Preparation For The Practical Test
A certain amount of nerves will show on the day of the practical test. This is perfectly normal. For some people however the practical test is a nightmare, affecting them far more than normal. It is so easy for your instructor to tell you that you will be all right. On its own this is no use to you what so ever if you are one of the people who are adversely affected by nerves. Performance related stress is the name for the stress that pupils experience before and during a driving test. The result of the test is extremely important to you because in many personal as well as financial ways you have invested a lot in learning to drive. Some pupils have the added pressure of a job offer depending upon the result as well.
There are things that you can do to help yourself through this time. Realising why you are feeling this way is a start. If you are reading this article before you have reached test standard then you are at an advantage because you have more time to come to terms with this. You have the opportunity to understand the problem and make the most of the knowledge here to help you reduce or at least manage the problem. If on the other hand you are reading this because your test is imminent then rest assured, once you understand that the situation is manageable you will feel more in control.
What Difference Can The Instructor Make?
Your instructor is your greatest allie in the battle against the nerve gremlin. Make no mistake about, your instructor knows exactly what you are going through because they have not only seen it many times before, they have been there themselves. More times than you have probably with the number of tests that they have had to pass.
Your instructor will not allow you to take your practical test unless they believe that you have an expectation of walking away with a driving licence. It is in neither their best interests or yours to do so.
You will have had to pass your instructors pre-test requirements before they will consider putting you forward for test. Areas differ but in all areas your instructor will insist that you can perform all of the standard manoeuvres on the first attempt and that any ringroads or fast dual-carriageways that you have in the area are familiar ground to you and that you can perform the necessary procedures on them with moderate comfort.
Your instructor understands the stress that you are under and has been positively reinforcing your abilities during lessons. You will have gained experience of driving on exactly the same traffic circumstances as you will be required to do with the examiner. It is not unusual for a pupil on test to recognise the roads that they are being taken down. Your instructor knows what tasks will be required and the situations you might meet and has thoroughly prepared you for them.
What Can I Do For Myself?
Sit back and look at this from a wider viewpoint. Part of the problem is that you are too close to it. You are turning it into something that it is not. Passing your driving test is important to you. It is not the be all and end all of your life. Everything carries on exactly the same afterwards if you fail the test as it was before, you simply take another one and pass the next time. Another thing that does not help is the fear of the unknown. The more familiar you are with the forthcoming test the better prepared for it you will be.
Remember that you will spend some time before your test with your instructor and that they will work with you to fine tune your performace on the day. They know that your state of mind is as important as your general driving standards. Your instructor has come to know you and knows how you will be on the day, they can take a pretty good guess even before you come out of the house. They have seen you in stressful situations before. Do you remember the first time that you pointed the front of the car at a major roundabout looking for a suitable gap? In the trade, instructors usually expect that test nerves will reduce the effectiveness of pupils by up to twenty percent. this is balanced by aiming higher than the minimum acceptable standard before you are put in for it. Everything possible has been taken into consideration without you having to do a thing.
How Should I Approach The Actual Test Day?
There are a few tips for the day of the test that help you to cope physically. There is no point in making things harder for yourself than they have to be. Make sure that you have had your full quota of rest. Even if sleep was not a possibility you should have been well rested the night before.
Do try and have light meals at your normal meal times on the day. Either a lack of food or a glut of it can create an upset stomach type of feeling that just makes things so much worse. Psychologically the work is just as much comon sense when you think about it.
Do not allow yourself to dwell on the test. Pre-occupy yourself with something else to take up your time until it is time to leave. Worrying never helped anyone. If you cannot help but think about the test try to minimalize these thoughts and comfort yourself with the knowledge that you have been professionally prepared and that unless your instructor was certain that you can walk away with a licence they would not have put you in for the test.
Put the telephone off the hook. Well wishers are not welcome at this time simply because they work against you in regards to the point above. Talking about the test makes you think about it and you will naturally worry more than necessary. That is simply part of the human condition I am afraid.
Some Advice On How To Cope On The Pre Test Hour
You will be aware that your test is near and for some that in itself can induce pressure. Your best ally on the run up to your test is your instructor. They will reassure you that you are up to the job and run you through a few things before you get to the test centre. the easiest way to get through this period of time is to concentrate on the matter at hand and perform the best drive that you can. Maintain the accuracy and observation to the levels that you have been taught and you will feel more reasured when you do get to the centre.
How To Cope With The Test Itself!
You are on your own now but the examiners are not ogres. Your examiner will introduce themselves and they are trained to be customer friendly. They will realise that you are nervous, most people are.
The best way to cope with the test is to work one hundred percent on the procedures that you have been taught from the very beginning through to the very end. Right from the time that you are asked to start the engine through to when the examiner asks you to pull up infront of the test centre again and turn it off. This might seem too obvious for words when you first read it but with the benefit of experience I can tell you that people have in the past relaxed part way through the test because they thought that they had done something wrong. This was not the case and they failed because of errors that they made after they stopped working one hundred percent.
The Routine At The Test Centre
You will need to bring with you, your letter of appointment, your theory test pass certificate and your provisional driving licence. Both parts if you have one of the newer ones with the photograph. Try not to be too nervous about the test. Easier said than done I know. Remember though that you have completed the full syllabus as laid down by the examining authority and you have already proven to your instructor that you can put this knowledge into practice.
Your instructor will use time before the test to take you through your manoeuvres and cover any ground that you have last minute doubts about. If the road surface is wet then practising the emergency stop is quite necessary. Your instructor is permitted to come with you on the test if you wish for them to. If you do want them to come with you then they will sit in the seat directly behind you, out of your sight, and they will perform a very convincing imitation of a statue.
If you have decided that you would like your instructor to accompany you on test it is considered politeness to ask the examiner if your instructor may accompany you. The best time to ask them is while they are checking your documents. The examiners do not mind in the slightest. There is a perfectly good reason for this protocol. It is your test and your choice. Not your instructors. The examiners are simply looking after your interests. By asking the examiner you are indicating your permission for the instructor to come.
For most people it is an easy decision to make. If you will feel better with your instructor in the car then they will be there. If not they will wait in the test centre. If you fall into the category of people who cannot make up their mind, do not worry. You can change your mind at any time until you leave the waiting room with the examiner. Nobody minds at all.
You will arrive at the test centre a few minutes early and wait in the waiting room. At the proper time the examiners will come out and one of them will call out your name. They will ask you to sign in a box at the top left hand corner of your test report form. This is a declaration that you are providing a properly insured vehicle for the purpose of the test and that you have been a resident of this country for the required amount of time. You will be using the same driving school car that you have taken your lessons in so the insurance angle is covered. While you sign the examiner will check your paperwork.
Once outside the test centre the first thing that the examiner must do is check that your eyesight meets the minimum requirements. To do this they will ask you to stop on the pavement and read a car number plate for them. As long as you can do so the test may continue.
The examiner will ask you to lead the way to your vehicle. Once there the examiner will ask you two "show me / tell me" questions which may need you to raise the bonnet of the car. After these you may get into the car. There are currently thirteen "show me / tell me" questions. When you get to the car you will get comfortable and wait for the examiner. You will have driven it beforehand so it is already set up for you. The examiner has to check the outside of the car and fill in the vehicle details boxes on the form.
Once seated the examiner will give you some information about the test itself. They will tell you that the test is approximately thirty five to forty minutes in length during which they will expect you to perform two of the standard manoeuvres and possibly an emergency stop. They will also reassure you that if an emergency stop is to be requested they will pull you in to the kerb and tell you first. The examiner does not want you to misinterpret a hand movement for an emergency stop signal. You will then be told to start the engine and follow the road ahead unless directed otherwise by either the examiner or road signs.
Your examiner will give you clear instructions on approach to junctions, when they wish for you to pull in by the kerb, move off again or perform a manoeuvre. The examiner will gladly repeat the instruction for you if you ask them to.
After the test has been completed the examiner will require a minute or so to complete the paperwork before they tell you whether or not you have passed. If you have failed they will give you an explanation of the driving faults that you have committed. If your instructor is not in the car they will ask you if they may listen to this debrief. It is best that they do, as they will have more time after the test to give you a fuller explanation if you require it.
Errors And What The Differences Are
On the test report form your errors, and everyone makes some, will be recorded. They will fall into three categories.
A driving fault mistake is usually a mistake on procedure that the examiner judges to had no bearing on the safety of drive.
You are asked to follow the road ahead at a roundabout. As you go around it the timing of your left signal to leave it is late. You have made an error in procedure certainly. There has been no effect on other road users though and the junction was otherwise taken correctly. The fault would be recorded as a driving fault.
A serious mistake is one that is serious enough to mean an instant fail for your test. This will be an error that the examiner judges could lead to confusion of other road users or even a potential crash.
To use an example of going ahead at a roundabout. The roundabout has traffic on it and your positioning is not as it should be. Because of your positional error other traffic has to change speed or direction to avoid you. You have committed an error that effects others directly.
The error is serious because potentially it could have lead to a collision. A serious error generally speaking is one which would lead to the confusion of other road users or lead to them having to change speed or direction as a result of your driving.
If the examiner has to take physical action to control the vehicle then the error will certainly be recorded as a dangerous one. To pass the test you have to score less than sixteen driving faults with no serious or dangerous faults being recorded.
Fourteen driving faults or less is a definite pass. If you reach fifteen faults then the examiner is allowed to use their discretion as to whether they think that you should have a licence or not. Sixteen faults or above is a fail.
Driving Test Tips
The examiner is looking for a safe and accurate drive. If you remember to follow all of the procedures as they have been taught to you everything will be fine.
If for example, the examiner gives the instruction, "at the roundabout I would like you to turn right please taking the fourth exit", you should remember the direction and exit number. People do forget though. If you find yourself exiting the roundabout at the exit before the one that the examiner asked you to take, do not worry about it. The correct thing to do is to finish exiting the roundabout safely. The examiner will change the test route accordingly and no mistake will be recorded on the report form. If you realised and jerked the wheel round to get to the correct exit you would have made several errors at the same time.
If you think that you have made an error that is serious enough to be judged as serious, and therefore a test fail; do not give up on the spot. You may quite easily be wrong. The examiner is the trained judge, not you. If you have a complaint about your driving test The Driving Standards Agency have produced a booklet entitled CUSTOMER SERVICE. The booklet sets out who they are, what their aims are, their service standards and how they put things right in the event of a complaint. These booklets are available at all test centres.
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