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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 fiction?

  1. 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 driving properly.<


  2. 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 test.


  3. 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".


  4. 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.


  5. 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.


  6. 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 ready.


  7. 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.


  8. 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'.


  9. Driving examiners enjoy failing learner drivers?
    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.


  10. 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.


  11. 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!


  12. 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 him!

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!

  1. Observation at junctions - Ineffective or bad observation and judgment.

  2. Reverse Parking - Ineffective observation and/or lack of accuracy.

  3. Use of Mirrors - Not checking often enough, and/or not acting on the information.

  4. Reversing around a corner - Ineffective observation and/or lack of accuracy.

  5. Incorrect use of Signals - Giving misleading signals, or forgetting to cancel them.

  6. Moving off Safely - Ineffective observation.

  7. Incorrect Positioning on the Road - Particularly at roundabouts and on bends.

  8. Lack of Steering Control - Steering too early or too late.

  9. Incorrect Position for turning right - At junctions or one-way streets.

  10. Inappropriate Speed - Driving too slowly or too quickly.

Reported by the Driving Standards Agency for the 12 months to January 2004

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