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?

Side mirror on a car

Here are ten of the most common reasons for test failure:

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.

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.

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.

Car pulling off at traffic lights

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.

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.

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.

Car crossing traffic lights
learner driver with instructor in a car

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.

How can I prepare for my driving test?

  1. Ensure you’re ready
  2. Choose your test centre wisely
  3. Get all of your documents together
  4. Make sure you leave plenty of time
  5. Think about having a lesson beforehand
  6. Use your instructor’s car for the test
  7. Keep doing those checks
  8. Don’t assume you’ve failed straight away
  9. 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 have resumed.



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