We’ve enlisted Noel Gaughan, Driving Instructor to the Stars, to give you the best advice on how to pass your driving test. He’s helped the likes of Adele, James McAvoy and One Direction’s Nial Horan to pass their driving tests!
Noel has produced this handy guide to help give you the best chance of dumping those L plates for good! If you follow this guide you could follow in the footsteps of the stars and gain a sneaky advantage over other learner drivers 😉
Know your Instructor
The first and most important thing you should do is get yourself a good driving instructor. Every driving instructor in the UK is graded by the DVSA (their governing body). The DVSA run all the driving tests in the UK at Government Test Centres. They also monitor every instructor’s ability to teach – together with their pass rates. The new grading system is quite simple: Grade A is VERY GOOD and grade B is OK. The old grading system states that: Grade 4 is OK, grade 5 is GOOD, and grade 6 is the VERY GOOD. It’s worth being aware of both as not all instructors have yet been given the new grading system.
Ask the right questions
Most people looking for a driving instructor tend to ask the wrong questions when talking to instructors. The most common first questions people ask is: “How much do you charge per hour?” and, “What is your pass rate?”. Most good instructors charge a little more because they are in demand. The DVSA are looking into publishing the pass rates which will make it easier for you to compare like for like on the true cost of learning to drive. The first question you should ask a driving instructor is “what is your DVSA grade?” It’s also worth asking to see their DVSA grade report. If they tell you they cannot show you, then you know they are more than likely not being 100% truthful.
Take your lessons at the right time
The next thing is to look at your availability for lessons. If you are only free after work or college this will make it harder for you to get the best out of your lessons. It is harder to take in a lot of information when you are tired after a long day. In addition to this, attempting lessons in rush hour will limit where and what you will be able to achieve in your 1-2 hours of practice. It is always best to do your lessons when you don’t have too much else going on i.e. holiday periods or weekends. As driving lessons are not cheap you will need to make sure you get the most out of each and every minute of your lessons. Make your driving instructor work as hard as you do! It is nearly always best to do 2 hour lessons at least twice a week as this will help to reinforce the learning process and help you to move to the next level.
Take control of your lessons. What I mean by this is – make sure to listen to what your instructor is saying, but remember you will know your weaknesses far better than anyone else. If you know you are not great at roundabouts or reversing around the corner then tell your instructor that you want to spend more time on these. You will then be confident on every aspect of your driving before taking a driving test. If you are not confident in your ability then it is going to be difficult to convince the driving examiner, when you go for your practical test, that you deserve a full driving licence.
As a rule, make sure you are very capable of doing the following to a high standard:
- Roundabouts (big and small ones) dual carriageways
- Lane changing
- Meeting other traffic (meeting other users on small roads, knowing who has the best space to give way), and last but not least
- All the manoeuvres (reverse around the corner, bay parking, turning in the road and parallel parking)
Being able to do all these without guidance from your instructor will set you on your way to a full driving licence. Plus, where possible, get to know the area where you will be having your practical test. This will help you be more familiar with the roads in that area.
Get your practical test booked
You should think about booking your practical driving test soon after having passed your theory test. There are some very long waiting times at the DVSA’s test centres. Therefore it is important that you check out what the waiting times are in your area. Test centre waiting times can vary from 6 weeks in some areas up to 16 weeks in others. Ask you instructor what their favourite test centre is, as their answer often means this is where they achieve better pass rates in comparison to other local test centres.
Once you’ve chosen your test centre, check out the waiting times and book your practical driving test in for when you and your instructor believe you will be ready. Don’t wait until you feel completely confident with your driving capabilities before booking, as you will often have to wait ages to take your test and end up spending a lot more money keeping yourself up to test standards.
The test day
It’s finally driving test day! Remember that your driving test examiner is not out to fail you. They would often say they have never failed anyone, it is the people who take the test that fail themselves. Unlike other exams, the driving test is not a memory game or a route finding exercise. When you are asked to do the 20 minute independent part of the test the examiner will ask you to follow signs to a certain place or tell you where they want you to go verbally. If you miss the signs or have forgotten where the examiner has asked you to go then that is ok. Just ask them to repeat the instruction or to give you new directions. You can’t fail your driving test for having a bad memory or missing directional signs. Also if the examiner gives you a direction late, or you see the turning late, don’t attempt it – just keep driving. Your examiner will just have to find another way to get you back on track – you would only fail if you endanger yourself or other road users.
Don’t try too hard
When you are on your driving test it is very important that you don’t try to drive better than you have before, just drive the way you do on your lessons. A lot of people fail because they try too hard. If you would prefer not to have long conversations with your examiner then that is also okay, just tell them you want to concentrate on your driving and they will probably be relieved. It’s a good idea to hydrate before your driving test and take a few minutes out for yourself before you go into the waiting room at the test centre. Remember to take a deep breath and not build up the driving test into something bigger than it actually is.
It’s just the start…
The driving test itself lasts around 40-50 mins, but remember this should be the beginning of you becoming a great driver not the end of your learning process.
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