New IAM uniform standards

On Wednesday 25 November we had a full house to hear Mark Lewis, IAM Director of Standards and Chief Examiner (right), and Richard Gladman, Standards Compliance Manager. They gave us a presentation on the new uniform standards that are to be introduced IAM-wide for preparing people for the Advanced Driving and Motorcycling Tests.


Mark began by pointing out that our examiners are drawn from local police forces, and so at present associates are tested to the standards of the force to which their examiner belongs or belonged. Each force has its own ideas, and so there is substantial variation across the country in what associates are expected to achieve on test.

Under the new standards, in future:

  • Each associate will be given an Associate Log Book which contains the full course content.
  • The observer’s rôle will be to ‘bring it to life’.
  • Each run will be recorded on a run sheet, the design of which is being compiled from inputs from IAM groups across the UK.

The outcome will be that each associate, observer and examiner will work to the same course content, and everyone will know what is required to drive with the IAM. This will make our tests more consistent. The marking guide will have three grades rather than five:

  • 3 – requires development.
  • 2 – satisfactory.
  • 1 – commended.

The ‘1’ grade signifies ‘sparkle’. The IAM needs to be able to justify its assessments. We have, for example, been asked to do so by the police. There is more information on the grades in the Standards section of the IAM website. For the first time, there will be ‘word pictures’ of what each grade represents, for each competency, on the reverse of the test sheet.

The Skill for Life course content and, in due course, revised versions of How to be a Better Driver and How to be a Better Rider will become the guides to achieving the required performance, rather than Roadcraft. They have the advantage of being ‘owned’ in-house.

Mark made it clear that there will be no change in the standard of performance and accomplishment that associates will be required to demonstrate.

‘Simply, we have written it down.’ There will be some small changes in what candidates are required to do, but the basis will be ‘If it’s in the course content, you can be tested on it; if it isn’t, you can’t.’

There will, however, be a shift in emphasis: ‘less on inputs, more on outputs’. This will ‘make it more realistic’, freeing candidates to ‘use what suits’ to achieve their objective.

That is, there will be less emphasis on using (or not using) particular techniques. Mark and Richard cited the example of steering: ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ If a driver is controlling their car well, there is no point in trying to constrain them to do it in a different, particular way or to avoid doing something that they are doing. If something doesn’t work, then the observer should offer suggested techniques as a tip (not a rule) to help people to get it to work.

Mark described how ‘IPSGA’, the principles of car control identified as Information-Position-Speed-Gear-Acceleration, was ‘owned’ by the IAM, but was first introduced by the Metropolitan Police. In the days of heavy clutches, brakes and steering and double-declutching, the Met wanted to find a way to slow their drivers down. They asked an aristocratic racing driver to devise an orderly method of car control. He came up with IPSGA.

Originally the PSGA elements were presented as a sequence, with, for example, braking and gear-changing separated. However, Mark made clear that in modern cars with synchromesh gearboxes, which do not require double-declutching, brake-gear overlap is recognised as good practice. They were thinking of suggesting that it should be done ‘at low speed’, but were not going to declare a maximum speed: if they did, and specified, say, 25 mph, someone would ask whether an overlap at 26 mph on test was fail point!

A member of the audience suggested that there were ‘three instances’ when brake-gear overlap was legitimate. Richard responded that overlapping did not need to be ‘justified’ in terms like that: under normal circumstances it was safe and perfectly acceptable.

The IAM’s new approach will embrace awareness of issues like human factors competency: ‘Are you fit to ride or drive?’ This means not just simple medical fitness, but also your stress level, any pressures you are under, your peace of mind or anger, and so on.

Giving a coordinated commentary is a particular skill, and what might be possible at 30 mph might not be practical at 60 or 70 mph. Instead, observers and examiners will look for ‘spoken thoughts’. ‘Tell me what you are thinking’ – and the ideal response would fit the mnemonic ‘OAP’: what you Observe, what you Anticipate, and what you Plan to do. Candidates may be asked questions like ‘Where are you going to park?’ or, in a cul-de-sac, ‘Where are you going to turn round?’ The aim all the time is to make thinking drivers and riders. The basic standard remains you must be safe. Where a candidate has a disability, the IAM will exempt them from the competency concerned.

Associates will be expected to be familiar with their car or bike’s technology. Observers and examiners will not be expected to know every vehicle and machine in detail, but should ask associates what particular switches do or particular lights indicate.
Mark and Richard are each former police instructors and examiners with substantial experience of driver and rider training and checking, and their presentation was excellent – clear, concise and spiced with humour. Numbers of us will find the whole approach that Mark and his team are taking very refreshing and encouraging.  All in all, the whole evening was very valuable, and a high note on which to end our monthly meetings for the year. The pilot schemes now being run with various groups are going well, and the roll-out date for the new standards has been brought forward to 1 April 2016; in practice, there will be training sessions on different dates for each local group.