The Driving Test and Nerves.

Dealing with Driving Test Nerves

The Driving Standards Agency
A lot of pupils are fine when driving with their instructor, and can perform all the required driving test exercises without making any serious mistakes, but on the test date, they all go to pieces when the DSA examiner gets in the car. So why does this happen, and what can be done to help reduce or eliminate this trend.

Most people blame this on nerves, but is it really just a case of driving test nerves getting the better of you, or is there more to it?

First of all, we all know that the UK driving test is an examination, we might not think it is a fair way of determining whether a pupil is fit to drive un-supervised or not, but it is what is in place at the moment, so if we want to have that driving license, then we will have to pass the test. With all examinations, one of the keys to passing, is knowing what is required, and adequately preparing yourself for the driving assessment.
There is however one key difference between the driving test, and normal written or practical tests taken in a college or university environment, the results are immediate, and it is possible for you to perform very well in the first 39 minutes of the test, only to fail in the last minute due a serious driver error. Thinking about all this does un-nerve a pupil, but there is not much you can do about that, you just have to deal with it!

As a driving Instructor, I will give you honest advice and will only stop you using my car for a driving test if you pose a danger to public and could crash my vehicle. If he/she is not ready (as in fully covered the syllabus or still making serious mistakes on a regular basis), then there is no point trying to go for something you are not fully prepared for, but once I do advise a pupil, that he/she is ready, that is not a guarantee that they will pass! You still have to perform on the day, doing what you normally do, only with a different person in the car.

The DSA Driving Test Examiner

You should think of the examiner as an observer, whose job it is to check to see that you have been taught what is required for you to be allowed on the roads on your own. He/She is not there to trick you or to make you fail, the examiner is merely taking you on a drive observing your driving skills, asking you to do some set exercises, and at the end is there to confirm or not confirm that you have reached the minimum standard required to drive un-supervised. They can only form an opinion of your driving based on the 40 minutes that they are in the car with you, there should be nothing that happens within those 40 minutes that should come as a surprise to you if you are fully prepared for the driving test.

Part of being prepared, is to know what driving test conditions are like, so if you haven't had a visit to your local test centre before the day of your test, you should ask your instructor to take you there. Sit in the waiting room, see the examiners come out, observe them as they meet their candidates, do the preliminary paperwork before they go out to the car park etc. You are familiarising yourself with the test centre, and what the pressure might feel like on a test day.

If you know that you are not comfortable driving with strangers in the front passenger seat, then you need to deal with that, as the driving examiner will be a stranger to you on your test date, and you still need to perform at the same standard as if it was your instructor that was sitting in the car.

The easiest way for you to do this is by taking a Mock driving test with another instructor, and if possible with your instructor sitting in (this might not always be possible if your instructor is very busy), this will give you an idea of what it is like to have a stranger in the passenger's seat, and you can see what type of mistakes you make which might be out of character.

If you have an insured car, and can find a qualified friend or family member to supervise you, then go for a drive to somewhere you are not familiar with, making sure you brief them that you are at test standard, and all you want them to do is direct you, and nothing else. If you are able to do this a couple of times without it affecting your driving, you are almost there. The thing with your instructor being beside you is that you have a bond, and at the back of your mind, you know if you make a mistake or get into a jam, you are confident he/she will bail you out without a serious repercussions, not so with an examiner, friend or family member, so your driving is much more relaxed with your driving instructor.

The more you are able to drive confidently with strangers, the better you are prepared for dealing with driving test nerves.

The unknown on the day of the test!

The other major thing that people dread on the test date is what if something happens that I've never come across before?

By the time you are ready for the UK driving test, you should have had on average between 35 - 50hrs of tuition with your instructor/supervisor, and during that time you would have come across different driving conditions or situations which your instructor would have talked you through or explained what you should do, so it is virtually impossible for you to encounter something during the driving test that you haven't come across in one way or another. The question is have you prepared yourself to deal with such situations. I know of people who have gone for tests hoping that a child will not step onto a pedestrian crossing at a particular junction, or some traffic light would not change on a 50mph dual carriageway!
You can not fluke a pass on the driving test! Whatever it is you have a fear of, you need to deal with, you attitude should be BRING IT ON! Take me to the busiest part of town, 70mph dual Carriage way no problem, parallel park on the high street - I'll show you. Pupils have been fortunate on tests, but are you willing to rely on luck to pass or skill? I have written a separate article about driving on un-familiar roads, so use the search button to find it, if that is one of your fears about the driving test.

If you are fully prepared for the test, have conquered the problem of strangers in the car, are confident of your skills, then you shouldn't have a problem passing the test.

If you don't make it this time, don't be discouraged, not everyone passes first time, learn from the mistakes you made, and if you are not fully ready, don't hope for a pass, wait until you are sure you can demonstrate you deserve a pass on the next driving test.

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  1. Anonymous9:33 pm

    I agree with having experience of a "stranger" in the passenger seat. My mother in law was taught by my F-I-L when she was in her 60's. However, a few days before her test she confessed to being nervous about somebody else being in the left hand seat.

    I bravely volunteered my services one Sunday and spent a couple of hours reading my newspapers while sat next to her. No advice, no criticism, no questions - just let her drive wherever she wanted just to get experience of somebody else there.

    She passed first time.

  2. That's what I like to hear, stories of success.

  3. Anonymous5:56 pm

    I have a friend who had her first experience of driving in snow during her first driving test. A car went sideways across the main road outside the test centre just as they pulled out. She took note of the hazardous conditions - and passed with flying colours. No other tests took place that day!

  4. Just read your story with great interest, It took me three goes to pass my bus driving test (PCV) the irony is that I had to pick up the test examiner almost everyday together with a coach load of other trainees and drive them to the depot some 20 miles away, never gave it a second thought, but the moment I was alone with him I just went to pot, even jammed the bus on a corner the first time. by the third time my mind was set in to 'just drive the bloody bus' mode and I passed with only 4 minor faults (15 is the limit or one major). It is true that the examiner is not there to test you as such, he's just there for a safe and comfortable ride. Note, to drive a bus you must hold a full licence, but it is still just like the first time, theory, hazard perception and one hour on the road.

  5. Anonymous7:43 pm

    hi ive got a test tomorrow and i have actually been driving for 2 years with no points its at the edware bus garage for london sovereign they have sent a letter saying i will be tested on basic arithmetic, basic writtin and highway code im abit worried. any tips?

  6. Anonymous2:35 pm

    Sorry Anon, but don't know about the bus driving assessment test, maybe you should ask Jimmy of the Driving a Bus blog.




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