Too Much Pressure

Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram discusses how pressure on tests can affect ability.

Poor old Selasi has been given the heave ho from the Bake Off.  If any readers of my blog watch the show, they will know that a more calm and “gentle giant” you will never meet.  It was almost painful to watch the poor chap baking outside of his normal placid self.  And if you want to know why people fail driving tests then this series will offer you some clues.

Why is Andrew sitting there waiting for cakes to bake within an oven that is off, why is Candice piping cream on to a hot sponge, why are all of them continually dropping things?  In the name of ‘entertainment’ they are being asked to bake within timescales that they simply would not do at home.  On a driving test, despite the Examiner telling you it will last for 38 minutes, you would do well to completely ignore the remark, do not let the subject of time enter your mind on your driving test.  I can recall 2 driving tests in Grantham that went on for an hour, one due to roadworks, the other due to the newly qualified Examiner not knowing where to go.  Time is completely irrelevant, if anything it should be only the concern of the Examiner, certainly not yours.  The driving test will take as long as it takes; eliminate any notion in your mind that you are in any way against the clock – it is absolutely off putting and quite unnecessary.

But more than that, did you see how Selasi responded when Mazza asked whether he had sifted the flour for his sponge?  He threw away his already made sponge, and changed his ‘tried and tested’ technique that he has been successfully using for years at home, and why?  He correctly suspected that Mazza would be looking for small clumps of flour in the sponge because she knew he did not sift the flour.  That then put him further against time, and the result on his demeanour was clear for all to see.  You will be amazed how some candidates on a driving test will behave due to what an Examiner says or does on the test.

Quite why the assessment only consists of a one-off test whereby the environment in the car bears absolutely no relationship to how it will feel on normal journeys is something that defies belief.  For some reason, it is felt desirable to “test” the ability of a person to drive, by putting them within conditions that they have no previous experience of, and more than that, are very unlikely to experience again.   In addition, unlike the standard for real-life driving, the test has a marking system that flies in the face of the norm performed by qualified drivers.  How utterly bizarre.

I have observed near on 100% of all driving tests that my customers have taken since 2009, and for the life of me I cannot see why we test Learners in the way that we do.   The number of times that I have seen a Learner of mine on test, drive in a manner which is completely out of character is quite remarkable.  Much like how I felt seeing Selasi attempt to bake in extreme, unrealistic conditions, it has been at times pitiful to see how a driving test has been such a painful experience for many of my customers.  And it is all completely and entirely unnecessary – just needing the application of a bit of common sense to adapt the assessment process to make it more a reflection of how the person is likely to drive in real life.

One other tip.  Try not to short circuit the “training” process. As tempting as it is to compete with friends regarding how they learnt to drive with only 5 or 10 driving lessons, the idea is to develop techniques within your driving that become second nature.  I am particularly referring to observations here.  What the eyes don’t see, the brain can’t assess – and when driving it is so important to effectively see what is going on around you.  There are a number of techniques to develop to assist with that, but if you are intent on limiting the number of hours you invest in creating those skills so that they become instinctive, then inevitably, observations will tend to be compromised.  Inconsistency in any given field often comes down to flaws with technique, and driving is no different.  I have been following the musical career of Pete Tong for 30 odd years.  He is a well-respected DJ in Electronica music.  As good as the “Kisstory” mixing is between tracks at 11am every weekday on the radio channel Kiss, it is not a touch on the mixing by Pete Tong.  Not only has he crafted his technique with the passing of time, but the slow pace at which he mixes between one track and another is seamless, in fact at times, indistinguishable.  Driving actions should be planned in advance, they should be started in such a time as to allow the sequence of actions to appear smooth, seamless, and indistinguishable.  I have witnessed customers of mine develop this over time, some have perfected it better than I would be able to myself.  But they don’t get to that level by attempting to take less training hours than their mates.

The process of effective learning is naturally evolving, and non-linear in nature; we are not all robots where we simply get programmed for a pre-determined behaviour.  Any farmer or gardener will tell you that working against nature to force outcomes to happen will invariably result in negative consequences.  And it is much the same with how each of us learn, it cannot be forced in an unnatural way. [Accepting of course that there are extreme examples to be found globally where very young children are performing complex tasks to a very high level of ability]. A healthy environment for learning to drive will pay attention to the relationship between pupil and instructor, it will not be forced to attain certain levels of achievement within pre-determined timescales.  The pace and subject of learning will be aligned to the needs of the pupil.   A pupil will sense a level of individual care and attention that simply cannot be obtained when a driving school is handling dozens and dozens of pupils.

Just take “time” out of the equation – it is completely unhelpful in a learning environment.  And as has been discovered with our Bake Off contestants, it is not exactly helpful in an assessment environment either, but the programme makers are cranking up the pressure and with pressure inevitably comes faults.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, Spalding and Bourne – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE


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