Top tips for passing your Driving Test - At the First Attempt

To pass your driving test you need to drive without making any serious or dangerous faults and no more than 15 minor faults during a drive of about 40 minutes, which will include a section of ‘independent driving’, one manouvre and possibly a controlled stop. In the independent driving section of your test, you will drive for about 10 minutes without step-by-step direction from your examiner. For the rest of your test the examiner will give candidates step-by-step instructions.

During the independent driving section of the test, the examiner will ask you to drive by either following a series of directions, following traffic signs, or a combination of both.

To help you understand where you’re going, the examiner may show you a diagram. It doesn't matter if you don't remember every direction, or if you go the wrong way - that can happen to the most experienced drivers. Independent driving is not a test of your orientation and navigation skills.

Driving independently means making your own decisions - this includes deciding when it’s safe and appropriate to ask for confirmation about where you’re going.

The independent driving route
If you ask for a reminder of the directions, the examiner will confirm them to you.

If you go off the independent driving route it won’t affect the result of your test unless you commit a driving fault. If you go off the route or take a wrong turning, the examiner will help you to get back on the route and continue with the independent driving.

If there are poor or obscured traffic signs, the examiner will give you directions until you can see the next traffic sign - you won’t need to have a detailed knowledge of the area.

Test routes will no longer be published

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

1. Make sure you get plenty of practice over the test area with your driving instructor and if you have access to a car between lessons, then download the test routes from the DSA website and practice in your spare time.

2. Practice manoeuvres until you can carry them out without any minor faults. That will leave you with a margin of 15 faults for the rest of the drive on the day of your test.

3. Practice, practice, and practice until you can drive without verbal or physical intervention from your instructor for the duration of a full driving lesson. Don't forget: it's not practice that makes perfect: it's practice – with a professional driving instructor – that makes perfect.


Test Day

  1. Warm up: Arrange with you instructor to have an hour's driving lesson around the area of the test centre on the day of your test. This will help you to warm up and get into the swing of things. You will also be aware of any new roadworks, obstructions etc and will feel more able to deal with them more easily. Forewarned is forearmed.
  2. Nerves: If you start feeling shaky bag of nerves, breathe in, hold your breath, count up to 20 and breathe out. Repeat this exercise until you gain control of your nerves. Once the test starts, you'll settle into your driving and your attention will be on the road rather than on your own feelings, and your nervousness should disappear.
  3. Think confident: Talk yourself through the test. Talk about hazards coming up and how you are going to deal with them. This really focuses your mind on how you should be driving in order to pass the test.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask: Don't be afraid to ask the examiner to repeat any of the instructions that they have given.
  5. Think positive: Before you start a manoeuvre, be confident that you can complete it safely and under full control at all times, making all relevant observations
  6. Making a mistake: Don't worry about repairing an manouvre, just pull forwards and do it again correctly. As long as you haven't done anything wrong, such as touching the kerb or failing to make effective observations, you can still pass.
  7. Stalling: if, unfortunately, you stall, deal with it and move on. As long as you don't stall in a dangerous situation, such as on a roundabout and as long as you handle it properly, this needn't count as a major fault and you can still pass your test.
  8. Have I already failed? If you feel you've made a mistake, don't instantly assume you've failed – it may only have been a minor fault. Put it behind you and carry on driving as well as you can.
  9. Keep your eyes on the road: Resist the temptation to look at the examiner and what he or she is writing. Keep your attention on your driving and the road ahead!

Test Tips

Staying calm during your driving test isn't easy!

Even the most confident driver can get nervous during a driving test and stress and anxiety can easily have an adverse effect on the result.

So how can you keep calm during your driving test?

Here are some tips for reducing driving test nerves;

  1. Try and work out EXACTLY what you're worrying about. Are you worried about what others might say if you fail? Do you lack confidence in your driving ability? Do you simply not like to fail at anything? Once you know why you're worrying, anxiety is easier to deal with.
  2. If you're worrying about what other people might say or think, then don't tell them when your test is! That way, if you pass you've got a nice surprise for them and if you fail, they need never know...
  3. If you've been taught to drive by a professional driving instructor and they have told you that you are ready to take your driving test, then you have no need to doubt your own driving ability. Driving instructors know the standard required to pass the practical test and if your instructor thinks you can drive to that standard you can trust their judgement! If you have doubts, talk things through with your instructor.
  4. Take your driving test when there's no additional stress in your life. Exams, coursework deadlines, problems at work, relationship difficulties etc are stressful enough by themselves. A driving test looming on the horizon will just make things worse.
  5. It sounds obvious, but before you go to your test appointment, make sure you have all the documents the examiner will need to see and you've had something to eat, you've been to the toilet and that you're wearing comfortable clothes and sensible shoes!
  6. Don't underestimate the power of positive thinking. If you go into your test in a negative frame of mind, it's likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  7. During the test itself, try and keep focused only on what the examiner is asking you to do. Forget everything else, just concentrate.
  8. If you think you've made a mistake, don't dwell on it - it may not be as serious as you think, so put it behind you and focus only on what else you're asked to do!
  9. If you fail your driving test it's certainly disappointing, but it's not the end of the world! Try again, believe in yourself and you'll achieve your goal!

Most Common Reasons For Failing a Driving Test
  1. Observation at junctions
    ineffective observations and judgement
  2. Reverse parking
  3. - ineffective observation and/or a lack of accuracy
  4. Use of mirrors
  5. - not checking or not acting on information
  6. Reversing round a corner
  7. - ineffective observation or lack of accuracy
  8. Incorrect use of signals
  9. - not cancelling or giving misleading signals
  10. Moving away safely
  11. - ineffective observations
  12. Incorrect positioning on the road
  13. - particularly at roundabouts or on bends
  14. Lack of steering control
  15. - steering too early or too late
  16. Incorrect position to turn right
  17. - at junctions and/or in one-way streets
  18. Inappropriate speed
  19. - travelling too slowly or with too much hesitation