Tips for Passing the Driving Test

With the current practical driving test pass rate being at a lowly 46.4 percent, it’s important to gather as much advice and information that may increase your chances of passing. That’s precisely where our tips for passing the driving test come in. The tips detailed below are actively used by driving instructors so that their learners stand the best possible chance of passing.

Tips for Passing the Driving Test

  1. Know what to expect on the driving test
  2. Choose your driving test centre
  3. Learn the driving test routes
  4. Take mock driving tests
  5. Carefully choose your driving test time
  6. Practice the roads around the test centre
  7. Avoid the most common test failures
  8. Master the driving test manoeuvres
  9. Use the same car for the driving test as you use for lessons
  10. Control your nerves

Let’s look at these driving test tips in a little more detail…

1. Know What to Expect on the Driving Test

The practical driving test follows a relatively predictable routine. What isn’t predictable is what happens on the road during those 40 minutes. It makes sense to know exactly what to expect on the driving test so that you can concentrate on less predictable events such as dealing with traffic, cyclists and pedestrians. Good preparation is the key to passing the driving test.

2. Choose Your Driving Test Centre

You can choose whichever practical driving test centre you like – there are about 380 of them. Obviously you’re not going to want to choose a test centre that’s hundreds of miles away but test centres in busy city locations almost always have lower pass rates. The tip here is to consider using a test centre that’s in a less busy area (if there is one and if it isn’t too far away). You can find your nearest test centres here. A test centre located in a quieter area may offer easier roads and less traffic density, so increasing your chances of passing the driving test.

3. Learn the Driving Test Routes

The driving test routes are what each examiner is required to follow during each test. Depending on how busy the test centre is, there can be anywhere from 2 or 3 routes for a quiet location and 10 or more routes for busy locations. Test routes are planned by the head examiner for each test centre and will include varied road types and traffic systems. Each test route will also include some of the most challenging sections in the area. You don’t need to learn the routes road-by-road, just the challenging parts. A top tip is to find a good local driving instructor who will be familiar with the test routes, specifically those difficult areas.

4. Take Mock Driving Tests

A mock driving test is an imitation of the real test and is conducted by your driving instructor. Just like the real test, it’ll last for about 40 minutes and you’ll undergo the same procedures that you will during your official test. Your instructor will also act and direct you in a similar way as a DVSA examiner will. The tip here is that you’ll become much more familiar with the driving test procedure which in turn increases confidence. You’ll also know whether you’re up to test standard or need more lessons.

5. Carefully Choose your Driving Test Time

When booking your driving test, you’ll be given the available test dates and times. Traffic density varies considerably throughout the day, so the top tip here is to choose a test time where traffic is light. Try to avoid rush hour morning, lunchtime traffic and early evening as some drivers tend to be inconsiderate of other road users.

6. Practice the Roads Around the Test Centre

A considerable amount of driving tests are failed very close to the test centre, particularly right at the start of the test. This is probably due to nerves being at their peak at this time. The tip here is to spend time practicing on the roads directly around the test centre which will give you more confidence when the test starts. Some test centres allow you to go in and park up, so practice going in the test centre and leaving.

7. Avoid the Most Common Test Failures

Year on year, the top 10 reasons for failing the driving test remain almost identical, which means thousands of test candidates are repeating the same mistakes every year. The tip here is to try and avoid them and by doing so will significantly increase your chances of passing the test. The top 10 reasons for failing the driving test are as follows:

  • Junctions – The most common reason for test failure at number 1 is junctions. This is due to a lack of observation at T-junctions and is usually associated with speed. Approach junctions slow enough to enable yourself plenty of time to look.
  • Mirrors – Number 2 is due to a failure to check mirrors, or checking too late after changing direction.
  • Control – This is related to a loss of control due to steering.
  • Junctions – Back to junctions again and at number 4 it’s when turning right and bad road positioning.
  • Move off – Moving off requires safety checks including mirrors and blind spot. It’s a procedure that examiners are extremely strict on and at number 5, it fails many tests.
  • Response to signals – This is related to traffic lights and typically involves the test candidate failing to stop in time for when the lights change.
  • Move off – Number 7 is onto moving off again and this time it relates to a lack of control. Moving off too quickly or stalling is considered a lack of control.
  • Positioning – This relates to road position during normal driving. Be cautious of distances between parked cars and other obstacles.
  • Response to signals – This time it’s due to road markings. A good example is stopping ahead of the stop line at traffic lights. Drive at a slow enough speed when approaching to allow you sufficient time to stop in a safe and legal position.
  • Reverse park – Reverse parking is often considered one of the most difficult manoeuvres and as a result, it’s the manoeuvre that fails the most tests. Last on the top 10 list is due to a lack of control and usually involves mounting kerbs.

8. Master the Driving Test Manoeuvres

The manoeuvres really are where the test candidate has most control throughout the entire test. There’s no having to deal with erratic drivers here. During a manoeuvre, you control the speed, when you stop and go and can make adjustments until you’re happy. The tip to increasing your chances off passing is to perfect the manoeuvres as the rest of the test can be less predictable. However, another tip is that if you mess up a manoeuvre, ask the examiner if you can start the it again. They might say yes, they might say no, but it’s worth a try.

9. Use the Same Car for the Driving Test as you use for Lessons

Even for experienced drivers, driving a different car than the one you’re used to takes time to get accustomed to. A different car, especially a different model will make manoeuvres much harder due to the different size and how the car operates. If for some reason you can’t use the same car on the test as you used for lessons, practice in the car as much as possible before your test.

10. Control Your Nerves

Time and time again instructors see their learners drive like a professional on lessons and on the test, they drive like they’re never driven a car before. This is because nerves get the better of them. The first tip is to remember that it’s natural to be nervous but take the attitude that it’s not the end of the world if you fail. If you fail, so what, just try again. The second tip and this one might take a bit of getting used to is commentary driving. This is where you describe what you’re doing, what you see and how you’re going to deal with it. You’re supposed to say this out loud, but if you find this a little too much, you can talk to yourself inside your head, it still works. To give an example, if you’re taking a left turn up ahead, you’ll talk yourself through the process:

  • Look into the interior mirror, then the left mirror – no hazards
  • Slowing down, select 2nd gear
  • Look into the left mirror, quick glance into left blind spot – no hazards
  • New road, look into interior mirror – all clear
  • (Hazards) Parked cars on left ahead, no oncoming vehicles, look into interior and right mirror – all clear

Essentially you talk yourself through everything you’re doing, constantly scanning for and acknowledging hazards and talking yourself through how you’ll deal with them. It may seem a little odd, but it helps you to focus incredibly well and as you can imagine, it will almost totally eradicate nerves. Give it a try and stick with it, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is.

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