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Driving Test Nerves - How to cope!

Twitchy Test-day Nerves

  • Tips to help you overcome driving test nerves

It’s natural for everyone to get nervous on the day of their practical test; test nerves are par for the course for any learner driver, and the most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone.

If you usually get nervous before tests or exams, chances are you’ll have already found a way to relax that works for you. However, if nerves are an unfamiliar experience – or maybe they’re just worse than normal – then follow these simple rules in the days and weeks leading up to your test, to make sure you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Before your test

  1. Get in as much practice as possible. Go for extra lessons with your instructor – but not in your own car (unless that’s the car your using for your test). Otherwise you risk confusing yourself with the different controls.
  2. Do at least 2 mock tests. Your instructor should have already done at least one mock test with you, but it’s always good to get one more done in the week before your test. If you pass the mock it’ll give you a boost in confidence; if you fail you’ve still got time to take a few extra lessons to iron out the creases.
  3. Don’t listen to anyone else’s advice. Your instructor has far more experience of driving tests than any of your friends and family, so he knows what he’s on about. And just because something worked for your friend or your uncle on their test doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.
  4. Be prepared. On the day before your test, get a good night’s sleep, don’t drink alcohol, and most importantly, get all your paperwork together so you’re not dashing round the house in the morning trying to find everything.
  5. Keep your test a secret. If you’re worried about disappointing people if you fail, don’t tell them. Think instead about what a nice surprise it will be for them when you announce the happy news that you’ve passed!

On the day of your test

  1. Don’t rush. Set your alarm to give you plenty of time to get up and get to the test centre; if you’re taking your test after school or work, leave a little earlier so you don’t have to rush. It’s better to be early than late.
  2. Eat well. Have light, healthy meals at your normal mealtimes. If your test is in the morning, make sure you have a decent breakfast (not a fry-up!) before you leave.
  3. Don’t be tempted to take any pills. Chances are they’ll slow your reactions. Nerves actually give you adrenalin, which improve your reactions and your alertness, so for your driving test being a bit nervous can actually be more useful!
  4. Wear comfortable clothes – there’s nothing worse than sitting in the car and realising your jeans are too tight. Wear sensible shoes to drive in – so no high heels!
  5. Don’t think about your test. Worrying about it doesn’t help anyone, especially not you. What will happen will happen.
  6. Make an effort. If you have a lesson booked immediately before your test, or even if you are driving to the test centre, do so to the best of your ability. Drive to the same standards that an examiner would expect, so you’re warmed up and prepared for what’s to come.

During your test

  1. Assume the best. The examiner wants to pass you. It’s much more enjoyable for them to tell someone they’ve passed than they’ve failed. And remember, there’s no such thing as quotas. If the examiner thinks you’re good enough, he’ll pass you, no matter who else he’s passed or failed that week.
  2. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t think that a mistake means you’ve failed. As long as it wasn’t dangerous and the examiner didn’t have to use the dual controls, assume you haven’t failed. Many’s the time that a learner has been convinced they’ve failed, only to be told they’ve passed!
  3. Listen to the examiner. Remember you can ask for clarification or repetition if you want – the only thing you can’t do is ask how to do something! You’re even allowed to chat if that makes you more comfortable, although the examiner will only give you short, polite answers or comments – they don’t want anyone accusing them of distraction!
  4. Drive like normal. The examiner wants to see what you drive like when you’re out and about – not how you drive when you’re making a super effort. That’s not the way people normally drive.
  5. Don’t be too quick. Don’t assume that being quick means you’re being a good driver. A good driver sticks to speed limits, waits until there’s a safe moment to perform a manoeuvre, and knows that patience when you’re driving is a must.
  6. Remember nerves can be good! A few nerves increase your alertness and concentration, and can actually help. So don’t aim to get rid of your nerves completely!

We can’t, obviously, guarantee that following these rules will cure your nerves. But it’s common sense that being prepared, practised and confident will make a big difference. Your instructor clearly thinks you’re good enough to pass. You should feel like you’re good enough to pass. If you can do it in your lesson, you can do it in the test.

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