IAM logo Thames Valley Group of Advanced Motorists
(Registered Charity No 1057212)
Official Provider to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (iAM RoadSmart)
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Frequently Asked Questions

How many groups are there?
There are over 200 groups throughout the United Kingdom, so the chances are there will be one near you.
Are you my nearest group?
Our area generally covers from Slough across to Reading and from Bourne End / Henley down as far as Ascot and Crowthorne. Please see the membership page for a list of the postcode districts that we cover.
How can I join?
Please visit the Membership page or come along to one of our monthly meetings. Visit Contact Us to obtain phone, postal and email contact details or to request further infomation.
What happens next?
Once you have joined as an associate, we aim to allocate you an observer as soon as we can. You undertake observed runs as agreed with your observer. When he or she feels you are ready for the test (s)he recommends a pre-test drive. This is essentially a mock test taken with one of our Senior or National Observers. The Senior/National Observer will either put you forward for the test, possibly pointing out areas that could be polished up, or exceptionally will suggest further observed drives.
What is an observer?
An observer is a group member who has passed the IAM test and undergone Observer Training and Qualification to enable him or her to assist you in attaining the required standard to pass the test yourself. Observer qualification is conducted in conjunction with the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI).
How many observed drives will I need?
This is dependant on your current driving standard and how quickly you adapt. We expect that the majority of drivers would need at least six observed drives, but there is no maximum or minimum number.
How often are these observed drives?
The date, time, length and frequency of every observed drive is arranged between you and your observer. Typically, observed drives would be once a week for at least an hour.
What happens if I don’t get on with my observer?
If there is a problem such as a personality clash, please discuss it with our Observer Co-ordinator and you can be reallocated.
How soon can I start?
Usually there is a waiting list of Associates which varies in length. Please be assured though that we will allocate you to an observer as soon as we can. You would also be expected to attend an Associate Induction session which can take place before or after you have commenced observed drives.
What if I have penalty points on my licence?
There is no upper limit of points to prevent you from joining and getting the value of observed runs to help you to avoid getting any more. However you will not be allowed to take your Advanced Test unless your points are below a certain level. If you have 6 or fewer then taking the test will usually be approved, whilst with 7 or 8 points your situation will be reviewed on its merits by the Chief Examiner. You will usually not be allowed to take the test with 9 or more current points on your licence or if a driving conviction is pending. New drivers with 3 or more points will be reviewed by the Chief Examiner but with 6 points in the first 2 years they will not be eligible for test.
I understand you have observed drives on Sundays?
At Thames Valley Group we work entirely on a one to one basis. The Observer Co-ordinator will assign you to an observer matched your location and availability. You can then arrange days and times that are mutually convenient.
I work in Maidenhead, so are you my nearest group?
As observed drives are taken in your free time, it is best to choose a group local to where you live. However we are happy to take on associates based outside the area as long as we don’t have a significant backlog of associates awaiting assignment to an observer.
How much does it cost?
Much less than most people would expect. the Advanced Driving Course includes a year’s membership of your local group, observed runs (as required), a course log book, the test itself and the first year’s membership of IAM RoadSmart - all for ONLY £149.00
What is the cost for an observed drive?
While you are an Associate Member of the group all observed drives are free. You only meet the running costs for your car.
Is there a discount for young drivers?
Not at the moment, but please look out for special promotions which occur from time to time.
You say the cost is £149.00, but how much extra are the lessons?
We do not provide lessons as such. Our observers coach and advise on the observed drives. There is no extra charge.
Who conducts the test?
All examiners hold a Police Advanced Driving Certificate and will have extensive experience from working within the Traffic Division of a Police Force. Some are serving Police Officers.
How long is the test?
It usually lasts about 90 minutes and covers 35 to 40 miles.
What types of roads does the test cover?
The test aims to cover as many types of road as possible. These generally include town streets, motorways, narrow country lanes, main roads and dual carriageways.
How am I expected to drive on the test?
You are not expected to give a display of fancy driving. On the contrary, you should handle your car in the steady, workmanlike way in which you should drive every day. The examiners do not, for example, expect exaggeratedly slow speeds or excessive signalling. They do want to see candidates drive with due regard for road, traffic and weather conditions, and all speed limits must be observed. They will want to see you driving briskly and to ensure that you are not afraid to cruise at the legal limit when circumstances permit progress with safety. You could be asked to follow a particular route using the roadside or gantry signs. There could be one or two spot checks on your powers of observation, such as “what was the last traffic sign you passed?”. There are no trick questions in the test.
What manoeuvres are required?
The manoeuvres included are normally reversing round a corner, parallel parking behind another vehicle and turning around in the road.
Am I required to give a commentary on the Test?
This not an absolute requirement but it is recommended as it can show the examiner that you are reading the road and reacting appropriately. If you make a minor mistake on the test it can help him or her understand why. Admitting a mistake is much better than pretending it didn’t happen.
What happens after my test?
If you are successful you will be recommended for membership of iAM RoadSmart. Your Advanced Driving Course includes the first year’s membership, and you will become a Full Member for the remainder of your subscription. To retain full membership status you have to remain a member of iAM RoadSmart. We hope you will also remain a group member, and it would be even better if you were to become one of our observers (see Become an Observer).


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Last updated 17th May, 2017