With the country slowly emerging from lockdown, practical driving tests are beginning to resume.
Things are progressing at different paces in different parts of the UK but from 22 April, learners in England and Wales will be able to sit their tests, with those in Northern Ireland starting a day later and learners in Scotland due to follow on 6 May.
However, there are predictions that learners may face delays of up to five months as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) tries to work through the backlog of tests. The agency has revealed that 420,000 learners already have tests booked and its chief executive Loveday Ryder recently warned: “With more than half of candidates failing, and demand currently extremely high for tests, learners should only take their test only when they are confident they can pass. This will help them to avoid a lengthy wait for a retest and help us by not adding to the backlog of tests.
With that in mind, it’s even more important that learners are ready to sit and pass the test when they eventually get an appointment - failure could mean another long wait for a second chance.
To help learners avoid wasting time and money, we’ve asked to the experts at Bill Plant Driving School for some advice on what to consider before booking your driving tests.
Have you had enough lessons?
On average, it takes 45 hours of driving lessons to pass your test. This is only an average, so don’t hold yourself to these figures as everyone learns at different speeds. But every learner must really think about whether the number of lessons they’ve had will be enough to secure them a pass.
Allow yourself enough time to get to grips with all the different elements that you’ve covered in your lessons. Have you had enough experience driving in urban areas? Do you know the Highway Code well enough since taking your theory test? Will you be able to handle your speed on different roads?
A driving test is split up into five parts: Eyesight check; ‘Show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions; General driving ability; Reversing your vehicle; Independent driving
You’ll need to be able to perform all of these with ease and without any prompts from your driving instructor - they won’t be in the car with you on the day of your test.
Don’t rush it—make sure you have enough space on the calendar to learn everything before test day arrives.
Does your instructor think you’re ready?
Try to follow your instructor’s advice when evaluating your readiness. If they don’t think you’re quite there yet, trust them. After all, they’re the experts on the subject and have likely been monitoring your progress since day one of your driving journey. They’ll also know the test standards much better than you and can spot anything that your driving examiner would label as a minor or major fault.
Maintaining good communication with your driving instructor is key to progression. Does your driving instructor disagree that you’re ready? Get a clear explanation of why from them and any areas that you’re falling short on. These can then become the focus of your lessons before your test to iron out any concerns that could cost you that all-important pass.
It can be tempting to think your instructor is only delaying your test to get more money out of you for lessons. But remember, passing your test doesn’t only look good for you, it makes your instructor look great too. Upholding a good reputation is key for a driving instructors’ career - it’s in everyone’s best interest that you pass your practical first time.
Have you had mock tests?
You might feel confident behind the wheel, but will that confidence still be there under test conditions? There’s only one way to find out - take a mock test.
In the lead up to the real thing, ask your instructor if they can treat some of your lessons as though they’re under exam conditions. The beauty of mock tests is you can have as many as you like - you’ll only get one shot on the day on your actual test, so schedule in as many mocks as possible.
Your instructor will help familiarise you with the format of a driving test so there are no surprises on the big day. Plan your practice driving exams around the location of your impending test, that way you will be to mimic the real thing. If you struggle to handle the extra pressure, it might be a sign that you’re not quite ready to take your test.
Have you practised driving in different conditions?
Sadly, there’s no way of knowing in advance what the road conditions will be on the day of your driving test. Dry and overcast isn’t guaranteed on the day, so you need to be prepared for anything.
Otherwise, you might feel tempted to cancel your test last minute as you hold out for the perfect weather conditions.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will cancel driving tests in severe weather conditions like heavy snow, rain, fog or ice due to safety issues. But if conditions are light, it’s unlikely your test will be postponed.
Ask your driving instructor to take you out for lessons in varying conditions. Yes, driving in dark, wet, overly sunny and foggy conditions might seem daunting, but it’ll give you priceless experience that’ll pay off on the day of your test and after you’ve passed.
Try to vary when and where you have your lessons too. For example, morning rush hour will be completely different to a weekday evening. Make sure your instructor takes you on a mixture of major and minor roads, like country lanes and dual carriageways.
Getting a range of driving scenarios under your belt will make you feel more confident and will stop you from cancelling your driving test due to rumours that it might rain that day.
How well do you know your instructor’s vehicle?
Driving tests aren’t only focused on your driving ability, they’re also designed to evaluate your basic understanding of your instructor’s vehicle. This is known as the “show me, tell me” section.
Before you start driving your examiner will ask you one ‘tell me’ question, where you’ll have to explain how you’d carry out a safety task. You’ll also be asked one ‘show me’ question, where you’ll have to actually demonstrate how you’d carry out a safety task whist driving.
Taken from GOV.UK, some of these questions could be: Where would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked?
How would you ensure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash? How do you check the power-assisted steering is working before starting a journey? How would you switch on the rear fog lights and when would you use them?
Has your instructor given you a brief rundown of the car’s mechanics? If they haven’t, ensure they do way in advance of your test. This knowledge will not only be invaluable during the “show me, tell me” part of your test, but it’ll also provide you with better all-round knowledge of what driving a car really involves.
You should be able to answer any of the questions without hesitation to maximise your chances of passing. Mastering them can avoid picking up any avoidable minors during the early stages of your test.
Becoming impatient when learning to drive is something many suffer from. However, it’s this impatience that can cost you on the big day. Take a step back, and really evaluate whether you’ve considered everything before taking your test.