London Black Taxi Cab Tours

The ‘Knowledge of London’

Knowledge of london course
Some of you may be aware of the ‘Knowledge of London’ more commonly known as the ‘knowledge’ and some of you may not. This page will outline the process of what is required to pass the ‘Knowledge of London’ examination.
The ‘Knowledge’ is the standard of topographical knowledge of London that all applicants must satisfy in order to become one of the best taxi drivers in the world, a fully licensed London Taxi driver. It is overseen by TfL (Transport for London) and below is an insight into what it entails and the standards that are expected.

Initially, the applicants are required to prove that they are a fit and proper person. To do this they must pass a full medical examination that is conducted by a registered Doctor, they must also apply to the Criminal Records Bureau for an ‘enhanced’ criminal records check. Once these conditions are met the applicant then becomes a candidate.

You are given a candidate number, together with your ‘blue book’ which outlines the task ahead and everything expected of you whilst on the knowledge. This is when the candidate has his/her eyes and mind enlightened to the task ahead of them. You are instructed that you will be expected to commit to memory every street, road, avenue, place etc. within a 6 mile radius of the King Charles I statue at Charing Cross, on the south side Trafalgar Square. (this site is chosen as the central point of all things knowledge because it is the point from which all UK road mileages are measured to and from London). As well as all street names the candidate is expected to remember the locations of all the train, bus, coach, police, fire and ambulance stations, libraries, courts, leisure centres , hotels, pubs, clubs, theatres…. in fact anywhere a passenger may request to be taken.
You are then introduced to the hallowed ‘blue book’. This book contains 320 different journeys ( known to knowledge candidates as ‘runs’) with pre-determined start and finish points. You are allowed 2 years to complete the 320 runs that are outlined in the ‘blue book'(extensions are only given to those with extenuating circumstances). It is at this stage that the knowledge boy or girl should begin to complete all the runs in the blue book, on his or her motorcycle complete with knowledge board (as per photo) absorbing as much new information as possible

The first of these runs is Manor House Station N4 to Gibson Square N1, and should be verbally recited or ‘called’ to the examiner in the following way:

Knowledge Board
  • Leave on Left Green Lanes
  • Right into Brownswood Road
  • Left into Blackstock Road
  • Forward into Highbury Park
  • Forward into Highbury Grove
  • Right into St. Paul’s Road
  • Comply Highbury Corner
  • Leave by Upper Street
  • Right into Islington Park Street
  • Left into College Cross
  • Right into Barnsbury Street
  • Left into Milner Square
  • Forward into Milner Place
  • Forward into Gibson Square.

*Above is only an example of a number of acceptable ways to complete a run*

Before embarking on that journey the candidate should explore the quarter mile circle around the starting point and try to absorb as much of the necessary information as possible, he/she must then drive the run and repeat the quarter mile reconnaissance mission at the end of the journey. The run should then be learnt in reverse, as due to restricted turns and one-way streets, the reverse route is often different. Quite a task ? That’s only one of the three hundred and twenty runs !! For a lot of people that all seems like too much effort, and approximately 9 out of 10 candidates will give up but if you are determined enough, and focused enough, your green badge is waiting for you. Then and only then, will you rank along side the ‘best in the world’. Simple as that. How much do you want it?

Knowledge Book Covers

Now there may be some of you sitting there reading this and thinking “Why not just study a map instead of wasting time and money, driving all these runs? ” We will share that with you a bit later, but now on with the procedure.




Knowledge School

Once you have completed all of the 320 runs, you then apply for a map test. This test requires you to write 5 of those runs on paper these are chosen at random by TfL (Transport for London), you will also be given Ordnance Survey maps of the surrounding areas of the start and finish points of the chosen runs. On these maps you must mark as closely as possible, the 5 points of information which are chosen for you as part of the test paper and you are also required to locate and highlight 2 random streets on the map. It should be noted that these maps are blank and do not contain any street names or building names.

Knowledge Boy 2

If you are successful at map test level, you are then on to the ‘appearance’ stage of the knowledge. This means that all testing from now on is verbal, no notes because from here only brain power is allowed. By now the candidate should be reciting the blue book runs religiously as well as attempting to input more data into their brain. Other information such as restrictions at road junctions must also be committed to memory, as any breach of such restrictions will automatically result in a ‘D’grade – no score.
Initially the candidate’s verbal exams,(‘appearances’) are 56 days apart. You are summoned by an examiner into an office, asked to sit in a chair and then the fun begins. The examiner will pick at random a start point “take me from Lord’s Cricket Ground” , if the candidate gives the correct reply  of ‘St. Johns Wood Road, Sir!’ then the examiner will ask you to name the location of a finish point, say for example ‘St. Paul’s Cathedral’. If the candidate also correctly identifies this location he will be given the opportunity to recite the journey he would take naming all the streets he would use on that particular journey.(as per the above example of a ‘run’)
A normal appearance would consist of 4 runs and at the end the examiner will mark you, deducting marks for not knowing the start and finish points asked, hesitation whilst reciting the run, directness of the journey taken and correctness of road names. At the end of the appearance the candidate will be given a grade according to their answers. AA (12 points)- Excellent, A (6 points)- Very good, B (4points)- Good, C (3 points)- Satisfactory , D (0 points)- Unsatisfactory.
Over the course of 7 appearances the candidate must score 12 points. If he/she is successful, they then advance to the next level, where the time period between appearances is decreased to 28 days. If successful at the 28 day level, the candidate will then advance to 21 days between appearances.
If they are unsuccessful and do not achieve 12 points from 7 appearances, then they must repeat the stage again. If they are unsuccessful twice at any particular stage, they will be required to return to the previous stage again.

During the 21 day appearance stage, the candidate must also pass an enhanced driving test in a taxi, and be able to securely and safely embark and disembark a wheelchair bound passenger to/from the taxi.

As the candidate progresses through the ‘knowledge’, the difficulty of the points asked and complexity of the journeys (anywhere across London) will increase until finally they acquire 12 points at the 21 day appearance stage. This is known as the ‘req’ or requisition for badge. But this is not the end………


Taxi Sign Phew!! Just when you thought you’d made it, the candidate is then required to learn a series of runs that extend beyond the six mile radius of Charing Cross, into the suburbs of London (known in knowledge talk as the ‘burbs’). Although not as detailed as the knowledge, (only just over 140 routes, using the arterial roads are to be learned and committed to memory) it is still no mean feat!! Once and only once this has been achieved to the standard required, will the candidate be awarded his Hackney Carriage Licence and London driver’s ‘Green Badge’. This will allow him to ply for hire on the streets as a world renowned London Cab Driver.

This testing system is also an opportunity for examiners to test not only your topographical knowledge, but also to test your temperament and personality. The examiners will quite often put you off your stride with various interruptions and unexpected actions.
(talk to your driver/guide on one of our tours, we’re sure he/she be very happy to share some of their knowledge experiences with you).

Now you may remember earlier in this article we raised the question of why the knowledge cannot be learned in the comfort of the candidate’s own home using maps, computers etc. Well some of it can, but when, and only when the candidate has the information entered into their brain via what is commonly known as their ‘minds eye’, will they truly know enough to enable themselves to pass the ‘Knowledge’. What actually happens is the candidate is starting to stimulate their posterior hippocampus. For those of you that don’t know, this is the part of your brain that is responsible for spatial awareness and memory. Scientific studies have shown that the hippocampus in the brain of a London cabbie, starts to grow as it is used more. It has been proven in these studies that London cabbies have a larger hippocampus in comparison to others. See the short video below for an greater insight.

We now ask you to consider this… a Licensed London Taxi driver has an unsurpassed knowledge of London’s streets and the location of buildings on those streets, then you have our taxi tour guides who not only have the ‘knowledge’, but have also studied extensively in order to be able to relay to you, the history relating to those aforementioned buildings and streets.

Who else is better equipped to give you a guided tour of our home town, the great city that is London?
We hope that you have enjoyed this brief insight into the ‘Knowledge of London’, if you have, “please share it with your friends”

Black Taxi Cab Tours

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Black Taxi Cab Tours Ltd,
152-160 City Road,
London, EC1V 2NX,
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Phone: 0207 129 8189

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