Can't pass your driving test?

If you didn’t pass your driving test the first, second, or third time - don’t give up hope. Plenty of people keep failing their driving test and take multiple attempts before they get their licence. It's only those that pass first time that let you know about it.

Be practical and positive and think about what you can do to increase your chances of passing next time.

An instructor ticks a driving test checklist

The pass rate for practical driving test is currently just 48.9%, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

That means more than half of people fail their driving test, so if you don't pass first, or second time, you really are in good company. Thousands of drivers will keep failing their driving test.

Just because you haven’t passed your practical test yet, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t pass your driving test. You’ve already passed your theory test so you’re a good part of the way there.

What can you do if you keep failing your driving test?

As a first step, read these tips on passing your driving test and common reasons why people fail their driving test and see if any apply to you. This could give you some pointers and some areas to work on.

If it’s always the same thing that lets you down, like your manoeuvring, it may just be a case of putting in your practice hours. But if there’s no consistent or obvious reason why you keep failing your driving test, here are some other things you can do:

  • Change driving instructors

    If you’ve been learning for a while with the same instructor, it could be time to switch things up. It might be that your instructor has got complacent and isn’t picking you up on all the things you need to improve. A new instructor could make all the difference.

  • Take an intensive course

    If weekly or ad-hoc lessons haven’t led to a pass, consider taking a shorter intensive course. Here, you get intensive training over a few days followed by a test. That way, when you take the test everything should be fresh in your mind.

  • Go automatic

    Some people choose to take their test in an automatic car. If you struggle with gear changes this could take some of the stress out of driving. Your licence won't allow you to drive manuals, but with electric cars being automatic, you're less likely to miss it as time goes on.

  • Take driving lessons when it’s most busy

    Book your driving lessons for times when there’s lots of traffic. By getting used to busier roads and more potential hazards, you should find driving less stressful when you come to take your next test.

  • Choose a quiet time for your test

    Try to pick a quieter time like 11am for your test. That way you should avoid rush hour traffic and people doing the school run. A weekend driving test could also be a good choice if you know that traffic around the test centre is lighter then.

  • Take a mock driving practical test

    Important school exams have mock tests, so why not have one for your driving test? Your instructor can then pick up on any driving test major and minor errors for you to work on ahead of your real test. You can download the driving test report form to make the marking the same as the real thing.

  • Get more familiar with local roads

    Get to know the roads you’re likely to encounter on your test. Real driving experience is always best but you can do some prep without leaving the house. Virtual tours on Google Maps let you study junction layouts and what lane goes where at roundabouts for as long as you like.

  • Get driving practice as well as having lessons

    Getting insured as a learner on a relative’s or friend’s car could help you clock up the miles and boost your confidence. You need someone aged 21 or over who’s had a licence for at least 3 years to supervise your driving.

  • Try a different driving test centre

    Driving test centres can have quite different pass rates. For example, last year in Birmingham just 36.7% of tests were successful at the South Yardley test centre, while the pass rate was 46.5% in nearby Wyndley. When choosing a driving test centre, bear in mind that ones in cities generally have lower pass rates.

  • Don’t rebook until you’re ready

    There’s no need to rush things. Don’t rebook until you’re sure you’re ready to take the test again. But you might want to enquire about wait times in your area. Currently the national average wait is around 14 weeks. If you rebook your driving test and don't think you're ready when the time comes, you can always change your driving test date.

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Tips for driving test nerves

Your instructor shouldn’t have suggested you put in for the test unless they thought you could pass. So it's often nerves, rather than your actual driving ability that mean you keep failing your driving test.

Although it’s understandable to have some nerves about your driving test, don’t put extra pressure on yourself by comparing yourself to your friends and relatives. It’s your test, not theirs.

Think about what you can do to limit the pressure and give yourself a good chance of getting that licence and getting out on the road on your own.

  • Don’t book your driving test for a time when you’ve got lots on

    You’re trying to make the test less stressful, not more. Book your test for a time when you’re not going to be worrying about other things like exams or a big work project. If the timing doesn't feel right you can always change the date of your driving test.

  • Don’t tell anyone you’re taking your driving test

    No one needs to know that you’re taking your test again. You can do without the extra pressure of other people’s expectations. If you pass, that’s great, you can tell everyone. If you don’t pass, well no one needs to know.

  • Consider getting your family to book the test

    If your nerves build and build before your test date, consider whether you’d be happy to be surprised with a test date. Your family could get together with your instructor and get a date and you’d think it was just a normal driving lesson until the last minute.

  • Look after yourself on the day of the test

    Try to have a good night’s sleep and make sure you eat something before the test – bananas are good if you’re really not that hungry. Don’t overdo the caffeine and check beforehand whether the test centre has a toilet.

  • Pretend the test is a mock test

    Pretending to yourself that the test is actually a mock test can make you put less pressure on yourself on the day.

  • Don’t worry if you make a mistake on the test

    Keep positive all the way through the test – what you think may have been a major fault or a fail could turn out to be a minor fault. Few people pass their driving test without making any errors. The examiner is looking for competency, not perfection.

  • The examiner isn’t set on failing you

    The examiner is there to check that you meet the minimum standard needed to get a full driving licence. They’re not the enemy - a bit of small talk when you first get in the car could make you feel a bit more relaxed.

  • Remember to breathe

    Nerves can make you breathe too shallowly and quickly. If you feel this happening, focus on taking deep breaths. This should help you calm down and stop feeling so nervous.

  • Good luck on your driving test!

    Believe in yourself and you should pass your driving test. Then you can focus on getting your first car and deciding what car insurance policy is right for you. If you need more time to compare quotes after passing your test, you could also consider temporary car insurance

How many times can you fail your driving test in the UK?

There’s no limit on the number of times you can fail a driving test. So if you’re on your second, fifth, or seventh go it really doesn’t matter. Try not to focus on the number of tests failed and look forward to the moment when you pass and get your licence. You can fail as often as you like - you only need to pass once. The odds are in your favour.

Can I appeal a driving test fail?

You can appeal a driving test, if you think the examiner didn’t follow the law.

If you have proof they didn’t follow the law you can complain to the Driver and Vehicle and Standards Agency (DVSA). A driving test appeal doesn't turn a fail into a pass, though - if your complaint is successful you might get a refund or free retest.

If your driving test appeal isn’t upheld, you could take the examiner to court. You need to do this within 6 months of the test date in England and Wales, and 21 days in Scotland. There are more details on when you may have a case on the GOV.UK website.