still in the 2 weeks window to book your BTT again.
As school learners, the centre have provided a handful of e-booklets you can attempt (at a cost) during their theory practice sessions (“computer lab” lessons). If you want to pass your BTE with flying colours hahaha, don’t scrimp on that. All questions in the BTE were from the e-booklets during theory practice sessions. Private learners can also attend practice sessions, unfortunately, only 1 booklet is made available to private learners.
Yes, double standards.
I can vaguely remember they have around 6-9 booklets of 50 questions each, and you’ll be able to attempt as many as you wish in 45 minutes per session booked. The best part about this is that answers are given – whether you are right or wrong.
Questions in the BTT may vary slightly from the theory practice e-booklets but before your BTT, you can go for 1-2 more practice sessions just to refresh your memory!
Final Theory Test (FTT)
After passing your BTT, you can now do your FTT and Practical Sessions concurrently. In the unlikely event that there are practical sessions available, just go for it!
As with the BTT, you will also have to attend 2 theory classroom sessions for FTT, before you can book the FTE. Just repeat the process with BTT for your FTT~
Practical Sessions – Driving
The bane of my life.
Sessions at BBDC are almost impossible to book, especially if you didn’t book enough. For me, I could only block book 23 lessons, which really isn’t enough if you’re doing manual in school like me. BBDC has broken down their course into modules 1.1, 1.2 etc and most instructors will let you learn ONE MODULE PART AT A TIME. So they have 1.1 – 1.10, 2.1 – 2.10, 3.1 – 3.9, 4.1- 4.4, and 5.1 – 5.2. (something along these lines, may have a few plus minus modules here and there, but yea you get the point) So many modules, so many classes. AND THE WORSE PART. Instructors are more likely to pass you single module each session, my experience was having only 4 instructors who passed me 2 modules at a time. Yup. The rest were one module per lesson. ONE.
Sessions are priced differently – peak and non-peak. Weekends are generally peak slots, priced at approximately $78 per session. The session right after work 7.20pm – 9pm is also a peak slot (I book that all the time). Non-peak slots are priced at approximately $68. The last weekday session 9.10pm – 10.50pm is another of my common slot.
Moral of the story: Block book once the new sessions release – the booking portal will let you know when is the release dates. And subsequently book more sessions as you attend them. I obviously didn’t – so I was stuck with camping for last-minute sessions every Monday and Friday, which worked. But it’s really tedious, time-consuming and nerve-wrecking.
If you REALLY HAVE TO camp for last minute slots, you can start camping at 9.20am onwards till around 2.30pm. Fortunately for me, I’ve managed to book all the last minute slots I wanted on Mondays and Fridays, and sometimes bonuses of weekend classes :>
Driving Simulator Session
After you completed stage 3 or 4, you will be eligible for this driving simulator session, which again is compulsory and not free This lesson is basically an “arcade” game, where you will sit inside an arcade racing vehicle kind of equipment and press the brakes/ accelerator to control the vehicle in the screen. Each lesson will only have 3 students at any one seating. Nothing difficult but I stacked it before one of my practical lesson so that I won’t have make a trip down just for this.
Auto Car Driving Session
Ah this one. Compulsory too (one session) for manual license school students. All this compulsory sessions really adds up eh?
Don’t be in a hurry to book this session as it will be made available quite early in your driving journey! Book it after you have learnt your parallel and vertical parkings to practise your turning points! :>
Risk Forecast Session
Somewhere along your practical session, please go for this, because you won’t be able to take your final practical evaluation before completing this! It’s a slightly more interactive theory session where you will be given a remote. The instructor will play a video and you’ll just press the remote when you think there’s potential hazards.
As usual they do take attendance at the start and end of the class so yeap. Get you NRIC’s ready.
AFTER ALL THAT, you will have to pass your 5.2 (driving evaluation) before you can book for.. THE DRIVING TEST.
Costs around $250 per booking, inclusive of one test drive, and the actual test.
The best timing? Nobody knows for sure, but rumour has it that weekday late morning slots are great – avoid the morning traffic and the weekend crowds, which sound pretty reasonable.
My test session was a weekday slot, 9.55am warm up and 11am test start. Sounds like a pretty good deal because there is supposedly nobody in the circuit at 11am (break time for driving instructors in BBDC). However, my test didn’t start at 11am – the tester led me to the vehicle at around 10.45am? And we were whizzing around in the circuit at around 10.50am. But fret not. Most vehicles give way to the double L-plate aka the test car.
Right so from the beginning of your test day (in BBDC for me). You will have to sit in a room (room 3 for BBDC – the transparent room right beside the registration cubicles) and wait for the instructor to register you for your test. SOP – check your physical NRIC and e-PDL (a screenshot will do). One of the instructors will clip your NRIC to a piece of paper and bring you to your test vehicle.
(i) The Test Drive
This is important. You can do all your stunts here. And only here haha.
You’ll get to adjust your vehicle – mirrors, seat, steering wheel, back rest etc – to your comfort before starting the test dive. This is also the time where you will get to try and familiarise yourself with how sensitive the pedals are – your clutch biting point, acceleration angle, break sensitivity and most importantly TEST ALL YOUR TURNING POINTS.
Super important really because the vehicles that you may have driven during your training sessions are just DIFFERENT. I remember I had one which had issues engaging the gear, so I really had to use so much more strength just to make sure the gear is engaged whenever I changed up or down. There’s also that one vehicle with poor brakes sensitivity, I had to depress the brakes an extra inch every time…
The instructor will let you go one round around the circuit, then one round in either test routes. Think they have 12 routes. Instructors may be impatient or grumpy – it’s normal. Of course, it’s always a bonus to have a friendly one :>
(ii) The Actual Test
Remember to relax.
IT IS DEAD STRESSFUL I KNOW. But still, relax, because stress may result in early/late turning or misjudgements and stuffs which will ADD POINTS. I took the test twice, failed the first hahah because I was soooo nervous and worried I forgot to check my turning clearance… and mounted a curb. Immediate failure, well done. As if everything wasn’t already expensive enough.
After the test drive, instructor will bring you to the test waiting point (level 2 for BBDC) where you’ll drop your own NRIC with the clipped paper, into a blue box, to like signify you’re ready to drive. The testers will come out after awhile with your NRIC and their usual black faces (to intimidate you hahaha) and you’ll go back to your test vehicle.
SLOW AND STEADY and do your thang.
S-course, crank course, directional change, vertical parking, parallel parking, e-brake (optional depending on tester), slope and then out to the road!
Lastly, when you’re done with the test, you’ll go to a briefing room to wait for your results. That agony there. My tester took really long and when he finally appeared.
For the first time the entire morning.
And I can really feel myself heave a sigh of relief. And he said “All’s good this morning hor?”
Applying for your Driving License
24 hours after passing your test, you will be able to apply for your driving license officially. It’s all done online via the Police website. Do get ready your credit/debit card to make a $50 payment for your license. The photo used on the card will be the one taken earlier at the driving centre (yes, my ugly photo sian).
Of course, you may use another photo, but according to the letter, you’ll have to head down to a specific place with you hardcopy photo DURING OFFICE HOURS – which sounds like a terrid waste of annual leave for me – so I just went with the ugly photo.
YAY FINALLY. LICENSED. TO. DRIVE.