So you think you're ready for your driving test?
The current overall pass rate for the driving test is approximately 43% and the first time pass rate is even lower.
The majority of test candidates who fail do so because of a lack of planning and judgement. You may be physically able to drive to a high standard, but this is not enough to ensure a test pass – you must be mentally able as well.
You need to have an awareness of what's happening around you, and to act accordingly. However, this is where the problems arise during the test, because nerves can play such a large part in how you are able to perform on the day. So many people say after their test: 'but I never do that normally!’
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before your test, but if you’re properly prepared and your instructor thinks you’re ready, then there’s really no reason to worry. On average, people who pass the test have had 45 hours of driving lessons (that amount increases the older you are) and at least 20 hours of private practice. Your examiner is not trying to catch you out; they just want to make sure that you can drive safely.
Please remember that you DO NOT have an automatic right to use your instructor’s car for your test. If he/she doesn’t think you are at the required standard (even if you already have a test booked but have not progressed as envisaged), then he/she is perfectly entitled to say they are not allowing you to use their car for the test. We cannot stop you taking the test in your own car but we are perfectly within our rights to suggest that you maybe put your test date back or use your own car.
Driving Test Failures and How to Avoid Them
1. Junctions – observation
You’ll be marked with this fault for not taking effective observation before emerging at junctions and emerging into the path of other vehicles. Always make sure it’s safe before proceeding.
2. Mirrors – change direction
Remember that you need to use your rear-view mirror and door mirrors - and react to the information they’re giving you! People get caught out for changing direction and pulling up with no mirror checks, increasing their speed with no mirror checks, or using their mirrors too late.
3. Control – steering
You need to be able to maintain a steady course in normal driving. Things like mounting and dismounting the kerb, and not following the contour of the kerb results in faults in this area.
4. Junctions – turning right
When you’re turning right, position your vehicle correctly - it shouldn’t cut the corner when turning right. Also, watch out for cyclists and motorcyclists, and any pedestrians crossing the road.
5. Move off – safely
Using your mirrors to check for other road users is essential. It’ll be marked as a fault if you attempt to move off without doing so.
6. Response to signs – traffic lights
Giving the right response to traffic lights is something that catches people out. Some of the mistakes that people make include waiting at a green filter light when it’s safe to proceed and staying at the stop line when it’s safe to move. Other faults that count include not conforming to a red light and stopping beyond an advanced stop line in the area designated for cyclists.
7. Move off – control
Repeated stalling is one of the things that counts as control when moving off. Other things that are included in this reason are moving off (or trying to!) with the handbrake on, rolling backwards when trying to move off - and not putting the car in gear and attempting to move off.
8. Positioning – normal driving
Your vehicle should be positioned correctly for the route you’re taking. If lanes are marked, make sure you’re in the middle of the lane. Avoid straddling lanes.
9. Response to signs – road markings
You’ll be marked with faults in this area for doing things like unnecessarily crossing the solid white centre lines on the road, and not following directional arrows. Stopping in a yellow box junction when the exit is not clear also counts for this reason. So, make sure you know the rules about using them.
10. Reverse park – control
In the driving test, you can be asked to either do a parallel park on the road or reverse into a parking bay at the test centre. You’ll notch up a fault in this area if you need to reposition to correct a loss of control or accuracy. A complete misjudgement or significant loss of control will count as a serious fault.
Remember that all examiners are specially trained to spot any driving faults, and they will grade your faults as shown below. Please see the flow chart for more details as to how they reach their decision.
Not worthy - a very very minor fault that the examiner feels did not affect anyone in any way and nothing will be marked in this respect
Driving fault - what used to be called a ‘minor’ fault. Any deviation from the expected outcome but having a low risk. You can get up to 15 of these (usually unless they are all in the same area, which in itself shows a deficiency in your driving). Get to 16 and you will fail.
Serious fault - Any deviation from the expected outcome but having a high risk. Get just one of these and you WILL fail.
Dangerous fault - Any deviation from the expected outcome but involving actual danger, which includes the examiner having to take action to avoid an accident. Get just one of these and you will fail. Depending on the severity of the fault, you also risk having the test abandoned.
If you think it might help, or if your instructor thinks you’d benefit from it, we can arrange a Mock Driving test. This might be with your usual instructor or, if we think it might be more useful, another Horizon instructor may do the test for you. Just speak to your own driving instructor and they'll be glad to make the arrangements. After the mock, they’ll be able to help you understand what you might need to address ahead of the real thing, therefore increasing your chances of getting it right first time. Please note however that if you want a mock test with a different Horizon instructor, you will have to pay double as this method takes up the time of two instructors
Now, if you feel comfortable with that, let’s get a test booked!
We do tests mainly at Sheffield Handsworth and Sheffield Middlewood, and occasionally at Rotherham, Barnsley and Worksop. You will know which centre to book for as you will have been learning around that area.
The current test fee is £62 (as at October 2020) and to book the test, you will need a valid debit/credit card, your theory test certificate, your provisional driving licence and, to ensure there is no double-booking of tests, your instructor’s ADI number (although this last item is not absolutely necessary).
You can book the test two ways
Through your instructor, who you will have to pay the £62 to before it can be booked
If you do it yourself, as soon as you have booked a test, please let your instructor know. If by some chance your instructor already has a test booked for that time then the first test booked will take priority and you will have to re-book.
Manoeuvres feature prominently in the top ten reasons for failure. If you can perform all the manoeuvres accurately, with good observation and control, with no input from your instructor, then skip this section. If however, you feel that you need help to master the manoeuvres, then read on.
Getting a manoeuvre right nine times out of ten is really good but not good enough if the one you get wrong is the one you do on your driving test.
Examiners really try not to fail pupils on just manoeuvres, but they have a job to do, and if the manoeuvre is not up to the required standard then just a single mistake (such as missing a look out of the back window or lack of accuracy) is enough to result in test failure.
Can you afford to pay for more lessons and a retest, not to mention the upset of failure, just because you clipped a kerb or forgot to look round?
Even though manoeuvres only account for a few minutes of your test, it's vitally important that you are comfortable and confident in your ability to get them right. That's why, if there is any doubt in your mind about your ability to perform the manoeuvres to the required standard, make sure you keep practising until you are comfortable. Remember, every single manoeuvre features in the top reasons for failure, so don't let them be your downfall.
Ask yourself how difficult it is to look in your mirrors whilst driving. When you go on your driving test, does a neck brace mysteriously appear around your neck as the examiner gets into the car which prevents your head from moving, or do your eyes suddenly start to hurt as soon as you look in the mirror, or perhaps your elaborate hairstyle prevents you from turning around to check your blind spot?
Of course not, but look again at the list of reasons for failure –most of them are attributable to lack of use of mirrors/observation and not acting on what you see.
So why do so many people fail their test for these reasons? If it were so easy to make sure that you use your mirrors effectively, act on what you see, check your blind spots when necessary and keep good all round observation, then the pass rate would be much higher. At least, that is the theory.
How many people do you know who have failed their test because of lack of use of mirrors or observation? Perhaps you have even done so yourself. So why do people fail their driving test because of a failure to do correctly something so obvious and easy to learn? It is because when you are feeling nervous you forget the most basic skills.
One theory as to why people miss basic mirror checks on their test is that, normally, mistakes have consequences.
If you lift your foot off the clutch too quickly, the car stalls, so you learn to take your foot off more slowly. If you try to go up a hill in a high gear, the car struggles, so you learn that you need a lower gear going up hill. These two errors have a tangible, physical consequence. Therefore, you learn from your mistake.
However, a missed mirror check during a lesson or test may have no immediate physical consequences but when it does, the consequences can be fatal: swapping lanes in front of another car, or braking harshly so that the car behind runs into you, or not checking a blind spot and knocking a child off their bike. These events are highly unlikely to occur during a lesson as your instructor (or accompanying driver) will prevent them from happening, as they will be more aware and experienced than you about what is happening around the car. You may never get the opportunity to learn from such mistakes until you've passed your test because it would obviously put people's lives at risk (and let's hope that you never do get that opportunity). There can be no controlled errors where mirror checks and observation are concerned.
'I always know what's happening around me, check my mirrors, and act on what I see.'
If you can say the above with total conviction, then you do not need to read this section. However, if your instructor has to keep reminding you to check your mirrors and blind spots, then read on. It's very simple; all you have to do is look in the appropriate mirrors before:
As we have already said if it were that simple then no one would fail their test due to observation errors and missed mirror checks, or acting inappropriately on observations
In a survey, 70% of people said that their instructor had to prompt them on a regular basis. It is hard to understand why pupils need reminding to check their mirrors, knowing that they are aware of the potentially fatal consequences of not doing this.
Shock tactics maybe but they are necessary, as death is the potential consequence every single time a driver forgets to check their mirrors or blind spot. If the police visited your house to advise that a close relative had been murdered, perhaps shot or stabbed, how would you feel towards the murderer? Imagine instead that this relative had been killed by a driver swapping lanes in front of them. How would you feel towards the driver of that car? Would you feel the same as you would feel towards the murderer? Even though the intention is completely different, the outcome is still the same. The scenarios described above should be enough to ensure that you are always aware of what's happening around you, and that you take full responsibility for your actions.
Hopefully, this section will help with that. If you want more reassurance, speak to your instructor.
Are you scared of failing your driving test?
More people fail their driving test than pass, so you'll be in good company! Failing a driving test does not mean that you're not going to be a good driver...it merely means that on the day of your test you didn't meet all the necessary requirements. It doesn't mean you never will...
Are you worried about the driving examiner?
You might have heard tales of miserable, moody driving examiners who take a sadistic pleasure in failing test candidates. It's a myth! Not every examiner in the country is going to have a sunny personality, but by far the overwhelming majority of driving examiners are perfectly normal human beings, who know that people taking their driving test are nervous and who will try their best to put people at their ease and not to make things worse for them. Having said that, don’t be afraid of silence in the car. If there is a little chit chat, that’s great but don’t expect it.
Are you worried about driving without your driving instructor?
OK, on your test, your instructor won't be sitting next to you in their usual reassuring position and so you'll be out of your comfort zone...but once you pass your test your instructor isn't going to be sitting in the passenger seat every time you drive your car and you'll have no option but to trust your own judgement!
If you've been thoroughly prepared for your test (meaning you've had as many hours of professional tuition and practice as you as an individual need), then you should be fine. If, on the other hand you've cut corners and saved a bit of money by not taking enough driving lessons, then your anxiety is probably telling you that this course of action may have been a false economy.
Are you worried about what other people might think if you fail?
A natural enough feeling but most people will be supportive and sympathetic. You can reduce this aspect by not telling all & sundry that you’re taking your test.
Are you worried about the cost of failing and having to have more lessons?
It seems like most people don't bat an eyelid about the cost of nights out with their mates, or going on an expensive holiday, but often moan about the cost of learning to drive which, in comparison, is a valuable skill that will last you a whole lifetime - learning not only how to control a car but how to drive one safely and considerately and anticipate what other road users are going to do, can quite literally save your life.
Skimping on good driving tuition is a false economy. Taking a test before you're ready is a false economy. Both of these can end up costing you more money (and possibly your life) in the long term.
Perfect planning and execution
Look again at the main reasons for failure. Which ones do you think are related to planning and decision-making? Perhaps the following reasons for failure could be prevented, or at least reduced with more thought:
Observation at junctions
How many times have you said 'If only…' followed by a range of comments, such as, 'I'd seen that car at the roundabout', 'remembered to turn my signal on/off', 'stayed in the correct lane', 'spotted the speed limit sign' etc.?
After the event, it's very easy to be full of remorse, bitterness, anger and a range of other emotions, but that just makes you feel worse about failing your test. How much better would it be to say: 'I drove to the best of my ability, and was really in the “zone” and was aware of everything happening around me'? If your physical drive is up to the required standard, then how frustrating would it be to fail on something as simple as missing a speed limit, or forgetting to cancel your signal?
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Remembering this statement is all very well when preparing for an examination; all you have to do is know what's on the syllabus and revise accordingly. However, when talking about driving, we are talking about making instant judgements and decisions that can affect lives; a split second decision that could result in life or death. Perhaps this sounds a bit heavy. But consider this: so is a car when it hits you at 70mph!
Therefore, it's imperative that your judgement is sound and that you always drive with utmost concentration and thought. This is perhaps the hardest part of all when learning to drive.
Awareness and planning
Anticipate what will and might happen next, and plan ahead. Driving is unpredictable and you never know what’s round the next corner.
There are some things however that shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, such as pedestrians waiting at zebra crossings, traffic lights changing as you approach etc. Don’t drive just ‘in the moment’ but also think about whats coming up next.
You will probably have heard someone say “the car came from nowhere and I didn’t have time to stop”. Believe it or not, but cars don’t suddenly appear out of thin air! Be prepared for anything (think ‘what if….’) and if you can’t see whats coming…..SLOW DOWN! Always be ready - effective observations are important because your life or someone else’s might depend on it!
Look well ahead, keep your eyes moving and look for ALL road signs in plenty of time so you’ve plenty of time to react.
Time for an anecdote, picked up from another instructor: -
“I once taught a pupil who was meant to be taking her test in two weeks. We were on a wide, straight country lane, doing about 50 mph with several cars approaching from the opposite direction. Up ahead there was a tractor travelling at about 10 mph, and we were rapidly getting closer and closer to it. My pupil asked: 'Shall I slow down?' This particular pupil frequently didn't judge situations very well and tended to rely on me for everything. I had been trying to get her to think for herself a little more. Therefore, instead of telling her to slow down, I said: 'No, that's fine, keep at 50 mph', to which my pupil replied, 'But if I do, I'll hit it!'. To this my reply was: 'Well, stop asking silly questions”
Basically, don’t forget to use your common sense.
Remember: the driving test is not a job interview or personality test.
1. Choose a test date that suits you
If you’ve booked a test date and something else more stressful crops up in your life, change it. Yes, learning to drive is important and a wonderful achievement, but if another part of your life has gone topsy-turvy, the chances are you won’t be able to concentrate. Also it’s sometimes better to book the first available test of the day so you’ve got less time to worry about it.
2. Wear comfortable clothes
Look smart and neat, but do wear something comfortable. You also don’t want to be distracted by shoes that pinch or a jacket with tight underarms. If you are going to sweat, try wearing cooler clothes for the time of year – and not too much make-up!
3. Eat before your test
A common human element of panic is to not eat. By not eating you just magnify your stress levels and push the panic levels through the roof. You may feel calm, but those around you can smell it a mile off! By grabbing a bite to eat before you take your test, you can settle your nerves and help you maintain focus on what is on the road ahead, and what the examiner is asking you to do next. Bananas are rich in potassium and are thought to help with concentration.
4. Revisit your theory
By going over your theory questions, you can be sure that as a driver (albeit currently provisional only) you are up to date with the DVLA standards of driving, and what is expected of you as a driver in the UK. Knowing that you know your signs and your highway code when on your test will greatly settle your nerves and give you the confidence required to drive in a relaxed and safe way. This is noticed by your examiner!
5. Don’t be put off by an unchatty examiner
He or she is concentrating on the job in hand. Not responding to your attempts at conversation (and if you’re nervous, it’ll probably only be meaningless babble anyway) is not unfriendliness, it’s professionalism. Adopt a similar professional attitude and you’ll get on fine. Examiners are human, even when they’re testing you
6. Speak up
If you're driving along and the examiner asks you to do something, and you don't quite hear him/her… ask them to repeat it, don't clam up and try to guess the instruction.
7. Try not to be put off by a mistake
Many people have made a minor error in the stress of the moment. Don’t panic! If you make a mistake, feel overwhelmed, feel you are not sure how to proceed, or simply get a blank mind during your test, do not panic. These things can happen to anybody anywhere and at any time! This does not mean you cannot drive, it means you have experienced an overload of pressure or nerves, and what you do next will account for your driving skill – how you deal with it is what matters. Remain calm, assess your mistake or emotion/s, and take the appropriate action to correct any mistakes or settle any emotion/s. This is noted by your examiner and correctly & calmly addressing any issues is a forte for any driver, provisional or passed!
Take a breath and continue – if you can’t do something about it, don’t worry about it or you’ll make other silly mistakes.
8. You are not the Examiner - This is very important
Whatever you think about your driving on the day, you must remember that the examiner is an expert and has the final say (through their training, they become one of the best drivers in the country in fact). This works both ways; you might feel you've failed already following a mistake, but if you have addressed it correctly and done all you can to maintain the safety of yourself and other road users, the examiner may think that you have done everything properly, and therefore won’t fail you.
The point here is that you should carry on throughout your driving test with the same level of confidence as when you first started, as until you hear what the examiner has to say, you just can't be sure of the outcome of your actions. Don’t try to mark your own test – it’s a recipe for disaster.
If you make a mistake, forget about it and concentrate on what’s coming up ahead. There is no point dwelling on mistakes, and definitely don’t think you’ve failed or give up during the test - the examiner might not see it as seriously as you do, remember you are not an expert!
9. Drink, Medication and other drugs
We all know the drink-driving rules but, if you are a drinker, don’t be tempted to have a few to help you sleep the night before. Not only could you still be over the limit, but if the examiner smells the slightest whiff of alcohol on your breath (or from your pores), you won’t be allowed to sit the test. If you have even a slight hangover, you’re hardly going to perform at your best.
Because of the relaxation of the laws surrounding cannabis use, it is commonly misunderstood that this is not as illegal or dangerous a drug as alcohol to take before driving. Don’t even think about it.
Even if it is only medication prescribed by a doctor that you take, it might be an idea to check with the DVLA that it is permissible to drive with this in your system.
The Madness of Manoeuvres
The 10 most common faults made during driving tests between 4 December 2017 and 3 December 2018 are listed below so take a few minutes to look through the list and note which ones you can identify with. You can also watch the video below
You will find it helpful to think about your driving lessons and ask yourself which driving skills your instructor needs to keep practicing with you. When you have done this, you will have an accurate idea as to where your strengths and weaknesses lie and, if you haven't done so already, you can then practice these things.
Mirror, mirror on the wall.....
I'm sorry that I’ve written your car off, but I just forgot to check my blind spot
I’m so nervous about taking the test…
Get the right perspective. You may well talk to other people who are learning to drive and the question probably most often heard was: 'So, how many times did you stall?' People don't seem to consider errors made in checking their mirrors as important or worthy of comment as they do errors made stalling their car.
If you miss a mirror or blind spot check, you can potentially kill someone; the usual consequence of stalling is that you will hold a few people up for a few seconds.
That is not to say that stalling is a good thing to do; however, if you are more concerned with stalling the car than with your mirror checks then you need to get things into perspective. Ask yourself how many times you keep thinking about the few times that you stalled on your lesson, compared to the many times that you missed a mirror or blind spot check. Pupils often get very nervous and panic when they have stalled because they feel embarrassed and are worried about what the other drivers around them are thinking, or that they are holding people up and annoying other drivers. They aren't unduly concerned when they have missed a mirror check but they should be.
Promise yourself that from this moment on you will never again miss a mirror check and will always be aware of what's happening around you.
Remember, a car is a potentially a lethal weapon and you are in control of it. It takes less than a second to check your mirrors, but if you don't, you will regret it for the rest of your life if it results in a fatal accident.
Are you worried about what's going to happen on the test itself?
A few tips....
As you look through the list above, you will see that the reasons for failure fall into two basic categories: observation & judgement, and physical ability.
So many people drive really well during their lessons, and then go to pieces both on lessons in the run up to test and on the test itself. What may be of little consequence on your lesson can turn into a catastrophe if you let it get to you on your test.
If you usually drive well on your lesson, then remember you can also do it on your test as well; you may just think you can’t!
As you learned earlier, no good instructor will let a pupil take their test before they are ready, as it's very demoralising to fail your test. Your instructor wants you to be as prepared as possible, so you don't have to go through the upset of failing. Therefore, it's in everyone's interest to make sure you are fully prepared.
Reducing stress can be achieved by identifying what you are actually worrying about!
If you need more help, then try this ebook
If you are concerned that nerves will get to you on your test and prevent you from driving as well as you normally would, have a look below. You will find that so long as your drive is up to the required standard, then you will not suddenly lose your ability to drive due to nerves.