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Learning to drive

How I failed my driving test

This post is about the old driving test. If you're taking your test after 4 December 2017, you can find out more here.


I'd been totally prepared for failing my driving practical test (it's just a practice, think how much calmer you'll be next time, blah blah blah).

But there was an unexpected and rather painful twist that made failing feel so much worse. I'll get to that.

For now, let's d(r)ive into how the practical test works on the day.

Honor takes her driving test

Before the test

I was nervous but fairly resigned. I knew that at this stage there was no point obsessing over it - if I was ready, I'd pass. I had some avocado on toast and read the show me, tell me questions again.

My driving instructor picked me up 2 hours before the test so we had time to get into town and have a drive around. I drove there, did a few of the routes and then we parked up to practise the show me, tell me questions.

Then we drove to the test centre and I did a freakin' PERFECT bay park (typical) and we went into the centre to wait. I'll admit that I was vibrating with fear at this point, trying to control my breathing.

The examiner called my name, I signed the insurance disclaimer and we went outside to do my eyesight check, which was fine. He asked me to get in the car while he filled in the car's details, then he got in and explained that we would be doing the show me, tell me questions.

The 2 show me, tell me questions

The first question was "Can you show me how you would check the power steering was working before setting off?" I told him without switching on the engine, so he asked me to show him (come on brain, what are you doing?) and I did. Fine.

The next question was "Can you tell me how you would know there was a problem with your Anti-lock Braking System?" Easy as pie - a little ABS lights up on the dashboard.

Need to swot up on the show me, tell me questions?
You're in luck, I just wrote them all out!

The test

  1. General driving ability

    The first part of the practical test is driving under instruction: turn left here, take the third exit and so on. It went pretty well and I calmed down a lot.

    I had to stop and then move off again 4 times which seemed really silly but made me feel like each time I had a chance to do it better.

  2. Manoeuvre

    The PARALLEL PARK for the love of all that is beautiful in the world. Ugh.

    I had actually done this manoeuvre half an hour before and it went the best it ever had. But of course, that's not how it happened in my test. I made the worst attempt probably anyone in history ever had. I even mounted the pavement. In the end the poor guy just said "OK, let's move on" and I just about died.

    But I kept it together. At this point I thought I'd failed for sure so I continued on fairly calmly - although it did occur to me to ask if we should just quit this charade and go home.

  3. Independent driving

    This is the bit where the examiner tells you to follow signs for this place or that. It went well, which surprised me as I'm fairly lame at finding where I'm supposed to be going. And in a flash, we were headed back to the test centre.

    I was all floppy with meh because I knew I'd failed on that farce of a manoeuvre. But ~ plot twist alert ~ that's not when I failed! Oh no. I failed 30 seconds before the end of my test, literally at the turning back to the test centre. I stopped at a GREEN light you see, which is kind of the very base level of road safety: green means go.

    Right before my test, I'd been talking to my instructor about the dodgy green arrows at that crossroads, so I had it in my head that I needed a green arrow and waited. But it never came. The examiner actually had to turn to me and say "That's a green light."

  4. The debrief

    With the car radiating the heat of my shame, we got back to the test centre and he did his working out on the sheet while I sat there all pathetic. Then he said "I'm sorry to tell you this Honor but you haven't passed your driving test" and I'm like "Don't worry, I know that."

    Then he told me and my instructor that he had been prepared to overlook the ludicrous parallel park because I'd driven so well for the rest of the test - but then I'd STOPPED AT A GREEN LIGHT. Obviously, this is dangerous as someone cruising along behind just sees the green and expects you to be moving.

    I ended up with 6 minors and that serious fault. You can get up to 15 and still pass so I'm clearly ready - I just need to go back over all the routes so I don't get confused again. If I'd only gone that way before the test, I would not have had that brain outage.

    What I learned

    1. If I can get only a minor for the embarrassment of a manoeuvre I displayed, the advice that you shouldn't give up no matter what happens is 100% legit. You just don't know.
    2. It goes really quick and you stop feeling nervous. I started off just following orders in silence and then my head cleared enough to realise that was a bit rude, so I'd obviously calmed down.
    3. If you feel like you are screwing up, remember that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is safety. If you're still doing all your observation, you stand a good chance of just getting a minor.
    4. I could have passed. I have put in enough work now to pass the test. I just have to avoid amateur hour mistakes like STOPPING AT A GREEN LIGHT.
    5. Book your next test immediately. Like, the minute you get out of the test centre. My next test is in 6 weeks, which makes me want to throw things. Just remember it has to be at least 2 weeks after your last test.
    6. If you feel like you're ready to try again sooner than the slot you get, keep checking for cancellations online. You do this by going to the GOV.UK changing the time of your test wizard and checking available dates. You can just exit if there isn't a suitable time and it won't affect your booking.

    So, it's back on the driving lesson merry-go-round for me. Although I'm ready and it would save me some money to just take a lesson the week before my next driving test, I'm trying to get hold of a cancellation test slot so I want to be ready to go just in case.

    P.S. If I sound gloomy it's because I am. But this will be over for all of us very soon and we will only care about the pass, not the past. #philosophy


    Dealing with a driving test fail yourself?
    Get some advice on how to move on and pass your test next time.


38 Responses

  1. Dan D says:

    Loved this, I’m actually doing my test tomorrow and I am literally terrified. I’m a good driver, but nerves take the best of me. Good read, cheers.

  2. Jackie Adedeji says:

    Omg! I just failed my test today and feel like a piece of shite!!! Your blogpost has given me the clarity to move forward I booked my second test as soon as I got home. I failed aswell because I hit the back of a kerb whilst bay parking!!! Everything else was fine. Practice makes perfect I guess.. Thanks for the show me questions. I didn’t even know they exsisted until today…

    • ingenie says:

      Hi Jackie, sorry you failed. Did your instructor not go through the show me, tell me questions? Reread them lots before your next test – it’ll help you feel calmer if you know you’ve aced at least one part. Good luck with the next one – bet it’s a winner. 🙂


  3. Siobhan Marie says:

    So I just failed my test for the 2nd time!!! Due to an annoying pedestrian carrying a baby who decided to cross the road.I literally braked so hard because he was literally on the verge of power walking across the road. If i had known this to cause a fail I think I would have run him over instead. Anyway so that was a fail with 3 minors. I’m so gutted! Third time lucky hopefully..

    • ingenie says:

      Oh Siobhan that sucks, I’m so sorry! In that situation, the examiner would be looking for you to spot the pedestrian by the side of the road, look in your rearview mirror to check you could slow down or stop, then be slowing down and preparing to stop in case they did something stupid. It’s unlucky it happened to you but that’s the standard I’m afraid.

      I’ve been there with the minors. Every time I failed I had something like 3 minors and one serious – then my last test I think I had 7 minors and passed! It’s a very weird process to go through but hopefully next time’s your pass.

      Check out how my last test went (a far from perfect drive):

      Good luck!


  4. Arya says:

    I failed mine yesterday 🙁 so everything was going well the instructor was like great job, awesome , then we came on a railroad crossing which happened to have a red light and I didn’t know where to stop so I basically stopped in the middle of the street 🙁 after that we went back to the dmv and she said you would have passed , but your not supposed to do that . 🙁 Hopefully I’ll pass my second time this month. Pray for me guys .

    • ingenie says:

      Oh Arya that sucks, I’m sorry. Been there girl! Four times in fact… Every test, one silly mistake. At least you know now you can totally do it.

      Good luck!


  5. Fawad Iftikhar says:

    Boy o boy , i failed my test today on a so silly mistake where i end up going to the lane on the right and apparently there was a bus on my left….i then made another silly blunder on moving back to left lane which caused the obstruction….4 minors and this 1 major , i was all good otherwise…!!! i am even more nervous to go second time !! i wasnt that nervous today but bad luck happens 🙁 !!! i really regret and hate myself for making this blunder !!!!

    • ingenie says:

      Oh no! So sorry Fawad, I know how rubbish it feels. But four minors is nothing – you were SO close. You should take confidence from that. Good luck for next time.


  6. Zara says:

    Ahh so annoyed, I failed last week, on my manoeuvre! A turn in the road, I done it in 7 turns so that failed me? I was told as long as it is safe up I can do as many as you need to? Now I can do it in 3 or 5 but I was so hell bent on not hitting the kerb I made myself do it in 7. And the examiner put it down as a serious?!!! Really? There was no one around, I was very calm, I didn’t hit the kerb? There were a couple of cars waiting but that was after I had started, I’m so annoyed that I didn’t do it the way I normally do and I have my own car so I’m always out driving in it (with someone of course) so I am a confident driver… ahhh so annoyed!!!!!

    • ingenie says:

      Gah! That’s rubbish Zara, sorry that happened. I had a similar thing with a parallel park in one of my tests – I hit the kerb four times before he told me to give up and move on. Never happened in my life before that.

      You’re allowed as many forwards and backs as you need within reason but I guess your examiner judged you were holding people up for too long. There are so many grey areas in driving and road safety that it’s really up to the examiner’s discretion and – although it was probably just nerves – this time, he reckoned you weren’t ready.

      At least you have your own car so you can be practising loads while you wait for your next test. Keep checking the test slots to see if you can get a cancellation. Good luck for next time Zara, sounds like it’ll be in the bag!


  7. Marcus MP says:

    I failed on mirror checks that was about it. The instructor next to me told me I was a great driver but simply didn’t look in the mirror enough. Which was crazy because I always checked my mirror when I changed speed, took off when parked, also my mirrors when exiting a rounadbout. I got 16 minors and if I have atleast one less I would have passed first time around.

    • ingenie says:

      Hey Marcus,

      Sorry you didn’t pass but sounds like you’re well on your way. Observation is what usually gets drivers who are good technically. You need to be checking your mirrors every few seconds, particularly your rearview. Checking your left-hand wing mirror for cyclists is also really important.

      Good luck for next time!


  8. ingenie says:

    Six lessons is quite a lot of time – you come on so much in the last weeks, I promise! I was very, very nervous each time but if I can do it, you DEFINITELY can.

    Good luck and stay positive. It’s basically 40 minutes of your life in which you need to do as few silly things as possible. It flies by.


  9. Judit says:

    I am doing my test on automatic car, so I really hope it makes easier.

    • ingenie says:

      It does leave you more brain room for focusing on observation and signalling etc. You’re less worried about the mechanics of driving, so you can pay more attention to safety, which is the important thing.

      You don’t have to drive perfectly; you just need to be safe.

      Good luck!


  10. Becky says:

    Got my test tomorrow, not my first or even second 😒

  11. Sara says:

    I just failed my driving test today…first attempt. In my driving lessons, I have NEVER stalled, that too, rolled back whilst trying to switch on again…and today of all days I did, hence I failed. 6 minors and 1 serious, i feel SO deflated!

    • ingenie says:

      Really sorry to hear that Sara. Sucks, I know. It’s like when you have a conversation with someone you reeeeeally fancy and stuff comes out of your mouth that doesn’t even sound like you…

      But at least it’s probably just nerves. Not like you were told you need another 6 months of lessons! Bet you’ll do it next time. Good luck!


  12. ingenie says:

    Wah 🙁 That sucks. Exactly what I did on my first test. It’s really important to keep calm after a mistake though because it’s all about how you handle it. When I did this, my examiner was still going to pass me – until I stopped at that green light on the way back.

    Keep calm, keep going. You can do it! Good luck for your next go.


  13. ingenie says:

    That’s good. You definitely shouldn’t be; it’s just good practice for next time. Good luck!


  14. ingenie says:

    Hi Me,

    Really sorry to hear that. I’ve done the same – thought I’d failed for sure but it was actually for something silly later on!

    My last test, I went on a route I’d never been on and considering I’d been learning a year and had taken 4 tests in that town… All you can do is cover as much of the test area as you can in practice. Have some more lessons, build your confidence back up and have another go.

    You’ll be great,


    • Me says:

      Thanks I’ve already booked and will take another few weeks of lessons. Looking back on it I probably wasn’t ready as if I had been I wouldn’t have missed the road markings telling me that was the lane to take for turning right. It was a dangerous thing to do and you can be sure I wont make that mistake again. I’ve decided to think of it as my trial run as I know that I’m more than capable of getting it right. Crossing fingers and toes etc for the next one!

      • ingenie says:

        Brilliant way to think of it and it’s good you can see where you went wrong. Next time, you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen so that part won’t be such a big thing in your mind and you can concentrate on driving.

        Come back and tell me how it went – and GOOD LUCK!


  15. tekkenjin says:

    I just failed my test. I didnt even realise that I had made a serious mistake until the debrief. Turns out that near the start I failed to look in a mirror before changing lane. I did everything else fine and was so certain that I passed. Now I’m kinda upset but will have another test in a months time. Hopefully I’ll do better on my second time.

  16. ingenie says:

    Arrrghh nooo! Worse still – I did it again on another test! Make sure you get plenty of practice around those lights over the time you have until your next test so you don’t freeze again.

    Good luck, you’re so close.


  17. Imz says:

    Failed today, apparently I changed lanes a little too late before my exit at a 5-Exit roundabout – she said I cut the lanes too sharply (I thought that would be a minor, nobody was coming) .. Then on a mini roundabout, I didn’t put too much effort into going around it….. Oh well… ….

    • ingenie says:

      Bummer. If it’s your first time though, it’s good practice for next time. Sounds like you need a bit more time on roundabouts so you feel confident and…put the effort into going around them!

      Good luck, you’ll be way more prepared next time.


  18. ingenie says:

    Sorry Salim, I know all too well how that feels! It’s just nerves – you followed the flow of traffic when you should have done your own observation but that’s so easy to do when you’re under pressure.

    Good news is you were really close to passing so do a bit more practice around those lights and keep positive for the next go.

    Good luck!


  19. ingenie says:

    Hi J.

    Firstly: don’t stress about the changes. You’ve got another month until they come in and even if you do have to do the new test, it’s not that bad. The manoeuvres make more sense, to be honest!

    Putting pressure on yourself is only going to make the test harder so try to give yourself a break. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t pass this time. I know, I know – it feels like it. Trust me, I did 5 of the suckers. When you DO pass, it will all have been worth it.

    Good luck for Saturday but please don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t pass. You’ll get there.


  20. MAB says:

    I passed my test yesterday with 10 minors (mainly for hesitation and speed… or lack of!) on my 3rd attempt. If I’m honest, I probably hesitated way more than that and the examiner even said jokingly to my instructor “I’ll pass her if you teach her how to use the accelorator!” so I’m really not sure how I passed. He was very nice and could tell I wasn’t feeling confident, so maybe he just felt sorry for me and passed me because I didn’t make any major errors. Also, I did not do a single maneuver in my test… what’s all that about!? Unless it was such a blur that I don’t remember, I’m pretty sure didn’t ask me to do one. And I definitely didn’t do one accidentally either. I was expecting him to ask me to bay park when we returned to the test centre, but he just told me to pull up!

    My first test I got 5 minors (despite being extremely nervous) and failed due to turning into a road slightly too quickly, causing me to cross the central line, and a van to reverse to let me through. Fair enough. The second one it was raining harder than I’ve ever seen and I didn’t come out of 3rd gear the whole test due to traffic. I got 8 minors and failed due to changing lanes approaching a roundabout and not checking my mirrors. Of course I know that it is dangerous and a major, but I thought was really harsh because the examiner even said there was nothing coming and we were crawling along at about 10mph. The road started in one lane and opened up into two following a bus lane which is where I moved across, and I knew there couldn’t be anything behind me due to the slow speed of the traffic. I had to reverse round a corner on both tests; the first was perfect, and the second I turned too early and decided to start again rather than hit the kerb, which I got a minor for.

    So 3rd time lucky I guess. There seem to be a lot of grey areas where they pass some people and fail others… my brother passed despite stopping over the line at traffic lights, purely because no-one was crossing! Anyway, good luck Honor and everyone else; remember, they’re not expecting perfection otherwise they wouldn’t allow 15 minors… just be safe.