Common Driving Test Myths & Mistakes
In the run up to your driving test you'll find that family, friends and
colleagues will all be keen to fill you in on 'insider tips' about the
test. But is there any truth in them? Find out here if they're fact or
- You should set the mirrors
slightly off so you have to move your head more and the
examiner will see that you're checking regularly?
False. Take no notice of
this old tale. Examiners are trained to spot the small eye
movements we make when checking our mirrors and exaggerating
them by 'theatrical looking' will only take your mind off
- If you stall the car, you will
fail you test?
False. As long as you don't
stall in a dangerous situation, such as on a roundabout,
and as long as you handle it properly this needn't count
as a major fault and you can still pass your
- The driving test is much harder
to pass than it used to be?
True. "Yes, it is!"
says Eddie Barnaville, general manager of the Driving
Instructors Association. "When I was teaching back in the
late 1960s it was possible to get most people through in
about 10 or 15 lessons. These days that target would be
ridiculous. The roads are far busier which means standards
have to be higher. The test has far more components than
it used to have - including the reverse parking manoeuvres
which many learners struggle with. There's also the 'show
and tell' section of the test, and a separate theory test
where in the past the candidate would just be asked a few
questions on the Highway Code".
- Women should wear short skirts
and low-cut tops... then the examiner will be so busy drooling
to notice any mistakes you make?
False. A total myth as well
as being an example of flawed logic. After all, if you look
that stunning then surely the examiner would be more
inclined to fail you so you'd come back to take another
test and they might get another chance to glimpse of your
gorgeous cleavage? Stick to comfortable clothes and
concentrate on your driving.
- Men pass the driving test more
easily than women?
True. According to a 2004
study by the Department for Transport men take 36.2
lessons on average before passing whilst women take 51.9.
And when it comes to passing the test men take 1.8
attempts whilst for women it's 2.1. However men let
themselves down badly once they've passed - they're
responsible for 97% of dangerous driving offences.
- Driving Schools make you take
more lessons than you really need?
False. It is not in
any school's best interests to have lots of learners taking
lesson after lesson with no end result. I would like to
see my pupils to spread the word about their success! I
will give you advice, and if you want an independent
rough guide: you are ready to take your test if you can
drive for an hour without the verbal aid or assistance
of your instructor. The DSA says that most people fail
simply because they take the test before they are
- Some test centres are much easier
to pass at than others?
True. The pass rate does
vary between different UK test centres. The overall UK
pass rate for 2005-06 was 43%. However in London (Wood
Green) it was 28%, in Birmingham (Kings Heath) it was 31%,
in Pwllheli in Wales it was 54% and in Inverary, Scotland
59%.This is partly because the level of traffic in some
urban areas means it's easier to slip up when pulling out
at a busy junction or roundabout. And in low-income areas
people often have trouble affording lessons and don't have
a family car to practice on. This means they sometimes come
for their test before they're totally prepared and are more
likely to fail.
- Examiners are really nit-picking -
if you get one of those you'll never pass?
False. The DSA state that
all examiners are trained to carry out the test to the
same standard and that they don't have pass or fail quotas.
Every examiner does have to be within 5% of their centre
pass rate and 10% of the national pass rate or they are
likely to be investigated. So whether your examiner seems
warm and friendly towards you or a bit cool, it's not going
to make any difference to whether or not you pass.
However, one off-the record instructor did admit, 'The
fact that all the examiners have to pass a percentage
within a certain range could mean that if an examiner has
had a run of good test candidates and given lots of passes
then they might be a bit more critical with the next one
because they need to get their average back down. Though of
course it can also work the other way in that if they've had
a run of failures then they'll be keen to get back on track
by passing someone'.
- Driving examiners enjoy failing
False. Examiners are
professionals: their personal feelings do not enter into
their assessment of you. Also, they have their bosses to
report to - an unusual or inexplicable number of passes
or failures would be looked into. It's easier for an
examiner to give good news rather than bad, and a pass
means less paperwork for them.
- There is a particular examiner
who has tested me at the same test center several times
and failed me because he does not like me?
False. It would be easy to
blame a 'personality clash' for failure, but again,
driving examiners are professionals. Personal feelings or
prejudices are irrelevant. An examiner whose work record
showed an inclination to fail, for example women or a
particular ethnic group, would soon be spotted. We would
all like to blame someone else for our mistakes. The only
way you will eventually pass is if you take responsibility
for your performance and work hard to correct your faults.
- The driving test gets harder
to pass as you get older?
True. Younger candidates
do find the test easier to pass. In 2004-06 the pass rate
for 17 year old boys was 51%, whilst for girls it was 48%.
Ten years later, at 27 the pass rates are 43% and 36%
respectively, then at 47 it's 35% and 25%. However, older
people do get through. In the same year the oldest
successful candidate was a lady of 92!
- My father tells me he took only
8 hours of driving tuition and passed first time?
False. This may have been
possible in the dim distant past, or perhaps he has
'competitive dad' syndrome. The test has grown to match
the changing conditions on the roads. There is an ever
larger number of cars, more complicated traffic conditions
and signs and routes to follow. There is now also the
theory test, parking manoeuvres and the 'show and tell'
section. Years ago, a candidate would just be asked a few
questions on the Highway Code. Older drivers often
acknowledge that they might have difficulty these days
passing a test. The Driving Standards Agency estimates
that a new learner driver needs a minimum of 40 hours
professional training with a further 20 hours of private
practice. You can console yourself that with a more
serious, complex test, you will be a much more competent
driver in a shorter space of time than your father. As
soon as you pass, take him out on the road and impress
Driving test mistakes - 10 common reasons for failure
Examine these driving test faults closely and try to avoid them. As you
can see, most are concerned with observation - so the next time your
instructor nags you, you can see it's for a good reason!
- Observation at junctions
- Ineffective or bad observation and judgment.
- Reverse Parking
- Ineffective observation and/or lack of accuracy.
- Use of Mirrors
- Not checking often enough, and/or not acting on the
- Reversing around a corner
- Ineffective observation and/or lack of accuracy.
- Incorrect use of Signals
- Giving misleading signals, or forgetting to cancel them.
- Moving off Safely
- Ineffective observation.
- Incorrect Positioning on the
- Particularly at roundabouts and on bends.
- Lack of Steering Control
- Steering too early or too late.
- Incorrect Position for turning
- At junctions or one-way streets.
- Inappropriate Speed
- Driving too slowly or too quickly.
Reported by the Driving Standards Agency for the 12 months
to January 2004