Hi, my name is Jack and I’m 17 years old. I completed my driving test towards the end of 2018 and one big aspect of the driving test that I know affected me was the nerves. At the time of my test only a few of my friends had done their tests so even though they gave me lots of info on how it would go, I was still nervous. I think was mainly because of the unknowns - I didn’t know what to expect so of course, I was overthinking the situation. To hear a detailed account of the process and how someone felt throughout would have helped me prepare myself and calm some of my nerves. So through this blog, I aim to share my experience and emotions of when I took the test to hopefully calm your nerves and help you feel more prepared for your test.
The fear of the unknown
There is no doubt about it, I was nervous. I was as ready as I could have been with my driving ability but the fear of the unknown and the overthinking of the actual test made me worried. When I had talked to my driving instructor on the lesson leading up to my test, he expressed a lot how everyone is nervous and how once I’m in the car and on my way I will feel more and more comfortable. I decided to have a one hour driving lesson before the test to help calm my nerves. Before I left my house on test day my nerves were increasing and I was getting more and more worried, however, I got in the car and had a chat with my driving instructor about any queries I had then we just did some light practice of things I felt I needed a warm up on. Not long after starting off and following his instructions the nerves were outweighed by my concentration and once I was on the road and driving I started to feel more comfortable - my nerves were still there but I was able to concentrate and think clearly.
What helped calm my nerves?
There were a few things about my experience that definitely helped calm my nerves.
- The lesson before the test. This helped me to get in the right mindset and also allowed the theory aspect of the test to be fresh in my mind ready for the test.
- Chewing gum. This was something my driving instructor told me about and urged me to try. Personally, this definitely helped to try and help calm me as when I was most nervous I could concentrate on that.
- Talking to the examiner. As stupid as it sounds it makes you see these scary figures who you imagine being critical and horrible are just normal people. I was telling myself just to imagine it as having my driving instructor in the passenger seat. I had a really good experience as my examiner was a younger guy who was happy to start a conversation with me and was totally understanding of my nerves. He just kept chatting to help keep me calm which definitely helped.
- Imagine yourself passing. Thinking of all the things I could do once I passed helped me calm my nerves, although I realise this could have the opposite effect for some people and give them unnecessary pressure.
The pressure was building
It goes without saying that the lead up to the test is always worse than the actual thing. The wait the night before and for my driving instructor in the morning were the worst points for me regarding my nerves. The long wait times and how desperately I wanted to drive meant I added a lot of pressure onto myself. In the morning before my test, I reminded myself that no matter the outcome – I had done everything I could to help me pass, and if it didn’t happen I could just try again!
The lesson before my test involved me talking through the test format with my instructor and practicing some parking and manoeuvres to make sure they were fresh in my mind. We then parked around the corner of the test centre and went over the show me tell me questions before driving into the test centre. Once in the centre, I went to the toilet because… well, imagine suddenly needing to go in the middle of the test?! No thanks. Sitting down in the waiting room, I was very nervous - my head was going 100mph but shortly after, the examiners walked out and all of a sudden I didn’t have time to be nervous. The examiner and I then hopped in the car, and whilst he set up the sat nav, I got a trusty piece of chewing gum!
About 5 minutes into the test I realised the nerves had mostly gone because I was so focused on what I was doing. I don't think my nerves were ever fully gone but I definitely calmed down once I was going and driving following the satnav. As we pulled into the test centre at the end of the test, the examiner told me I was doing a reverse bay park – don’t ruin it now Jack!
If you didn’t figure it out from the picture above, all the hard work had paid off and I passed with only 1 minor. Once the test was over I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face - now I had my ticket to freedom I had been longing for and the stress was actually worth it!
I think when it comes to the nerves of the driving test there are two parts to consider; the preparation and the actual test day.
Firstly is the preparation, and practice makes perfect here. I say this because if you’re not confident with certain parts of driving or don't feel comfortable with some aspects of the test, you’re going to be doubting yourself and on test day will regret not tackling those sooner. So to prevent this make sure you are 100% comfortable (or as comfortable as can be) with driving and all aspects of the test so you can go in confident in your ability.
Practice makes perfect also means doing as many mock tests as you feel are needed, driving the test routes over and over until you can do them in your sleep and doing manoeuvres without batting an eyelid. The more you practice, the more confident you will be – and the more confident you are, the less nervous you will feel.
Preparing for the actual test was a bit different. For me I felt I had to try and perfect (or get as close to perfection) all the manoeuvres and things that may come up in the test. Doing this meant I wasn’t nervous of not knowing what to do, just nervous of getting it right.
When it comes to test day, there are many considerations to make. One of these is having your driving instructor in the car. I didn’t for my test but I'm sure it may help some people feel more relaxed. Another is the timing, personally, I know I'm not a morning person and didn’t want a test during rush hour so decided to choose one around 11am, giving me time to also squeeze in my next point – the test before!
Some people may not want to worry about a lesson before but I found it was good to get me in the driving mood. I could also talk to my instructor and do some last minute practice which I wanted to help calm my nerves.
I hope I have shed some light on the test process and how I felt throughout so you don't go in blind. I suggest trying some of the methods you think might help in lessons before so you’re comfortable driving that way. I wish you the best of luck with your test, whether it’s your first or not, and hope it unlocks the world of driving for you.