Seven steps to passing a driving test
Learning to drive is more than just an added convenience and a way to avoid the trials of public transport; for many people it is an essential way of life, enabling them to enjoy a specific career which otherwise would have been out of their reach.
Your elderly relatives may recount the days of a quick and easy driving test taken with little preparation, but these days are long gone.
Now tests are made to train motorists who are better equipped for a variety of road conditions and situations and more conscious of safety on highways which are increasingly congested.
Thorough preparation is therefore essential, as these seven steps to success demonstrate:
Step 1: obtain your provisional licence
Holding your provisional licence in your hand is, of course, a significant step towards becoming a fully-fledged driver; it is also an essential prerequisite to commencing your driving training. Bear in mind that the time taken for the DVLA to process your application can amount to several weeks, so apply early (up to 2 months before your 17th birthday) and you’ll be able to commence lessons as soon as you are legally entitled.
Also, be aware of the restrictions placed on you by your provisional status, such as not being able to drive on motorways and being able to drive only with a fully qualified driver who is over 21.
Step 2: choose your driving instructor
Your dad’s best mate from the pub may offer you lessons at an attractive price but bear in mind that your chances of passing your driving test are significantly increased with high quality, professional driver training, such as that provided by Wimbledon Driving School.
Driving instructors must be registered with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and should display a green badge as evidence of their qualification. Don’t be afraid to enquire about the instructor’s most recent assessment (graded either as A grade, B grade or fail) and, of course, ask if other successful learner drivers can provide feedback about their lessons.
Also, consider the type of car that the driving instructor uses, although realistically you are unlikely to be faced with a station wagon as a new driver!
Step 3: know your theory
A full knowledge of the Highway Code is an essential part of the route to becoming a competent and safe driver. Rather than leaving it until close to the theory test before starting to revise, it will only benefit you – and arguably make you a safer driver – if you tackle this at the earliest possibility.
This will help your knowledge of road signs, procedures and markings become an integral part of your practical driver training, rather than an add-on. Understanding the Highway Code before commencing your driving lessons also means you will be able to focus on the practical aspects of learning to drive.
Taking your theory test early will also enable you to book your practical assessment when you are most ready.
Step 4: remember the weather
As a driver you’ll have to face all sorts of weather so the most effective driver training will enable you to practise in sunshine, rain, wind and even possibly ice or fog. In the UK it’s quite possible you will encounter all of these during your training but, if not, don’t be afraid to ask your driving instructor if you can schedule a lesson when the weather is more challenging. A quick look at the weather forecast could indicate suitable times to experience varying road conditions.
Step 5: practice makes…
Well, in this case you probably won’t be perfect – it would be a dangerous assumption to presume otherwise – but the more you can practise in-between lessons, the better.
You do, of course, need a competent and safe driver over the age of 21 with you and bear in mind that switching between different types of cars might mean you have to make adjustments, particularly when practising those tricky manoeuvres.
However, practising your driving skills between lessons is a great way to keep in touch with the road, even if you only focus on certain aspects of your practice which you know need attention, such as reversing or maintaining a good position on bends.
Remember that a parent’s or friend’s car is unlikely to have dual controls so possibly delay going out without your driving instructor until he feels you are ready.
Step 6: learn about basic car controls and maintenance
The ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ section of the driving test is an important but brief assessment of your skills, not as a driver, but as a potential car owner. You may be asked about the location of the dipstick for checking oil levels or how to check the coolant level. While what lies beneath the bonnet of most cars may seem a little startling, in reality the basics are the same for pretty much every vehicle.
Find out from a parent or friend about the simple checks that should be carried out on a car from week to week and, with the car driver’s permission, even complete some of these yourself.
You’ll approach this section of the practical test in confidence and a positive start to the test will hopefully give you a much-needed self-esteem boost for the more challenging driving.
Step 7: some simple test strategies
It is not exactly unusual to be nervous during an important assessment such as the practical driving test so entering it, and conducting it, in the right frame of mind is important. Prior to the test, eat and drink sensibly so that you don’t get distracted by hunger or experience the sudden urge to expel the litre of water you drank earlier.
If your examiner asks you to do something and you don’t hear or understand, just ask for the instruction to be repeated; he won’t mind!
Try to remain calm, keep your mind focused on your surroundings to demonstrate road awareness and, if something goes wrong, motor on. You are being assessed for your ability to control a car safely and to respond to challenges on the road; a minor fault here or there won’t necessarily go against you.