What are the “do’s & don’ts” for your driving test, what is good advice, what should you NOT do? Here is a helpful guide freely offered to you, based on the observations of several dozens of driving tests by the author, Tom Ingram of BIG TOM Driving School.
- Don’t Drive Outside Your Comfort Zone: To maximise your chances of successful outcomes you need to be driving WITHIN your capabilities. If you are under the impression that you need to be doing things on your driving test DIFFERENTLY to how you normally drive, then you very likely are not quite ready for the driving test yet. Examples of this include, driving faster than you would like to, emerging on to junctions sooner than you would choose to, having to resist the natural urge to pause at roundabouts, doing manoeuvres quicker than you would like. Listen to your heart and your brain, your body will tell you if this is the right time to be taking driving tests.
- Look after yourself: Breathe deeply, stretch your neck, shoulders and lower leg muscles prior to your test. When we get anxieties, we tend to breathe short, shallow breaths and starve our muscles of oxygen. This in turn makes us tense, which inhibits free movement. Keep hydrated to avoid headaches, but avoid drinking to excess because that might make you want to go to the loo!
- Drive safely: Almost sounding ridiculous in its simplicity but at its core this is a good mindset to adopt. If you are not 100% certain whether you have sufficient time and space to go on the roundabout or emerge at the junction then quite simply don’t. An Examiner is wanting to see a driver that errs on the side of caution, not one that is prepared to take risks on their driving test.
- Don’t be influenced by other road users: It might feel natural to keep pace with vehicles in front, but think independently, because that vehicle in front may be speeding. When you see 5 cars in front of you taking a certain position on a roundabout, you might feel inclined to copy them, but if they are straying between lanes on the roundabout, you may affect other drivers around you by following their path. Other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists may well gesture to you to “go” but think for yourself, is it safe to go before you blindly follow their instruction?
- Take advice from your Driving Instructor: They will understand that you want to get your driving licence as quickly as possible, but repeatedly failing driving tests does not achieve that goal. The evidence of national pass rates year after year indicates that people are taking driving tests too soon. Forcing the gear lever in first gear when travelling at speed, driving too slowly on dual carriageways, not knowing when is the correct time to emerge or turn, rolling backwards on hills, getting into wrong lanes on roundabouts, not spotting pedestrians crossing in front or behind you, driving through amber traffic lights, forgetting to check mirrors at correct times – these are all symptoms of driving faults that simply mean you will not pass a driving test…. no amount of ignoring these driving faults will change that fact.
- Drive to a “system”: As irritating as this might appear, it is absolutely what Driving Examiners want to see on your driving test because it is the advice contained within their DVSA Driving Standard. Learning to drive is all about a combination of actions that ultimately stem from the brain. Whether referring to actions of the eyes, hands or feet, HOW they do them, and crucially in WHAT ORDER is vitally important in order for the brain to absorb that information, process it and make effective decisions to maintain road safety. It is common to think that the physical act of driving is all that is needed, but in fact, the brain is at the core of a good driver in order to instigate key skills such as assessment of correct speeds for given hazards, identify critical incidents that WILL require driving actions from you to accommodate the situation, interpreting key data to assist in planning how to negotiate a given hazard eg road signs, information from your vehicle, other traffic, road markings, weather conditions, your mental state of mind. Driving faults are commonly an indication that there is a disconnect between the key phases of a recognised systematic driving technique. Think of this in terms of a well rehearsed routine that you repeatedly perform in your day to day living eg your early morning routine, exercise programme, work schedule, preparation of an evening meal – think what effect mixing up key tasks within that routine would have on the overall experience, it will likely affect the efficiency, the quality, the enjoyment and ultimately, the outcome. It is no different with observing the routines that a good driver performs – but don’t forget, just because you can’t SEE what the brain is doing, never underestimate how much thinking is going on!
- Find your coping mechanisms: Very few people are able to fulfil their chosen learning activity without the need for identifying strategies to help achieve the goal. They tend to be very personal and not necessarily transferrable to all other people but some examples when learning to drive include creating pauses between certain actions so as to assist the efficiency, visualising a certain action prior to performing it, pausing and breathing deeply in order to prompt a certain action, speaking out loud actions before performing them, using visual prompters to develop habits, identifying controlling actions to manage critical situations.
- Ignore others: One of the reasons why it is often unwise to pay too much attention to the accounts of others when giving you “advice” about how they passed their driving test is that often it can have been so long ago that driving techniques have since developed, as has technology, as have the driving tests and how they are assessed. In addition, the stress of the driving test is often to such an extent that the ability of people to accurately recall what happened is restricted; as such, the accounts given are often not strictly accurate or balanced.
- Don’t attempt to impress the Examiner: There can be a tendency to think that you have to drive in a manner that you think will impress the Examiner. This is flawed for a couple of reasons. Firstly, nothing will impress an Examiner more than when a driving test passes by with no incidents or situations worthy of note….. this is the true mark of a good driver, as they were able to accommodate all that was going on around them with “apparent” ease. (The outward appearance of calmness does not trivialise the work rate and effort that is going on inside the head). Secondly, the Examiner is not actually looking for opportunities to mark UP the driving on a driving test, this is not a dance routine score, or an ice skating technical score. Instead, go in to a driving test with the mindset of, “Here I am, this is my current driving ability, I know I will continue to learn, but I believe I am competent and safe”. If you set your expectations on providing an error free demonstration of precision driving for 38 minutes, you are putting a great deal of unnecessary pressure on yourself.
- Put things in context: There are limitations to all systematic assessment criteria, the driving test is no exception. There will naturally be a range of people who pass the driving test with quite different driving abilities, try not to dwell too much on the flaws of the process and don’t let that fact cloud your judgement of your own personal standard of driving that you want to achieve for driving with confidence after passing your test. Remember that the Driving Examiners are highly trained, professional people in the industry, who have great experience in observing fine details and accurately assessing outcomes. Put to one side any thoughts of judging how well they do their job, and just make sure that you are as well prepared to achieve a successful result in your driving test as is possible.
Like this? Check out our very popular VIDEO on what to do if you fail the driving test.
Tom Ingram is the Owner of BIG TOM Driving School (0800 689 4174) who specialise in providing 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Lincoln, Peterborough, Spalding, Boston, Stamford, Grantham and Bourne.