Skip to main content

Top tips for passing your driving test and dealing with nerves

As soon as you start driving lessons, you will have half a thought on the end-goal, which is of course passing your driving test and getting your licence.

Whether you’re doing an intensive course and it comes around very quickly, or you spend months learning, it’s a thought as likely to make you feel wobbly as it is to excite you.

Nationally, the latest data shows 45.7% of learners pass their test, though in Norfolk and Suffolk we do a little better, with 54.1% of males and 47.8% of females passing.

By the time you get to test day, there’s not much more you can do. You’ve learnt everything you need to know, you have all the necessary skills, and you’ve had time to practice your manoeuvres and general driving. How it goes on the day is down to you, and generally how well you’re able to manage any driving test nerves.

With that in mind, we asked some of our instructors and our founder for some last-minute words of wisdom for all our learners whose test day is fast approaching.

Banish driving test nerves by getting into the right frame of mind

Instructor Rowland Sells, who covers Great Yarmouth and the surrounding area, said good preparation for test-day begins the night before.

“Get a good night’s sleep and ensure you have something to eat on the day,” he said.

“Make sure you relax prior to your instructor picking you up, so there’s no rushing around beforehand.”

Howard Floyd, who set up How-2-Drive 10 years ago, agreed preparation is key.

“Read what you need to take along and have it all ready the day before, so there are no last-minute panics,” he said.

“Get a good night’s sleep, keep hydrated and keep thinking positive.  It’s important you stay focused on the test, which you can’t do if tired or dehydrated. 

“Some of our pupils like to go and relax in a coffee shop just before the test with their instructor. Don’t worry, there are toilets in the test centres!

“The instructor believes you are ready, so the test is just a chance to show the examiner the skills you have learnt.”

Try not to frighten yourself in exam mode

Rob Carey, who covers Norwich and villages north of the city, said the key to banishing driving test nerves is to treat it as much like a regular lesson as you can.

“You’ve done all the training and know what to do,” he said.

“Have faith in your abilities and don’t think you have to drive the test any differently to how you would normally drive.”

For Karlton Ramoutar, who teaches pupils in Norwich and Thetford, it’s most important to stay in control of the situation so you don’t forget the basics.

“Take your time, slow things down,” he said. “And check those mirrors.”

Look forwards, not backwards

Karlton said it’s also important not to dwell on what you think you might have done wrong but concentrate on the now, and most of all to enjoy it, if you can!

Karlton thought it had all gone wrong when he took his test at age 17 and after just eight hours of lessons. He said he was convinced he’d failed at the first attempt, as did his instructor from the look on his face in the waiting room. But he was overjoyed to be told he had in fact passed.

Rob said it’s important not to get lost in thoughts of doom during the test, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s going your way.

“Try not to overthink things, or dwell on any mistakes you think you’ve made,” he said.

“Focus on dealing with the next situation coming up rather than what has already happened, because you can’t change it.”

“You’re there because you’ve done your training. Try to fall back on the systems you know and don’t overthink it.”

Rowland also said it’s better to focus on the drive, rather than what the examiner is thinking or about any mistakes.

“The chances are they are just minor faults and not serious or dangerous,” he said.

“Have confidence in your instructor, they would not put you forward for the test if they didn’t think you were good enough to pass. If possible, try to think of it as an assessment, not a test.

“Try to enjoy it as hopefully you will only do it the once. It’s only 40 minutes long so it will go very quickly compared to a normal two-hour driving lesson.”

You don’t have to be perfect to be a safe driver

Instructor Ian Oxley, who delivers lessons north of Norwich, agreed it’s not about driving completely faultlessly, but proving you’re a safe and competent driver.

“The examiner is human and knows you are,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect; it has to be safe. Just think safety.

Ian is proof that not everyone takes to driving from the very beginning, but it’s the driver you become that is important.

“I didn’t learn until I was 20 and I wasn’t a good pupil, I was so nervous,” he said. 

“It took me three goes to pass and I remember two lines from the first attempts, “Check your gears, Mr Oxley. I think you’re in third gear”, and “Do you intend to sit behind this JCB forevermore, Mr Oxley?” 

“I do have empathy with my pupils on this, I’ve had 30 years to think about it and how to coach them through their nerves. To be honest, we had an easier test back then but the examiners were really formal. They scared me.”

It’s never the end of the world!

Instructor James Smith, who delivers lessons in Norwich, was one of the pupils who took to driving like a duck to water, passing his test first time just four weeks and 10 hours of lessons after his 17th birthday.

But James’ advice for pupils struggling with driving test nerves is to ‘breathe’. “It will be ok,” he said.

“In 10 years’ time, no one will care how many times it took you to pass the test.”

Next steps

Our hugely popular and free learner driver guide is packed full of resources and videos to help you through all the stages of learning to drive.

Check out How-2-Drive TV, our YouTube channel, which has more than 100 videos for learner drivers and trainee driving instructors.