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Learning to drive

How to pass your driving test

Passing your driving test isn't the magical signal that you know everything about driving and are 100% ready to rule the road.

Recognising this can actually help you learn and pass because it's all about attitude: if you think you're the best driver that ever lived after 5 lessons...your test might not go so well for you.

To make sure you do your best when it comes to driving test time, take a look through these 6 tips.

  1. Take enough lessons

    You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: 47 hours plus around 20 of private practice. That’s the average number of hours with an instructor that it takes to pass, according to the DVSA.

    It may seem like taking your test quicker will save you money on driving lessons, but if you fail that’s another £62 and more lessons. A better driver will also save money in the long run with their No Claims Discount and lower insurance renewal prices.

    47 hours plus
  2. Know the Highway Code

    Many of the rules in the Highway Code are legal requirements – so if you display any of the ‘Must Not’s or fail to show any of the ‘Must’s, that’s a problem. Being familiar with the legal requirements of any road situation will help you avoid serious faults.

    Knowing the Highway Code when you take your driving test will also allow you to make calm, precise decisions under pressure and help you be a better driver in the future.

  3. Get familiar with the area around your test centre

    Facing an unfamiliar route during your driving test is not a great start. Use your last couple of driving lessons to practise the roads you may be tested on - your driving instructor might even know from previous students which routes are most likely.

    Looking out for things like hills (if there are none, you’re not going to get a hill start are you?), complicated traffic systems and the busyness of the roads will also let you know what kind of situations you may be up against during your test.

    Get familiar
  4. Work on the most common driving test faults

    • Not checking mirrors before reverse parking
    • Not checking mirrors when moving off
    • Lack of proper observation at junctions and roundabouts

    • Not reacting to what’s in the mirrors
    • Failure to drive to weather or traffic conditions
    • Hesitation at junctions and roundabouts when it is safe to go
    • Failure to drive at the appropriate speed - whether that’s not making progress after moving off, not adjusting for a bend, or driving too slowly on a main road

    • Failure to signal
    • Giving a confusing signal
    • Failure to cancel a signal

    • Poor hand placement on the steering wheel IF it's affecting your control
    • Steering accuracy for the turn in the road, reversing around a corner and sharp turns
    • Stalling due to poor clutch control and failing to recover quickly and calmly
    • Keeping the clutch down (coasting) on a turn or after changing gears

    Even if you think you’ve got these down, practise and then practise again. You’ll be nervous on the day, so you need your body to remember the action instinctively if your brain decides to switch off.

  5. Be aware of everyone around you, not just other drivers!

    Someone told me recently that their son failed his driving test because he approached some standing water too fast to negotiate oncoming traffic and ended up drenching some pedestrians. The issue was not anticipating the problem and adjusting.

  6. Be prepared

    Get enough sleep the night before your driving test and make sure you eat breakfast. Don’t plan anything else for the day - you don’t want to have to rush or worry about something else you have to get done.

    Important things to remember on the day of your driving test:
    • Theory test pass certificate
    • Photocard driving licence
    • Glasses if you need them for driving

    If you don’t bring these, you fail before you’ve even started the engine. Even the glasses: you have 3 attempts at reading a number plate from 20m away and if you can’t, that’s it.

    Another side to being prepared is how you come across. Look tidy, be polite - even if the instructor is made of steel and immune to the usual subconscious decisions humans make about each other, you’ll feel together and responsible.

  7. Keep some perspective

    If you usually drive well during a lesson, why shouldn’t you drive well during your test? You know the area, you know the car, and you know what you’ll be tested on.

    The only problem is you: your nerves. And why are you nervous? If you’re prepared enough, you’ll pass. If you don’t pass, you weren’t ready. Hakuna matata.

    Just remember not to give up after a mistake. You might think you’ve made the worst error ever, but calmly putting it right and carrying on shows you can deal with problems on the road. You never know, it might not have been as bad as you thought - so get over it.

    Good luck!

Updated: 10/01/2019

Want to read a real-life test experience?
Find out what happened when I took my driving test.


15 Responses

  1. Chance says:

    Okay so I am 16 and I’ve been practicing in my book for two weeks now I’ve read this book twice now I am just scared that if I don’t pass that people will make fun of me and I need to get my licence soon cuz I start working and I’m not just scared of being made fun of I just am a bit scared that it’s gonna be different things than the book and I’m gonna call badly I have been driving with my mom illeagily but she says I am a great driver I think I am almost ready to take it but then I chicken out …. I don’t k ow why….. Do you have any advice?!

    • ingenie says:

      Hi there Chance.

      First things first: when you say illegally, are you out driving on the road? In the UK, if you’re on private land with no public access then you’re probably OK to practise driving with your mum before you’re 17, but it’s worth checking with the police. If you’re driving anywhere that could be considered a road (which would include car parks) then you need to stop. You could stand to lose your licence before you even have one and you’re also uninsured so if you crashed, your mum would face a hefty bill. If you killed someone, she could get a prison sentence as she is responsible as your supervisor.

      I totally understand the pressure to pass your test as quickly as possible, especially as you’ll be starting work. But the most important thing is being safe and if you’ve not had any driving lessons, you’re quite unlikely to pass anyway. I would take some lessons as soon as you’ve got your provisional licence and see what your instructor says. You need to pass your theory test first in any case, which usually involves a month’s wait for a slot. After you’ve passed that, you’ll need to book your practical test, which is usually another month’s wait. You could do 16 driving lessons in that time and see how you feel.

      Bear in mind that the Driving Standards Agency say people passing their tests have had an average of 47 hours, plus 20 hours of private practice. I’ve been learning a year now and I’ve failed twice. I would say I’m a good driver, but there’s so much more to driving than just steering a car and pushing the pedals. And let me tell you, the more pressure you put on yourself to pass, the more nervous you’ll be and the more silly mistakes you’ll make.

      Better to wait and ace it than fail over and over because you’re rushing!

  2. Ashraful Haque says:

    I juts can’t pass my theory test I only get 30 an I have some problems dyslexia I was think if there any other way that I could do it im mostly in to my practical stuff

    • ingenie says:

      Hey Ashraful. Sorry to hear you’re having a hard time with the theory test. For dyslexics, there’s an option to listen to the test rather than read the questions. Next time you book online, choose that option. You can also apply to get double the time (usually 57 minutes) for the test if you think that would help. You’ll need proof that you have dyslexia for that – a letter from a teacher or doctor.

      Check out this information about the theory test on the British Dyslexia Association website:

      Hope this helps and good luck for next time!


  3. Georgina Slate says:

    Hey… so I’m really happy I’ve found your blog. Yesterday I failed my practical driving test for the THIRD time and for not checking my mirrors while stopping and going in traffic (which i thought i was making special effort to do). It really did put me down. And this is getting super expensive now…

  4. ingenie says:

    Hi Jodie,

    It sounds like you’re putting in all the work you should so I’d say it’s nerves that are getting in your way – same as me! Have you tried getting someone to test you instead of just using an app? It makes your brain have to think on the spot so it might help. It really helped me in the week before my test, then I was using apps on my own as well.

    I hope your next one is the win, good luck!


  5. jodie says:

    I use driving theory for all which is a really good site u have to pass 10 mock tests and pass 40 little short tests then when u get to right score and they turn all green your ready for test Iv bin on it every night and been getting 45 I don’t no If it is nerouse because Iv been to the test centre so Many times I’m used to it now 😏Just don’t know what to do any more trying to pass before my birthday but if I don’t I think that’s it and something is telling me to give up

  6. a.jubz says:

    I failed my first test, eventhough it wasn’t my fault because the truck driver took the wrong turn and he pulled out without signalling therefore I failed! which was totally unfair I even got in touch with the driving agency and they said nothing could be done! so my next test is coming up and I’m worried that i’ll fail! and I don’t want to fail! its really expensive paying for driving lessons, and a 4 month wait for test availability! and by then my theory will have expired therefore i’ll have to do that again! and that’s even more money out of my pocket!! I’m genuinely worried!, I can drive perfectly fine now, I know everything, in the last 2 months I just drive around making no mistakes at all! and its getting boring and I really need to pass ! 🙁

    • ingenie says:

      I know your situation all too well – been there! I spent so much money and time on it – and test waits were extreme when I was learning.

      Keep checking the test booking system (multiple times per day) because cancellations are your best bet. Don’t lose heart – it will be worth it in the end, I promise.

      Good luck x

  7. a.jubz says:

    Well I passed the second time! This time the examiner made me feel comfortable and actually relaxed and I did fine! With just 1 minor!!!

    So that 4 month wait was definitely worth it

    • ingenie says:

      Oh wow!!!! That’s made my day, thank you for coming back to let me know.

      Good luck with your driving and have a great summer!