If you’ve been learning to drive, passed your driving theory test and are booking or have booked a practical driving test I’ve put together some of the best advice I have gleaned from 7 years as a Driving Standards Agency Approved Driving Instructor (DSA ADI) and condensed it into these 7 top tips:-
1. Start before you book your test. Think about the best time for your practical test, this will be determined by you (do you perform well when driving in the morning or are you more of an afternoon person?) and your local area (are there many schools in the area that would cause heavy congestion at certain times of the day for example?)
I usually recommend a mid-morning to mid-afternoon driving test to the majority of my learner drivers during school-term time as this allows the morning rush hour to die down so there’s the best chance of the least traffic and you don’t have to worry about traffic controllers or little walking hazards! However in the school holidays this rule needn’t apply to your practical test, in fact taking your driving test first thing is usually a good thing because most people get going a little later during the school holidays.
2. Proper preparation and practice. There is no substitute for this. The Driving Standards Agency expect you to demonstrate a high quality drive on your practical driving test and can be very strict with their marking. Just because you sailed through the theory doesn’t mean you should be complacent about the practical driving test, it’s a completely different style of test and is so easy to earn a serious mark through a lapse of concentration.
The practical driving test is also very expensive, this test fee along with the instructor fees means that you will generally be spending in excess of £100 on your test so make sure your get it right. Don’t skimp on training sessions with your driving instructor on the lead up to your test, in fact I would encourage you to make sacrifices to get more driving lessons in. I have had students cancel driving lessons on me because they say they can’t afford it but I tend to find out they’ve been out on the lash all weekend. Think a little about your priorities, you may be sacrificing your DSA driving test fee if you miss out on your driving lessons and won’t your friends still be going out after your driving test? Obviously this doesn’t apply to all but it is rather common.
In my experience the people who are most successful first time in their test usually have regular 2 hour driving lessons and step this up on the lead up to their practical driving test, I think this demonstrates their commitment to their goal and determination to succeed.
I know that this guide is to help you pass your driving test first time but if you’ve had a practical driving test and have been unsuccessful then keep on with your regular driving lessons until your next practical test booking. There’s a phenomenon I call ‘The Serial Failure’. It tends to happen like this-
The waiting times for the DSA practical driving tests are a little high so I get my student to book theirs in anticipation of them achieving test standard
My student seems to think that because I’ve asked them to book their test they must be ready and start to cancel lessons and I start to see them less frequently
About a week before the test date I get a call from my student who is desperate for a driving lesson and we squeeze one or two in, bear in mind in this situation I’m less inclined to bend over backwards for an ill-prepared student.
In the time between booking the practical driving test and the lessons the student has become very rusty and unfortunately is unsuccessful at their driving test.
Because of the waiting list we get another practical driving test booking and lo and behold – I don’t hear from my student again till the week before the next practical driving test.
And rinse and repeat…
Ok this isn’t everyone, I maybe get about 2-3 of these extreme cases per year. All they seem to want to do is keep taking driving tests when really they should be focussing on improving their practical driving skills but it does happen and I see some people waste hundreds of pounds on DSA driving test fees when a small proportion of that money invested in extra lessons would greatly improve their chances.
3. Document Check! Your instructor will be doing this with you when they pick you up for your driving lesson the hour before your test but make sure you’ve got them before hand. The DVLA are pretty efficient but if you’ve not got both parts of your driving licence you won’t go out on your test and the DVLA will take about 2 weeks to mail a new one out to you so check your documents well before your practical driving test booking.
4. Wakey, wakey! Eggs and Bakey. Ok maybe not a Full-English here but have something of nutritional value to fuel your system. A good breakfast helps set the tone of your day so at the very least grab some fruit (bananas are highly recommended due to the high potassium levels)
5. Dress to impress. Well at least wear something tidy. The examiners are human so they will be impressed if you’ve made an effort. We’re not talking Sunday best here, just something comfortable and presentable.
6. Know your ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ questions. The ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ questions were introduced to the uk driving test by the DSA in order that the test candidates learn a little about maintaining and using most of the controls in modern cars. These questions are only worth 1 minor mark so shouldn’t really affect the outcome of your practical driving test unless you have a scruffy drive and come back with 15 other minor marks. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay them any heed; they’re on the driving test for good reason and if you can’t answer these simple questions the examiner may consider your inability/unwillingness to learn these as an indicator of your attitude to your practical driving. Remember the driving test exmaniner is the one you’ve got to impress in this.
7. Forget about it. Once you set off on your practical driving test try to put the fact that you’re being examined out of your mind. Concentrate on your drive and don’t concern yourself with anything the examiner may be doing with their clipboard. Ensure that you get your first couple of turns correct and try to get your driving head on. The examiners will be looking for the sort of drive your instructor has been encouraging you to do so no last minute changes to technique.
As you’re driving around on your test it’s very easy to get involved in a negative mental spiral. Don’t dwell on mistakes, any mistakes you make rectify them in the best possible manner and then put it from your mind an focus on the drive ahead. Driving only happens in the present and the future, this is where you should focus your attention. If in doubt start thinking in terms of your hazard drill, this is what the examiners are marking you against after all. If you keep these questions going through your mind then there shouldn’t be too much space for any negative thoughts:-
- What is the next hazard?
- Which mirrors should I check?
- Do I need to signal, if so which one and when?
- What is the best position to negotiate this hazard?
- What would be an appropriate speed to approach the hazard?
- Which gear would be best to approach and deal with the hazard?
If you’ve got all those questions going through your mind for every hazard you will remain focused on the test and should be more attentive on the road.
I hope these top tips help you with your driving test success but remember being a good driver doesn’t end with the test it starts with the test.