Hi I’m Meg, I’ve just turned 24 and I live in Manchester. I want to share my driving test story with you all, and how I never thought that I’d ever pass my theory and practical tests! I thought I had done everything right; I got the right insurance in place so I could get lots of private practice in, I had countless lessons but 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 as 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. 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 to. For so long it seemed like a totally impossible hurdle that I’d never overcome- I could get a degree, but I was struggling to pass a driving test? Finally, and by something of a miracle, I successfully passed on my seventh attempt - here’s how I kept strong and against all odds, finally did it!
Is the driving test hard?
I’ve been asked many times, how hard is the driving test? As you’re literally in the hot seat and a real-life driving scenario i.e. not in the comfort of your own home or at a desk, it’s fair to say the pressure is on! You will face many potentially dangerous obstacles during the test, so with a combination of anxiety, nerves and stress (all while you’re sitting next to the examiner) it’s certainly not easy for anyone.
People fail for a multitude of reasons, and passing requires experience and practice, hard work and determination. A great deal depends on how you react to what’s going on around you with other road users - e.g pedestrians and cyclists, or other drivers. Just remember your blind spot and keep your hands on the steering wheel! Self-belief and self-talk matter - if you believe you can or can’t do something you’re probably right!
Why do I keep failing my driving test?
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, when the average attempts to pass a driving test is 2, if you’ve taken more than the average amount of time and attempt to pass your test then you will have more driving experience than most of your friends ;)
What's the average number of minors for a driving test?
How many minors to fail a driving test? You can make up to 15 and still pass, and the average is 16 minor faults. It takes just one major fault to fail, and that could be made up of 3 minors for making similar mistakes. You’ll be asked 2 “show me tell me” questions during the test, and if you get one or both wrong you’ll get one minor. Don’t panic! You’d have to make a lot of small mistakes to get to 15, so as long as you stay calm, remember your training and not have a dangerous fault you will be fine.
How many times can you fail your test in the UK?
There is no limit to how many times you can sit the test, so don’t worry if you fail. The record for the highest number of fails is 42 for the practical and a whopping 158 times for a failed driving theory test! WIth around half of drivers passing the first time you are far from alone if you failed the driving test the first time.
If I fail my driving test when can I take it again?
You will have to choose a date that is at least 10 working days after your last before you can book another test. This gives you plenty of time to work on yourself and make improvements in your learning and understanding. Driving test failures are very normal - only half pass the first time!
Do driving examiners know how many tests you've taken?
As the tests and routes are allocated at random, all the examiner will know about you is your name and licence number. Unless of course you end up with the same one, as many test centres only have a small group of examiners. They might ask you in your general chit-chat if this is your first time but it won’t affect your test.
I keep failing my theory test what can I do?
Don’t worry! Your nerves probably got the best of you, causing you to lose focus. Look at the bright side - practice makes perfect and at least you know what to expect! Get back in the saddle and back on the road. Book another test and in the meantime get some feedback from your examiner. Are you leaving it until the last minute and cramming? Best to manage your time better and be better prepared.
How many times did you fail your driving test?
It took me 7 times! 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!
"You've just passed your practical test"
You have no idea how happy I was to hear this! 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
- Taking Kalms before driving test
- Taking Rescue remedy for driving test
- 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!