Learning to drive is great fun and the reward for passing the test is your freedom and ability to drive unaccompanied, hopefully for the rest of your life.
When you first start your lessons the Driving Test is probably the furthest thing from your mind, but as you progress, the prospect of sitting with an examiner begins to creep up on you.
I haven't seen the DVSA figures for a while but the last statistics I saw were that there are well over 5,000 driving tests carried out each and every day.
The same figures indicated that around 40% of those people taking their test unfortunately don't pass.
Let's put that in a more positive light, 60% of the people taking their tests every day do pass. That sounds much better, doesn't it?
Be Ready, Be Prepared
One of the major reasons for not getting through, without any doubt at all, is simply not being well prepared for the test. Not taking enough driving lessons, not getting any practice or just not learning what is required thoroughly enough are the major causes of disappointment.
Your instructor should make sure that you are well and truly prepared for your test. It's important for your instructor to be completely honest with you. I certainly will be.
Driving tests and driving lessons cost money. It's not cheap learning to drive so please try to make sure that you get all the preparation you need from your instructor. Although you can practice with a parent or friend, it's unlikely anyone other than a qualified instructor will be able to make sure you know exactly what you're doing when you go for your test.
When you first start driving you'll need lots of help and encouragement from your instructor. You'll need to be assisted in carrying out all the exercises, dealing with busy junctions, roundabouts, hazards and anything else that crops up. As you progress, the amount of assistance you need will gradually reduce and you'll start to deal with more and more for yourself.
By the time you take your test you should be able to drive completely independently, perhaps with words of encouragement from your instructor, but you certainly shouldn't need any help.
Here's a clue. If you do need any help, in any area of your driving, you are not ready to take your test. As well as risking a huge disappointment with the outcome of the test, you also risk wasting a lot of money by having to retake it.
You should be able to deal with every situation, using the MSM routine, without any help at all.
Tips To Help With Nerves
The truth is that nerves are the number one problem for the majority of learners.
Don't think that you're alone. You're not. I've trained a huge number of driving instructors who have been qualified drivers for many years, and yet they still suffer terribly with nerves.
So do I. It's normal, we just have to try to deal with it, so here are a few tips I hope you find useful.
- No need to tell anyone you're taking your test
It's quite common to be really excited and to want to tell your friends and everyone you know on social media, but just wait a moment and think about it. The more people who know the more pressure you may put on yourself to pass. You should be doing the driving test for you, not for anyone else. It's your choice, but the less people you tell the less pressure you'll feel to perform. Anything that reduces your worry can only be a good thing, so it's worth considering keeping your test our little secret.
- Resist the urge to practice the manoeuvres just before your test
This is another common cause of stress and worry. You've had your lessons and got to the stage where everything is coming together perfectly. The last thing you need is to make an error on one of the exercises just before your test, throwing doubt into your mind. Maybe a short warm up drive is the right thing to do, but my advice is to avoid the heavy stuff just before test. Stay fresh and keep your best for when you're sitting next to the examiner.
- It's not a race. Take your time, get it right.
So many times learners want to rush into things as though they'll instantly fail unless they do everything perfectly and at full speed ahead. It's just not true. It's far better to take your time, not to rush, and to make sure you go through the MSM routine safely to deal with anything you come across.
- Open the window to get some fresh air
I'm not suggesting that you freeze if it's a cold day, but sometimes the fresh air can help to calm you and keep you awake. I've not known an examiner to object to this, I've even seen many ask the driver if it's OK for them to open their window, so don't be concerned to suggest it.
- Ignore what the examiner writes during the test
During your test the examiner will usually have the marking sheet on a clipboard on their lap. They'll often click their pen and you'll be aware of them writing something or marking the sheet in some way. It's also fairly common for the learner driver to panic and to assume that the pen click means they've done something terribly wrong and our bound to fail. It's just not the case. Quite often the examiner is simply writing some detail on the sheet that they forgot to note before you set off. There are statistics boxes and other information areas on the marking sheet and it's quite possible that the examiner is just making notes on them.
I hope that some of this has been useful for you.The message to take away is to stay calm, don't rush anything, use the MSM routine throughout and to realise that every stroke of the examiners pen does not mean that you've failed.