I’m Meg, I’ve just turned 24 and I live in Manchester. I wanted to share my driving test story with you all, and talk about how I never thought that I’d ever pass my driving test! Test after test, I would hear those fatal few words, of ‘Megan… I’m sorry to tell you that on this occasion, you have failed.’ Tearing the test sheets into two, disputing the fairness of the results, surely the examiner had just been ‘way too harsh’ on me, swapping seats with a disappointed instructor and that inevitable awkward car journey home both in silence. And yes, this happened to me more than once.
Ah yes, after SEVEN attempts at my practical test, this was a ritual that I’d become very accustomed too. For so long, it seemed like a totally impossible hurdle that I’d never overcome- I could get a degree, but couldn’t pass a driving test!? Finally, and by something of a miracle, I successfully passed on my seventh attempt and here’s how I kept strong and against all odds, finally did it!
Failing my test… again and again
Believe it or not, I started having driving lessons aged 17 and didn’t pass my actual theory test until 6 and a half years later, aged 23. Of course, this wasn’t 6 years straight of weekly lessons, there were large gaps in between made up of exams, university coursework and various changes in cars and instructors. Looking back, this probably impacted my driving journey. I didn’t have time dedicated to just learning to drive – there was other stuff going on too.
Until writing this blog, I’d actually given up on keeping count of the number of tests I’d taken (because trust me, it really doesn’t matter) but after tallying it up, I’ve arrived at the grand total of 7 practical tests.
In all seriousness, I think it’s important to realise that however long you took to pass and how many times you took the test, it has no relevance to how good of a driver you are or will be in the future. I mean, my journey to passing my driving test looked like this:
Test 1: West Didsbury Test Centre - Fail
Test 2: West Didsbury Test Centre - Fail
Test 3: Cheetham Hill Test Centre – Fail
Test 4: Bredbury Test Centre – Fail
Test 5: West Didsbury Test Centre – Fail
Test 6: West Didsbury Test Centre – Fail
Test 7: West Didsbury Test Centre- PASS!
Now I know what you’re thinking – 7 driving tests mean I should probably be a terrible driver, but actually – I’m not bad! I mean think about it this way, if you’ve taken more than the average amount of time and attempts to pass your test then you will have more driving experience than most of your friends ;)
Never giving up!
Unfortunately, It’s not just the time spent on tests and the disappointment that you can sometimes face from repeatedly failing - it’s also a huge financial commitment! I mean think about it, given the fact that it’s £62 per test plus around £50 for 2 hours of my driving instructor’s time - times that by 7 and that’s a whopping £784 (and that doesn’t including drowning my sorrows with all the consolatory Nando’s or ASOS hauls either). That being said, I didn’t want the hefty investment I’d already made into becoming a driver to go to waste- I was in way too deep and had to see this through now!
I think the key to keeping motivated in the face of setbacks was trying not to compare yourself to others, which when it comes to driving is pretty difficult. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on my driving journey and the constant fails, and it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. I know what it’s like when everyone around you seems to be doing better, getting through their lessons faster and passing with no trouble at all. But the truth is, a test situation where you are in control of a moving vehicle is really nerve-wracking for a lot of people and that’s okay – not everyone passes first time!
7th time is the charm
Your older sister that only needed 20 lessons and passed first time with little to no minors, your ‘Jay from the Inbetweeners’ friend that was just ‘a total natural’ and only required 10 minutes with their instructor before they declared that they simply had ‘nothing else left to teach them’. Your eye-rolling colleague at work telling you how it’s ‘no big deal’ and that they don’t understand how people can find them so difficult and nerve-wracking because ‘all you have to do is drive.’ Like it’s that easy!
The truth is, everyone’s learner driver journey is different, there’s no right or wrong number of lessons or set amount of time before you should be ready for your practical test. What motivated me in the end was not only doing it for myself - but proving everyone else wrong who thought that I should give up altogether when it had gotten to the third or fourth time failing.
So when it came to my seventh attempt, I tried my best to put the number of tests I’d done before to the back of my mind. A few of tried and tested techniques and methods which I used to abate my anxieties on the day of the test included:
- Only doing a 30 minute refresh lesson before my test to go over any manoeuvres that I didn’t feel 100% confident on
- Getting to the test centre early and within plenty of time
- Opting for an earlier test to avoid heavy traffic on the roads for a calmer drive
- Relaxing and doing something else like reading a magazine beforehand
- Learning simple breathing exercises using mindfulness apps
- Packing Kalms tablets and Rescue Remedy spray with me (just in case!)
- Not taking notice of the examiner making notes on the test sheet - this isn’t necessarily a bad thing
Just keep swimming!
All in all, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I took several years and several attempts at passing my driving test. Of course, it would have saved time, money and a lot of stress had it happened for me sooner, but I couldn’t be happier to have my pink licence and my gorgeous little Fiat 500. Along with the independence that driving has given me, I no longer have to rely on lifts from friends, family or public transport- and honestly, it feels great!
If you’re worried about passing your test, whether you’re taking it for the first time or the seventh time – check out Marmalades Pass Probability Calculator. It’s a great tool that determines how likely you are to pass your driving test!