Driving test tips to help you pass first time

Last updated: Wednesday, 3rd July 2024

Taking your driving test is a significant milestone in life. For learner drivers in the UK, the DVSA practical driving test can seem daunting.

However, with the right preparation and mindset, you can approach your practical driving test with confidence and pass first time.

This article offers learner drivers handy driving test tips to help pass first time. From getting to know the driving test format to practising essential driving skills, we've got you covered!

How to pass your driving test first time

Passing the UK driving test is what every learner driver aims for. And, doing so can bring a fantastic sense of accomplishment and newfound freedom.

Understanding some key tips to pass can boost your confidence and get you ready to take your driving test.

But first, let's dive into what the practical driving test is all about.

Understanding the DVSA practical driving test

Getting a full UK driving licence consists of two main parts: the DVSA theory test and the DVSA practical driving test.

Each part of the test assesses different areas of your driving knowledge and skills.

What is the DVSA driving test?

The theory test is the first stage of acquiring a full driving licence. You can only take your practical driving test once you have passed the theory test.

The DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) practical driving test assesses your ability to drive safely in various road and traffic conditions.

It includes a series of driving manoeuvres, independent driving, and general driving competence.

The test begins with an eyesight check, followed by the 'show me, tell me' vehicle safety questions. Examiners watch for safe driving practices, proper use of mirrors, and overall vehicle control.

Successfully passing the practical driving test means you'll get your full UK driving licence!

What to expect during the driving test

The practical driving test includes:

  • Eyesight check: You must be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres.

  • Show me, tell me questions: These are basic safety checks that you should carry out to ensure the vehicle is safe for use.

  • General driving ability: This includes a variety of road and traffic situations, where you must demonstrate safe driving practices and control of the vehicle.

  • Reverse manoeuvres: These include parallel parking, bay parking, or pulling up on the right side of the road. You will only be asked to do one of these manoeuvres on your test.

  • Independent driving: You'll have to follow directions from a sat nav or road signs for about 20 minutes of the test.

What happens in a driving test?

What happens after you pass your driving test?

Now that you know what to expect from the driving test, we'll go over some tips to help you prepare for the practical test and pass with confidence.

Tips on how to prepare for your driving test

Preparing for your practical driving test ensures you feel confident and ready on the big day. These top tips will significantly increase your chances of passing the test the first time.

Choosing a driving instructor

It's vital to choose an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) who is not only skilled in teaching but also someone you feel comfortable with.

Select an instructor with a good reputation and high pass rates. A patient, experienced driving instructor will provide constructive feedback and build your confidence.

Learner driver insurance and using your own car

You must have learner driver insurance if you're practising in a car you or your family own.

Learner driver insurance is in addition to any existing car insurance policies to cover the learner while they are driving.

It's also important to make sure the vehicle used for the test is suitable and meets all DVSA requirements.

Booking your driving test

We recommend booking your driving test in good time to secure a convenient date and time. You can book your driving test on the DVSA's official website.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to book driving tests

When booking your driving test, we recommend choosing a driving test centre you're familiar with for a time when you feel most alert and calm.

If you already have a driving test booking but don't feel ready, you can change your driving test date for free up to three working days before your test.

And, if you need an earlier driving test, our driving test cancellations checker can help you find cancellations so you can take your driving test sooner.

Understanding road signs and the Highway Code

Learner drivers must understand the Highway Code and traffic signs to pass the DVSA driving test.

The Highway Code is a comprehensive set of rules and guidelines for all road users in the UK, including drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Candidates should familiarise themselves with both the traffic rules and road signs. This knowledge will help you during the theory and driving tests and it's critical for safe driving.

Know your speed limits

Speed limit signs indicate the maximum legal speed you can travel. In built-up areas, the limit is often 30 mph.

We recommend familiarising yourself with the speed limits on the driving test routes in your area before taking your test.

Remember, speeding isn't the only problem. Driving too slowly can also be dangerous and might suggest a lack of confidence and understanding of road rules.

Tips for learning to drive and practising for the practical driving test

This section outlines key tips and strategies to help boost your driving skills and confidence when preparing for your practical driving test.

Regular driving lesson practice

Learning with a qualified advanced driving instructor regularly offers significant benefits. Driving lessons are important for learners to gain practical skills like steering, braking, and gear changing.

Practising consistently also helps learners to become familiar with different types of junctions, roundabouts, and other road conditions.

Schedule lessons during different times of day

Scheduling driving lessons at various times of the day will help you adapt to different traffic patterns, lighting conditions, and road environments.

Weekend lessons are also valuable. Roads can be unpredictable with a mix of leisure traffic and local events. This will help you get comfortable with various driving scenarios before taking your test.

Familiarise yourself with different weather conditions

Each type of weather brings its own challenges, so we recommend practising in different weather conditions.

Being ready for different weather conditions not only helps you pass the driving test but also ensures safer driving in the future.

Get to know the driving test route

Get to know the driving test centre where you'll take your test and the common test routes in your area.

Most instructors will practise driving on potential test routes during your driving lessons.

Knowing the roads will make you feel more comfortable, improve your confidence and help reduce surprises during the test.

Perfect your manoeuvres

Perfecting the manoeuvres you may need to demonstrate during your driving test in various driving situations will give you more confidence when you take your test.

Regular practice is key. Avoid rushing, especially if other drivers are around.

When reversing your vehicle, take the time to ensure accuracy and precision in each manoeuvre. This reduces the risk of errors.

The examiner will ask you to carry out one of these reversing manoeuvres during your driving test:

  • Parallel park at the side of the road

  • Bay park

  • Pull over to the right side of the road, reverse for about two car lengths, and then rejoin the traffic

You may also need to perform an emergency stop during your driving test. Make sure you know the emergency stop procedure before taking your test.

Get used to independent driving

Independent driving makes up roughly half of the practical test. It's a good idea to get used to independent driving during your lessons so you can confidently do it during your test.

During this section, the examiner will expect you to:

  • Drive independently following either traffic signs or a series of verbal directions

  • Use a sat nav correctly, as most driving tests include a segment where the driver follows directions from the device without further guidance from the examiner

Take a mock driving test

Taking mock driving tests is an excellent way to simulate real test conditions and identify areas to improve.

We recommend taking multiple driving mock tests. Each mock test will help you gain confidence, reduce anxiety, and improve your overall performance.

Tips for the day of your driving test

Get a good night's sleep the night before

Aim for a good night's sleep to be well-rested for the test.

We recommend setting out everything you need for the test the night before, such as your provisional licence, to avoid last-minute stress.

Arrive early

On the day of your driving test, arrive early at the test centre to allow time for nerves to settle.

Use this extra time to relax and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. It is also a good idea to have a driving lesson on the day of the test to reinforce your skills and build confidence.

Your examiner will introduce themselves and explain the test format before you begin.

Bring the right documents to the test

You need to bring your UK provisional driving licence and your theory test certificate if you have one.

Additionally, pack a bottle of water and a light snack to keep your energy levels up.

Managing driving test nerves

Feeling nervous on test day is normal, but managing nerves can help enhance performance.

Start your day with a healthy breakfast to maintain energy and alertness. Physical activity, like a short walk, can help release tension.

Breathing exercises can be incredibly beneficial. Practise deep breathing techniques to reduce anxiety, helping you to stay focused.

Engage in positive self-talk to boost your confidence. Remind yourself of your preparation and driving skills.

If you feel it's needed, request your instructor to join you during the test. Their presence can often be calming.

Last-minute tips from driving instructors

Instructors can offer last-minute tips and reassurance before your test.

Trust their experience and follow their advice to stay calm and focused.

Are you ready to take your driving test?

If you're ready to take your driving test but you can't find a suitable test slot, our driving test availability checker can find you driving test cancellations.

We can move your driving test to earlier appointments as many times as you need until you take your test.

Find driving test cancellations now

Frequently asked questions about driving test tips and how to pass your driving test first time

There is no guarantee that you will pass your driving test on the first attempt, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success.

These include practising consistently, scheduling lessons at different times of the day to become familiar with various road conditions, familiarising yourself with different weather conditions and how to drive safely in them, getting to know the common test routes in your area, and becoming comfortable with independent driving.

The practical driving test lasts about 40 minutes, including the independent driving section.

Driving test pass rates vary by location and candidate, but the pass rate in 2022/2023 was just under 50% in the UK, according to the DVSA.

During the practical driving test, you should concentrate on vehicle control, observation, signalling, positioning, and responding to road signs and markings.

Stay calm and show good judgement and safe driving practices throughout.

Common reasons learner drivers fail include ineffective observations at junctions, not using mirrors correctly when changing direction, and not moving off safely.

You can manage test-day nerves by ensuring you're well-rested before the test, familiarising yourself with the test format, and practising deep breathing techniques.

After the test, your examiner will tell you if you've passed or failed.

The examiner will provide feedback on your performance, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement.

You'll get a pass certificate if you pass and you can give them your provisional licence if you want your full licence sent to you automatically.

Once you've passed, consider taking additional driving courses, like Pass Plus, to further improve your skills and gain more confidence on the road.

If you don't pass your driving test, you can book another one for at least 10 working days later.

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