Never Stop Learning

IAM Masters – is it for you?

So where next after you’ve done your IAM Advanced Riding Course, and passed of course!

  • Observing – that certainly not only helps your group and your Associate but boy does it help your own riding.
  • SLAM ride clinics – a great way to ‘check’ your riding with an experienced Observer
  • SLAM rides out – a fun way to keep developing your riding, on different, sometimes challenging, routes.
  • Become an IAM Fellow – which entails an Advanced retest every 3 years
  • IAM Masters – so what’s all that about then?

The IAM introduced the Masters qualification some 3 or 4 years ago now and its ‘touted’ as being the highest civilian level riding standard (and qualification) there is. You can be your own judge but a quick Google search about the IAM Masters will show a general consensus that it lives up to this billing.

The facts.

The Masters Mentoring Programme. (is very similar in structure to the Advanced Course with the Observer / Associate 1:1 relationship)

When you sign up (and pay) for the IAM Masters Programme you will be allocated to a Masters Mentor who will (typically) ride out with you on up to six sessions or 10-12 hours of mentoring.

Your Mentor will hold either an IAM RoadSmart Masters qualification or an Advanced Police Riding Certificate and will also be an IAM RoadSmart National Observer.

In SLAM there are currently 3 Masters Mentors, Howard Sidery, Derek Saunders, and Colin Stanfield, all of whom would be pleased to talk to you about the Masters Programme.

The relationship is very much two way. At Masters level much development is around judgement, rather than black and white do’s and don’ts. Your Mentor will offer advice, strategies, and discuss with you your ideas and experiences.

In my experience the rides out and discussions that I had as part of my mentoring for the Masters was the best element of the Programme, with the test being the ‘icing on the cake’!

Passing the Masters Test

A 90 minute on-road test with two levels of success – Pass / Distinction. The test is carried out by an IAM Examiner.

  • On unfamiliar roads of all types
  • You will be expected to travel to the assessor – SLAM Members who have taken the Master’s test have met the Examiner at the Ferrybridge Services on the M62
  • The test includes slow manoeuvring and theory knowledge checks.*
  • The test requires a good knowledge of Roadcraft and the Highway Code*

*these two are more likely if your on road riding suggests to the Examiner that there is a need to check these aspects.

You will be assessed against the following criteria for the competencies listed below.


  • competency has not been displayed to the required level.
  • competency has been demonstrated to an advanced standard but there were sufficient minor errors within it, or its interaction with other competencies, to take away from the overall performance. This would also be the correct grade for a candidate lacking the required depth of theoretical knowledge.
  • competency has been consistently demonstrated to a Masters standard throughout the entire session. This includes the practical and theoretical aspects of the assessment. The candidate demonstrated a thinking approach to the System and applied it in a considered and timely fashion. Each competency meshed seamlessly with others to provide the overall polished efficiency of a Master Rider.


  • safety
  • system
  • observations
  • anticipation
  • planning
  • positioning
  • hazard management
  • eco driving
  • vehicle sympathy
  • gear changing
  • use of gearbox
  • acceleration sense
  • braking
  • steering
  • mirrors / rear observations
  • signals
  • cornering
  • overtaking
  • restraint
  • progress
  • smoothness
  • human factors / concentration
  • knowledge
  • legality
  • slow manoeuvring
  • courtesy

Any area marked as a ‘3 -requires development’ will result in the candidate being unsuccessful.

To pass the test and become a Master rider a score of 39 or less must be recorded (starts at 27).

To obtain a distinction a score of 34 or less must be recorded and a score of 1must be recorded in the areas of safety, legality, and slow manoeuvring.

To be a Master rider you need to be commended in a minimum of 14 areas.

To pass with distinction this rises to19.

It is possible to be marked as Advanced in all boxes (as an Advanced rider already you should be) but unsuccessful in the overall assessment. Masters is set at a level where you are required to display a far higher degree of skill in all areas of your ride.

The Masters qualification lasts five years

The mysticism - so what makes a Master’s ride?

This is often debated and people typically come up with words like flair, sparkle, smooth, systematic, polished and flowing, quiet efficiency.

Masters riding encourages a detailed consideration of the ‘human factors’ involved in riding. How these influence your riding decisions and your interaction with other road users. You will be encouraged to develop a thinking and considered approach to your riding, and you will need to be open minded  to new approaches. There is often more than one ‘answer’ to a riding decision and you will be able to discuss your thinking with your mentor to develop an even greater understanding.

The mark of a Master’s ride is perhaps easier to see than to describe but think Roger Federer in tennis and you’ll get some kind of idea. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time with minimal effort, flowing around the court, because of his planning ahead and how he reads the game – in your case, how you read the road.

As with the Advanced Course, you will be expected to apply the system (IPSGA) in a timely, developed, and accurate manner, demonstrating well developed smoothness of vehicle control. You will be expected  to exhibit a safe, legal, systematic ride in accordance with Roadcraft; applying cornering principles, assessing, planning and executing safe overtaking manoeuvres; recognising opportunities to make safe progress, with observation, anticipation, planning and awareness consistent with your speed; applying sound judgement of speed and distance, with expert knowledge of machine dynamics.

You will be expected to recognise how ‘attitude’ will affect rider behaviour and to identify and manage external influences that may impact on your riding performance

OK , so far so much the same as you would expect of an advanced ride, certainly anyone that gets a 1st. So what sets a Masters ride apart from a damn good advanced ride?

Perhaps this statement from the IAM’s Masters distinction grade criteria sums it up, ‘Each competency consistently meshed seamlessly with others to provide the overall polished efficiency of a Master Rider.’

Your advanced riding skills will be taken as read, what you will need to demonstrate consistently is their application throughout the ride so that each element flows seamlessly.  So for example, exiting one corner at the correct speed, gear and position, setting up early for the next and anticipating and safely executing an overtake on the exit from the second corner as the car is slower to accelerate away.

Another example may be taking up the line of least resistance early on the approach to a roundabout, being ready to stop, but prepared to go and, on exiting the roundabout, being in the right position to scan ahead ready to execute an overtake before other vehicles reach the speed limit.

It is not about riding fast, but it is about ‘making progress’ by the various means that this implies, such as; ready to stop / prepared to go at junctions; filtering where safe; straightening corners where safe; taking the line of least resistance when safe; crisp acceleration to the limit, and riding at the limit when safe; positioning correctly through corners and bends to maximise vision and using the limit point; looking for and taking safe overtaking opportunities; planning ahead to avoid getting ‘boxed in’ on motorways. All of above do not involve speed per se, but allow an advanced (Masters?) rider to make safe, legal, efficient progress.

Offsiding – it is not expected that you use this technique, especially on tight left hand bends. It is appropriate however to fully use your lane to maximise vision and to use the offside lane when assessing an overtake, and to straighten a corner / roundabout if and when safe to do so.

Trail braking – is not expected. You will be expected to be in the right gear at the right time for each bend.

Colin Stanfield.



Appendix – IAM RoadSmart Masters test report descriptors

These relate to both driving and riding and the terms driver and rider

and vehicle and machine can be interchangeable


Safety cannot be compromised for any perceived advantage during the

drive. A Master driver understands that safety is the overarching principle

of any drive.


Does the driver/rider grasp the phases of the system and can they apply

the system correctly to each hazard?


Is the driver/rider identifying hazards and making scans in all directions

around the vehicle/machine?


Does the driver/rider make appropriate assumptions for what might

occur, based on their observations?


Does the driver/rider identify the potential danger associated with the

hazard and develop a suitable plan to deal with it?


Is the appropriate position adopted with regard for safety and advantage?

to help in negotiating the hazard?

Hazard Management

Does the driver/rider deal with the hazards identified? Do they

appropriately manage the risk associated with each hazard? (By change

of speed, positioning, use of horn etc.) Do observation, anticipation,

planning and positioning combine effectively?

Eco Driving

Does the driver/rider use higher gears to reduce emissions when

appropriate, do they save fuel by avoiding unnecessary idling?

Vehicle Sympathy

Do they treat their vehicle with respect, avoiding over revving or allowing

the engine to labour and avoiding pot holes if possible or slowing if not?

Gear Changing

Are all gear changes made smoothly, matching engine revolutions to road?

speed where appropriate? Is the operation of the clutch pedal and gear

lever smooth and progressive?

Use of the Gearbox

Is the correct gear selected in accordance with the gear phase of the

system? Are lower gears used appropriately when an advantage can be

gained either for acceleration or engine braking? Is an automatic gearbox

used in the appropriate mode for the conditions?

Acceleration Sense

Can the driver/rider accurately vary the speed of the vehicle in response

to changing road and traffic conditions by accurate application of the

accelerator/throttle? Constant ‘comfort braking’ or pulsing of the throttle

are clear signs acceleration sense is not being employed.


Can the driver/rider use progressive (three stage) braking smoothly? Do

they avoid comfort braking by braking in a decisive and planned way? Do

they identify issues that may affect braking and manage them?


Are all steering inputs made smoothly and accurately ensuring the

outcome is what is desired? Can ancillary controls be operated safely

whilst steering? Does the rider understand the benefit of counter or

positive steering?

Mirrors/Rear Observation

Are the mirrors used in a timely fashion when information is required?

Is the appropriate mirror visited at the correct time? Are shoulder life

saver and blind spot checks conducted at the correct time?


Are signals considered at the appropriate time and correctly applied when

they are required? Does the driver/rider correctly interpret signals given by

others? Can they communicate with other road users?


Is the vehicle/machine correctly positioned on the approach, through and on

the exit of the bend, is the speed correct and an appropriate gear engaged?

Do they understand the principles of the limit point and maintain balance

through the bend?



Does the driver/rider understand the principles of overtaking including

the follow position, overtaking position and then demonstrating a safe

overtake? Do they know where and when an overtake is likely to be

safely completed?


Has the driver/rider displayed a clear understanding of when it is necessary

to display extra caution e.g. around vulnerable road users?


Has the driver/rider displayed the ability to move briskly to the speed limit

if conditions permit and the ability to make safe progress at this?


A Master driver/rider should be able to retain smoothness in the drive or

ride, all control operation should appear effortless and the vehicle should

appear balanced at all times.

Human Factors/Concentration

Has the driver/rider demonstrated mastery of their emotions in order to

provide a safe and controlled drive/ride? Are they able to describe the

various factors affecting themselves, their drive and other road users?

Do they maintain concentration throughout the test?


Does the driver/rider display courtesy in their drive and are they mindful of

the effect they may have on others such as noise or spray generated when

going through standing water? Do they acknowledge correctly any courtesy

displayed to them?


The driver/rider must understand and correctly comply with the road traffic

act and the Highway Code rules.

Slow Manoeuvring

Can the driver/rider reverse a car or drive through narrow gaps with

confidence? Can a motorcyclist ride at walking pace without losing their

balance? The examiner may choose to ask for a slow speed manoeuvre to

be performed if they have not seen sufficient skill demonstrated during the



The driver/rider must display a sound knowledge of The Highway Code,

Roadcraft and the IPSGA system. The examiner may test this with


We are aiming to expand on ‘Quiet Efficiency,’ the hallmark of the

expert driver/rider. This will be displayed by drivers or riders who have

a true mastery of their vehicle. They will allow each of the competency

areas to complement the others.

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