Managed to pass your theory test? You have one hurdle to go before car-based freedom ─ here are ten practical driving tips to help you pass first time.
Passing your driving test is more than just a way to get from A to B without having to endure yet another drunk idiot on the bus. For petrolheads, it is a rite of passage and one of the major steps in becoming a fully-fledged adult. Whatever that is.
The freedom is largely dependent on money, unfortunately, as motoring is bloody expensive these days. But having a full driving licence gives you options and passing first time saves money and avoids waiting for what feels like an eternity for a retest.
You are bound to be nervous, but the practical driving test is merely a way of showing everything you have learned until now. Except here you have an examiner instead of your instructor or whoever was teaching you.
Reading this article will, sadly, do anything but teach you the stuff you should already know such as how to safely perform a three-point turn. But it will tell you what to expect and potentialy enlighten you with ten useful tips.
The ‘do your eyes work?’ bit
The instructor wants to get home in one piece so, as a precaution, the practical driving test includes an eyesight test. All you have to do is read a number plate from a distance of 20-odd metres. If you fail once, you get a second chance. Fail again and the test is over.
The rule for those who wear glasses is simple. If you need glasses or contacts for the 20-metre licence plate test, you will need to wear them for the entirety of a test and whenever you drive your car thereafter.
The ‘what does this do?’ bit
Although most people never check what is going on with their car before setting off (much to the annoyance of cats stuck in the engine bay), the examiner will want to know you know the basics. You know?
The test is split into two. You will get a ‘show me’ question, which may include showing where the oil filler cap lives, and then a ‘tell me’ question, which would be to tell the examiner how to check the levels if we stick to our original example.
There are a fair few show me questions that can be thrown at you. Questions such as how to check if the brake light is working, show the power steering is working and demonstrate the horn.
Tell me questions include explaining you would check the brakes before starting a journey, check the headlights or tail lights or check to see if there is a problem with your anti-lock braking system.
You can go to the Gov UK website for a list of what else to expect. If you were unaware of any of the examples above, we suggest you give it a read. Then read it again.
The ‘okay, you drive’ bit
Part 1: If you made it past the first two sections, you then have to actually drive away from the test centre and demonstrate your skills. This is done in a variety of traffic conditions along a set route. Here every mistake gives you either a minor or a major.
This part of the will see the examiner ask you to perform one reversing exercise (such as a turn in the road or reverse parking) and potentially an emergency stop.
Part 2: In the second section of the practical driving test, you are required to follow the instructions of the driver as safely as possible, having been given a set of instructions.
The crucial bit to remember is that driving safely is your number one priority (and should remain that way every time you drive). Even though you are meant to follow the directions, you can go the wrong way and still pass. But try to go the right way and drive safely.
So how many majors and minors can I make?
It takes one major to fail, which sounds rather scary, but majors are quite serious and if you have reached a level where you are confident and have been taught well they should be easy to avoid. Though never say never.
In terms of minors, you can make up to 15 of them and pass your driving test. That is a lot of leeway over what is a relatively short drive (even shorter if stuck in traffic a lot), but bear in mind the 16th minor means you fail.
How do I know if I passed?
The instructor will jump out the car and smash a champagne bottle on the side of the car, before serving you a glass. Actually that’s a lie. In reality you will drive back to the test centre and there you will be told if you passed or not. Investigate what went wrong at this point. Or jump out and celebrate.
So now you know the drill. Let’s get on with some actual driving test tips, shall we?
1) Practice and then practice more
Going out in a relation’s car can create bad habits (and temporarily ruin your relationship), but racking up a lot of miles helps. Gear changes, for instance, should be something you can just do because that means you can concentrate more on everything else.
Anyone who is at least 21 years of age and has held a full licence for at least three years can take you out. Just be sure to check your car is properly insured by ringing up your provider or getting the owner of the car to do it.
2) Avoid skimping on the lessons
It is easy to think to yourself, ‘do I really need all these lessons?’ but it is better to be over-taught and spend a bit more on lessons. Bear in mind if you fail it will cost you an extra £62 on a week day or £75 at the weekend for a retest plus you will have to wait at least 10 days to retake. Speaking of which…
3) Don’t leave the retake too long
If you failed first time, keep it cool. You aren’t the first or the last to do so and in actual fact it may make you a safer driver overall. The extra practice will build your confidence, which makes you safer than the driver who blagged a pass the first time.
Pro tip: You can rebook a test on the day you fail. All you have to do is ensure the retest is 10 days or more in the future as that is the law. There is nothing to stop you booking it right away and you probably should if there is a long waiting list.
4) Use the car you learned in
It seems obvious, but just in case it isn’t: You may have a fancy car waiting for you at home, but do the test in the car you are most familiar with. So if it is the instructor’s car, use that. If it’s your uncle’s third-cousin’s cat’s sister’s Seat Ibiza, use that. Complicate life unnecessarily at your own peril.
5) Take a mock test
If rehearsing is good enough for West End theatre production and complex surgeries, it is good enough for a driving test. Ask your instructor for a mock test to give you an idea of what to expect. It may not replicate the same level of pressure, but it will help mentally prepare you and that is a big help.
6) Consider intensive training
In between everything else you do, learning to drive can take a back seat and things get forgotten. Confidence levels can also drop. It is, therefore, worth considering a course that sees you driving a lot over a short period of time. The cost may be higher or upset your cash flow, but it saves time and is typically more effective.
7) Get the theory test done ASAP
Having one thing to think about is better than two. So use our ten tips on how to pass your driving theory test and knock that out of the ball park as soon as you can to give you more time to focus on the practical element.
8) Consider using apps
Actual driving cannot be replicated by an app (even if virtual reality is coming on leaps and bounds), but doing something is better than nothing. Those learning with Red can access its Road Brain Trainer, which helps you learn to spot hazards. You could also use theory test apps for a similar result as the principle is the same.
9) Treat the test seriously
Having a hangover on the big day because you went out the night before to celebrate a friend coming home from a gaaaaaap yeeeaaarrr may seem wise, but the night before the big day should be boring. Consider a practice drive or lesson, get an early night. Also avoid having a huge breakfast to stave off feeling sluggish – you are better off alert.
10) Chill, Winston
Perhaps the biggest thing you can do is try to relax and the best way to do this is to know you are a confident driver. To be a confident driver, you should have practiced a sufficient amount.
But also bear in mind that 10 days is a short wait if you do fail and that you will probably never be as bad as the learner from Stoke who took the test 36 times. Besides, you may be able to turn your lack of driving ability into a short-lived TV career like Maureen did.