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Tips for Passing Your Driving Test & How to Prepare for it

Tips for Passing Your Driving Test & How to Prepare for it


YOUR heart has to go out to a learner who’s just been told by the examiner that they’ve failed their test for what may seem only the most minor of mistakes. There are ways you can prepare ahead of the test. We’ve got some of the key areas where a little extra preparation can go a long way. 

Tips for passing your driving test & the best ways to prepare

AFTER spending many hundreds of pounds on lessons and many hours gaining experience, learner drivers know they’re competent drivers, but sadly, the plain fact is that it’s all too easy to fail when it comes to taking a practical driving test.

So what’s causing drivers to come home disappointed?

You can see below the ten most common mistakes, but there is one rarely mentioned in official statistics, but which possibly plays the biggest part – nerves on the day of the test.

That aside, here are ten of the most common reasons for test failure:

Let’s look at those in a bit more detail.

Junctions: Instructor and examiner forums say that for observation at junctions the most common fault is not making effective observation before emerging at a junction. `Effective observation’ does not mean just glancing, it means looking, focusing and noticing…that car, lorry, motorbike or cyclist you’re about to pull out in front of for example!

Mirrors: Manufacturers fit them for a purpose which is to show you what’s behind; so, use them! Do you know what’s there before you start to brake or turn? You should.

Car side mirror with view from behind

Steering: Given that this is probably the most basic and fundamental control in driving safely, by the time you take the test you really should be able to judge how much or how little steering to use. Assuming you attend the test centre in the school car and are familiar with it there can be few excuses for not managing this most important part of driving. Mounting kerbs, straying over a white line, having several stabs at gauging the correct amount of lock…you should have mastered this before you take your test.

Turning right at a junction: Common faults here are cutting the corner instead of staying in your lane, not observing and anticipating something like a pedestrian stepping off the pavement or a parked car moving off on the road you’re about to drive down and not looking in your mirror in case there’s a motorbike or cyclist about to overtake you – it does happen.

Turning in front of oncoming traffic causing them to brake suddenly is an unforgivable error.

Turning right at a T junction

Moving off safely: Is the road clear ahead before you get the car moving? If you’re in a queue, perhaps at a roundabout, you may be looking to the right to spot a gap in the traffic and set off when there is one – but are you 100 per cent sure the vehicle in front of you has done the same? Don’t assume, look.

Positioning: Get into the correct lane in time as you approach a roundabout, imagine the white lines between your lane and that for oncoming traffic as a metal barrier instead of paint (unless overtaking) and keep away from the centre line and the outside kerb when you corner.

HO w to approach and negotiate a roundabout

Moving off with proper pedal control: This is a bit like steering, in that by this stage you should be past the `bunny-hopping’ or burning the clutch stage. Hill starts should pose no problem either.

Responding to traffic lights: If you’re stopped and waiting for the lights to change remember, it’s red, red/amber, green. You should be prepared to go on the red/amber with the right gear selected, and assuming it’s safe and clear ahead, you move off smoothly on the green.

Look to the left and right to make sure there’s no red-light runner about to T-bone, but if you run a red light yourself, then I’m afraid you may as well turn around and drive back to the test centre, because you’ve failed.

If a light has been on green for a while as you approach, be prepared (mirror check) for it to turn red and remember that pedestrian lights can change to red even if there’s no-one around to press the button.

Popular mistakes are not seeing a green light on a left filter lane because you’re looking at the main set of lights; stopping in an area reserved for cyclists and a very common one, stopping in a box junction.

Junction with traffic lights and yellow box

Reverse parking on the right: You might have thought this was a more common cause for mistakes, but practice makes perfect so find some nice empty industrial estates or quiet roads while you’re with your instructor or parent. It’s crucial to keep looking over your shoulder to the left and right to ensure that no pedestrians are about to walk behind you.


Facts and figures about the driving test.

There are three types of faults you can make:

  • a dangerous fault - this involves actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property.
  • a serious fault - something potentially dangerous.
  • a driving fault - this isn’t potentially dangerous, but if you keep making the same fault, it could become a serious fault.

You’ll pass your driving test if you make:

  • no more than 15 driving faults (sometimes called ‘minors’)
  • no serious or dangerous faults (sometimes called ‘majors’)

The most common driving test minors:

  • Starting and stopping: If you turn the ignition key with the car in gear and without pushing out the clutch the car will lurch forward with obvious risks to anything or anyone just ahead. If you stop and do not engage the handbrake, the car can roll forwards or back.
  • Moving away: If you don’t make the proper checks; the mirror, signal, manoeuvre process, then what was a minor fault could become a serious one.
  • Emergency stop: You need to stop quickly while retaining control.
  • Reverse parking on the right: You shouldn’t be too far from the kerb or finish at an angle. Also, look out of the rear and side windows whilst reversing, watch for pedestrians when performing this manoeuvre and check your blind spot when moving off to re-join the traffic.
  • Controls: You’ll need to use the wipers if it’s raining, switch on the lights if it’s dark, or in heavy rain, with reduced visibility, remember the `see and be seen’ principle, and use the demister if the windscreen is steaming up.
  • Awareness: Your examiner is expecting to see evidence that you’re aware of what’s going on around you at all times. That means knowing about other road users nearby, reacting to the signals of other drivers, correctly interpreting road markings and signs and using your indicators appropriately.

learner driver

How can I prepare for my driving test?

  • Ensure you’re ready 
  • Choose your test centre wisely
  • Get all of your documents together
  • Make sure you leave plenty of time
  • Think about having a lesson beforehand
  • Use your instructor’s car for the test
  • Keep doing those checks
  • Don’t assume you’ve failed straight away
  • Listen to what the examiner says

Given that driving tests have remained suspended during the lockdown period enforced across the UK, it’s likely that thousands of nearly-there motorists will be keen to get rid of their L-plates now tests are set to resume. 

However, are there any areas where you can prepare ahead of this testing examination? We’ve got some of the key areas where a little extra preparation can go a long way. 

Ensure you’re ready first

Though it’s easy to get swept up in eagerness for your test, it’s a good idea to take a step back and re-assess whether or not you’re ready for the examination in the first place.

Ensure you’ve had enough time behind the wheel and plenty of lessons too. Even a few extra hours of experience could make all the difference. 

Choose your test centre wisely

You’ll have a variety of different test centres surrounding you, giving you plenty of options when it comes to location. It can be a good idea to choose one in an area you’re familiar with, or near to where you’ve been doing the majority of your lessons. 

Though there’s no way of pre-empting the route you’ll take on your test, it can be worthwhile to do a couple of additional lessons near to the centre itself in order to familiarise yourself with the area.  

Get all of your documents together

You must take to your driving test:

• your UK driving licence.

• your theory test pass certificate.

• a car! - most people use their driving instructor’s but you can use your own if it meets the rules. It must be insured for use in a Driving  Test and you’ll need to buy an extra stick-on rear view mirror for the examiner to use.

Before you’ve even started the journey to the test centre it’s best to make sure that you’ve got all of the right documentation to hand. Without it, you won’t be able to do your test. 

The test centre will require you to show both your theory test pass certificate and your provisional licence, too. 


Make sure you leave plenty of time

It’s never nice to be in a rush, particularly when you’re about to take your driving test - so make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the centre. Allow yourself enough breathing room between arriving at the centre and starting your test, as it’ll ensure you can gather your thoughts and get yourself into the right frame of mind for driving. 

Think about having a lesson beforehand

Another way of calming your nerves is to have a short lesson before your test starts. It doesn’t need to be anything too intensive, but even a short 30-minute lesson could be enough to refresh your mind and give you an opportunity to ask your instructor any burning questions, too. 

car with L plates

Use your instructor’s car for the test

Being comfortable always makes things easier, so it can be an idea to do your examination in your instructor’s car. After all, this will likely be the car you’ll have spent the most time driving, which means that all of its controls will familiar. 

Keep doing those checks

One of the key reasons why learner drivers fail their tests is a lack of observation - so it’s a great idea to make the most of your checks when on the move. If anything, over-exaggerate them to ensure that your instructor has seen them and be sure to check your mirrors when moving away, approaching junctions or changing speed - and everything in between.

Don’t assume you’ve failed straight away

Even if you’re sure that you’ve committed an error, don’t give up hope right away. After all, you’re allowed up to 15 minors, so even if you know you’ve had a problem, keep going on as usual. Continue with all of your usual checks and wait until you’ve finished your test to cast final judgement. 

Listen to what the examiner says

When you’ve come to the end of your test, it can be tempting to switch off and disregard anything - particularly if you’ve failed. However, it’s very important that you listen to what your examiner says. 

If you’ve failed, then they’ll tell you where you want wrong. This is invaluable in order to prepare for your re-test. If you’ve passed, then they might still give you some areas to improve upon and it’s crucial that you heed these in order to improve as a driver. 

UK Driving test pass certificate

Good luck!

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