Part 5: My driving journey – My experiences of driving test day

In Part 5 of this blog series I will talk about my experiences of the day of the driving test. Driving test day is not just a normal day. It can be a day filled with pressure and stress, but can also be filled with excitement as well.  As mentioned in the previous blog post, I had 2 attempts at the driving test, so I will be talking about both of them.

My first driving test was on 22nd February 2022 and was at 11:21am (I never worked out why the test times can be so weird and exact!). My instructor picked me up at 10:20am for an hour warm up drive before the test. When I got in the car with my instructor, I was pretty calm and I drove very well the hour before the test. This should have put me in good stead for the test. However, I didn’t get off to a good start, and I made a mistake within the first minute of the test (meeting traffic situation). Although this was only a minor fault, this slightly affected my concentration and confidence. This meant that I didn’t drive as well as I normally would and this eventually caused the serious fault (which was being in the wrong lane for turning right). I knew I had messed up as soon as I made that mistake. Due to the Covid guidelines at the time, the test finished early.

My second driving test was on 10th August 2022 and was at 11:01am. Like the first driving test, I had a good drive with my instructor the hour before. However, the key difference between this and the first test was that I approached this test with a different mindset. First time round, I took the test too seriously, which had a negative impact on my confidence and concentration. This time round, rather than treating it like a test, I treated it like a normal drive that was no different to my lessons or private practice. I also considered the examiner as someone that was accompanying me when driving. This helped take away the pressure of the occasion, and I felt a lot calmer as a result. Being calm was only half of the battle, but it helped make sure that I was focused at all times of the test. This helped me pass with only 1 minor fault.

How I was feeling after my first test couldn’t have been more different to how I was feeling after my second test. After I failed my first test, I was super annoyed with myself. This was because the serious fault I made was extremely silly. The serious fault didn’t happen because of another road user or because of something I didn’t know how to do, it was purely due to a lapse of concentration. That feeling of knowing I failed because of something really silly took me a good week to get over. When I passed my second test, rather than feeling super ecstatic and excited, I felt relieved more than anything. This was because passing the driving test was something that was a long time coming (because of the pandemic and taking a while to learn). This meant that learning to drive was actually quite draining and took a lot out of me, so passing my driving test was like a burden lifted off my shoulders.   

Some tips that I would give when it comes to the day of your driving test are:

Treat it like a normal drive rather than a test

I talked about how treating the driving test like a normal drive helped me in my second test. I appreciate that this is much easier said than done. After all, driving tests are a big deal and it is normal to get nervous about them. However, it is important to appreciate that at the end of the day, there is no difference between the driving test and your driving lessons when it comes to the skills you need to apply when you are driving. Apart from the fact that you are being examined, the driving test is effectively just a normal drive. Therefore, you don’t have to drive any differently to what you have already been doing.

Moreover, if you focus too much on impressing the driving examiner, you can fall in the trap of driving differently than you normally would. For example, you may be overly cautious on junctions and roundabouts, or you may carry out excessive mirror checks. This can sometimes work against you.

Make good use of the lesson before the test

Most instructors would have an hour warm up lesson with you before you sit the test. In my opinion, that warm up time is incredibly important, and shouldn’t be underestimated. Firstly, you can cover any topics you aren’t 100% sure or confident about, such as the manoeuvres or the show me tell me questions. Covering things you aren’t sure about during the warm up drive means that it is fresh in your mind for the test. Moreover, the warm up drive also helps you get in the driving mindset before your test. If you drive well in the warm up drive, then that can help with momentum and feeling more confident. The more confident you are, the more likely you are to pass.

Remember that the first 5 minutes of the test are the most important

Driving tests last 35 minutes on average. Out of those 35 minutes, the first 5 minutes are the most important in my opinion. The first 5 minutes are where you are going to be the most nervous, and hence you will be prone to making mistakes. Therefore, you need to be extra focused and make sure your head is in the game so that you get through those first 5 minutes without any mistakes. After the first 5 minutes, you will be in the zone and your nerves will disappear. Remember that if you aren’t focused from the very start and end up making a serious fault in the first 5 minutes then you will fail regardless of how amazing the rest of the test goes. Personally, the best way to get through the first 5 minutes is by commentary driving, and that will help you get in the zone quicker. As mentioned previously, I didn’t have a good first 5 minutes in my first test, and this had a knock-on effect for the rest of the test.

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