If you’ve got your test coming up, follow our tips to ensure things go as well as possible.
1. What to expect
The test is made up of three parts: a ‘show me, tell me’ part in which you demonstrate your knowledge of car maintenance and safety features; a series of manoeuvres; and a period of independent driving.
Your driving instructor can help you practise the ‘show me, tell me’ part of the test. The manoeuvres include reversing around a corner, parallel parking and possibly an emergency stop.
The independent driving part is when the examiner shows you a simple map to follow; if you forget where you’re going or go the wrong way, you can ask. After all, we all take a wrong turn from time to time. It’s how you react to it that’s telling.
2. Stay calm
Nerves are a test-taker’s biggest enemy. If you suffer with stage-fright, book an early morning test so you don’t have time to overthink and fret about it, and ease off on the caffeine; coffee and energy drinks can make you jittery and lead to you rushing decisions.
In the days before your test, cram in a few extra lessons to take care of any ‘rough spots’ in your ability. If needs be, arrange temporary insurance on a friend or family member’s car. Ask your instructor to conduct a mock test in the days leading up to the test. This will get you used to the road conditions at the time of your test, and take away some of the mystery.
4. Don’t tell anyone
The pressure of expectation can weigh heavy on your shoulders, so keep your test a secret and pretend it’s just a normal lesson. Then if you pass, it’s a great surprise that everyone will want to celebrate. And if you fail, nobody has to know.
5. Think about the weather
British weather is famously unpredictable, and even in the height of summer you could find your test overcome by a deluge of rain. And one thing your examiner will be looking for is an ability to react to changing conditions.
Remember to turn on your wipers (and, if necessary, lights) should the weather change suddenly. And of course, slow down – wet or frosty road conditions can triple braking distances.
Alternatively, don’t be afraid to wear your sunglasses if skies are clear; but remember that the examiner needs to know that you’re checking your mirrors, so you may need to exaggerate your movements so it’s clear that you are.
6. Wear familiar shoes
Different or new shoes can have different sole depths, leaving it harder to judge the feel of the pedals when driving in them for the first time. While you’re still getting used to being behind the wheel, wear one pair of shoes for every lesson – it’s just one less variable to have to think about.
7. Remember your paperwork – and your glasses
You’ll need to present your provisional driving licence (including paper counterpart if you’re in Northern Ireland) and your theory test certificate for the test to go ahead. You’ll also need L-plates and proof of insurance if you’re using your own car.
The first part of the test includes a check of your eyesight by reading a registration number from a distance of 20 yards or so. If you wear glasses, make sure you’ve got them with you.
8. Be persistent
If you fail, put it behind you. More than half of tests result in a fail, and you can’t let it defeat you. If you get to the end of the test and find you’ve not passed, make sure you get back on the horse quickly – book your retest ASAP, giving yourself a deadline to improve by.
9. Practice junctions
Poor observation is the number one reason for test failures, and observation never more important than at junctions. More often than not, this comes down to rushing or not giving yourself enough time to observe all the possible hazards.
Do not feel pressured to progress faster than necessary. Remember, a stop sign means you need to fully stop, with the handbrake on, even if the roads are empty.
10. Eat something
Just like your car needs fuel, so does your body. If you’re hungry when the test rolls around, this can make you tired, irritable and less able to concentrate. You don’t need much - many people recommend bananas, as they contain tryptophan. This is a type of protein that your body converts into serotonin, which is the hormone that makes you feel happy.