Word of mouth horror stories are common in all walks of life. I've heard countless myths and stories from trainee ADI's about Driving Instructor tests that are just complete nonsense, but they believe them because "someone said . . . "
Most of the time, these myths and scare stories come from people who don't really understand what happened or chose to interpret a real event in a way that was more beneficial to them. The learner driving test is no exception.
I've seen many driving test sheets where learners had failed their tests with other instructors and then told me it was for a minor error, such as missing a mirror check that they didn't understand. On looking at the sheet, there's a mark for a dangerous error on a pedestrian crossing they'd forgotten to tell me about.
Diving a little deeper I find that they didn't stop for a pedestrian who was trying to cross. There's the error that failed their test, but they didn't understand it, couldn't remember it and instead preferred to believe their test fail was due to a simple mirror check. Not only that, but they'd told their friends and previous instructor the same thing. Another completely untrue scare story doing the rounds.
A lot of stories about the driving test are true, but a lot of them are ridiculous and have nothing to do with reality. The myths here are very popular, I've heard them countless times from both learners and trainee instructors preparing for their ADI Part 2 test.
So, here goes.
Myth 1. Tot Up The Good Marks
"If you drive really well the examiner will tot up the good marks so you can still pass if you make a serious error"
Nonsense. I've heard this one a few times, usually from trainee driving instructors, and it's simply not true.
Fact: The examiner decides the outcome of your driving test on the number of driving faults they record on the test marking sheet. There is no area on the sheet to mark any aspect of your driving that the examiner thinks is quite good, even if your driving is simply outstanding. Make one single serious or dangerous error in an otherwise fault free perfect drive and your test will be marked as a fail, simple as that. Avoiding serious or dangerous errors is easy so long as you get good lessons and you don't rush into anything.
Remember, there is no space on the marking sheet to mark good driving, only to mark faults.
Myth 2. Hesitation Is Fatal
"If you wait at a junction more than a second or so you'll fail due to hesitation"
This one causes so much anxiety and worry and it's all needless. It simply is not true. I'm convinced that believing this one, or worrying about it, has caused many people to fail their test.
Yes, the examiner wants to see that you can make good progress where you can and where it's appropriate, but please don't confuse delaying for a few seconds to make sure it's safe with being hesitant. The two are entirely different.
Hesitation is usually marked as a minor error, if that. It can become a serious error if you are far too hesitant too often when there's no need to be, but do not confuse this with taking an extra second or so at a junction to make absolutely sure it's safe to go.
I've heard many people say something similar to "there's a fine line between being taking enough time and failing through being hesitant". That's just nonsense. It's not a fine line, it's a gap half a mile wide. There's a world of difference between taking an extra 2 or 3 seconds to make effective observations and sitting at the junction far too long when it's clearly and obviously safe to go.
Fact: Ignore this myth and don't worry unduly about hesitation. Think of it this way, thousands of learner drivers every week pass their test with one or two minor errors for hesitation. Not a single one passes with a single serious or dangerous error for emerging from a junction or dealing with a hazard too quickly.
Holding back a few seconds to make sure you're good to go is not hesitation, it's good safe driving. Looking to keep going at every junction regardless so you don't waste any time is not making good progress, it's just plain stupid and unsafe.
Why roll the dice? If you roll it wrong you fail your test. If you hold back and the examiner thinks you were hesitant, you can still pass with a minor error. Who cares? Will you care in 6 months' time?
Myth 3. Stalling
"If you stall you've definitely failed"
Again, complete rubbish, but I've had many learners tell me that this is why they failed their test.
Failing your test due to stalling is rare and the circumstances would be quite unusual. Failing your test because you didn’t deal with stalling properly is common. Read the tutorial on what to do if you stall for more details, but the bottom line is you are exceptionally unlikely to fail for stalling but extremely likely to fail if you do something dangerous after you do.
Stalling is common, it will happen, it happens to many of us.
Fact: If you stall on your test it is likely to be seen as a minor error. I've sat in on many tests where learners stalled, sometimes more than once, and they still passed. It's not the act of stalling that's usually the issue, it's how you handle it that's critical.
Despite this reality, many learners and trainee instructors will still say that they failed due to stalling because they simply don't understand how to deal with it when it happens. The only thing many of them can cling to is the fact that they stalled, so that, in their mind, is why they failed. It's just not usually true.
Myth 4. Pass Rates
"If the examiner has passed too many that week they'll definitely fail you"
Another common one. Another load or rubbish.
DVSA do collect statistics on pass rates but examiners are under no pressure to stay within a certain band. If an examiner is at the top of the pass rate spectrum one year they may be at the bottom the next and in the middle in the year after that. The only reason statistics are collected is to ensure that all examiners and all test centres are trained and conduct tests to the same basic level.
Fact: Drive safely, stay away from serious or dangerous faults and you will pass. Simple as that.
Myth 5. The Feared Pen
"If the examiner starts writing anything on the marking sheet it means you've done something wrong"
This myth is difficult to deal with because no matter what I tell you, you'll still feel the pressure when you have an examiner sat next to you and you hear the pen click or see it moving on the marking sheet.
It is simply untrue, but you need to understand why.
First, only a serious or dangerous driving error can effectively fail your test instantly. If you have made a fault that the examiner marks on the sheet it is far more likely to be a simple driving error (a "minor") that, to be honest, is nothing to get all worked up about. You can almost ignore minor errors so long as you don't make too many and you don't make the same one too many times.
Second, just take a look at any marking sheet, possibly one a friend has from their test. There are tick boxes and text areas to be filled in. So many times I've seen examiners wait until 20 minutes into the test before they even write anything on the sheet, and often it's just the date or some other required information.
It's also the case that they sometimes delay marking any particular error for quite some time, so what they're marking on the sheet now could be about something that happened 10 minutes ago.
Fact: There's lots of information on the test marking form, not just areas to record errors. The examiner will often record information on the form whilst you are driving no matter whether you make any errors or not.
Myth 6. Argue With The Examiner
"You must take your instructor out on test with you so the examiner can't make something up to fail you"
As with the rest of the myths in this post, this one is complete rubbish, but I've heard it many times over the years. Even parents of learners sometimes tell them this one. It's not true.
First, the examiner doesn’t make things up to fail you. If you pass you pass, simple as that.
Second, the examiner won't be interested or swayed in the slightest by the presence of your instructor. Your instructor is just seen as someone you take along to accompany you. The result of the test is down to the examiner and only the examiner, your instructor cannot persuade them to pass you and cannot change the result.
Fact: Having your instructor in the car may make you feel better if you're very nervous, and your instructor will be able to identify any faults that were made better than you can, but they cannot change the outcome of the test.
Myth 7. Taking A Wrong Turn
"If you get a driving direction wrong and take a wrong turn you've definitely failed"
Not true. I've written a tutorial about driving directions on test but the thing to remember is that you'll be on a driving test, not a follow the sat nav or driving directions test.
Fact: You will not fail your test for taking a wrong turn but you absolutely will fail your test if you panic and make a serious or dangerous driving error trying to get back on the correct route. This is by far the most common cause of test fails after getting a direction wrong.
The route is of no importance or significance what so ever, unless you commit a traffic offence such as going the wrong way down a one way street.
Take a wrong turn, no problem. Clearly you'll try not to, but it happens. Similar to stalling, just accept it as a possibility. Precisely the same as stalling what's important is not the initial mistake but how you deal with it. If you take a wrong turn, panic and make a serious or dangerous error trying to get back on the right road then you'll fail. Not because you took the wrong turn, but because you made a serious or dangerous driving error. You need to make that distinction because it's important.
So many times I've heard or read about learners who failed saying that it was because they'd taken a wrong turn. No it wasn't. They took a wrong turn, panicked and made a serious driving error trying to put it right. That's why they failed.
There are lots of stories and myths about the driving test and how it's marked. Some of them are true, a lot of them are complete rubbish.
It's very common indeed for learners to not really understand why they failed and they often attribute it to something that wasn't actually important. Your instructor has a responsibility to make sure you know how the test works and that you don't worry about nonsense unnecessarily.