If you didn’t pass your driving test the first time - or second, third - don’t give up hope. Plenty of people take more than 1 test to pass. It’s just that people who passed first time like to let you know about it.
Don’t keep blaming yourself – be practical and positive and think about what you can do to increase your chances of a pass next time.
First-time pass bragging rights went to 51% of those who took the driving test last year, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVLA). The overall pass rate was 49.8% - for whatever number test it was people were taking
This means that thousands of people a year fail 1 or more driving tests, so really you’re in good company if you didn’t pass the first time.
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 can’t pass your driving test?
Look over our tips on passing your driving test and advice for the hazard perception test. You should find something useful there. Just mentally edit out any bits that say ‘first time’. Check out common reasons why people fail their driving test and see if any apply to you.
If it’s always the same thing that lets you down, like your manoeuvring, you probably need to put in the practice to get it right. But if there’s no consistent reason why you keep failing your driving test, think about other things you can do.
1. Change driving instructors
If you’ve been learning for a while with the same instructor, it could be time for a change. 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.
2. Take an intensive course
If weekly lessons haven’t led to a pass, consider taking one of the short courses. 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.
3. Go automatic
More and more people are choosing to take their test in automatic cars. If you’re happy to stick to driving automatics, this could be an option. And don’t forget that electric cars are automatic so you’re ready for the future.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Take a mock driving test
Important school exams have mocks, so why not have one for your driving test? Your instructor can then pick up on any areas that need work. You can download the driving test report form to make the marking the same as the real thing.
7. Get more familiar with local roads
Get to know the roads you’re likely to encounter on your test. You don’t necessarily even have to go out on the road to do this. Virtual tours on Google Maps let you study junction layouts and what lane goes where at roundabouts for as long as you like.
8. 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 build up your confidence. You need someone aged 21 or over who’s had a licence for at least 3 years to sit with you and supervise your driving.
9. Try a different driving test centre
Driving test centres can have quite different pass rates. Last year in Birmingham just 34.6% of tests were successful at South Yardley, while the pass rate was 52.8% in Wyndley. When choosing a driving test centre, bear in mind that ones in cities generally have the worst pass rates.
10. 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. If there’s no pressing need to have a licence, don’t put pressure on yourself with an artificial deadline.
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Tips for driving test nerves
Nerves, rather than your driving ability could well be why you’re struggling to pass your driving test. After all, your instructor shouldn’t have suggested you put in for the test unless they thought you could pass.
While 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.
Consider 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.
1. 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 stressed already about things like exams or big work projects.
2. 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 be any the wiser.
3. 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.
4. 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 or not.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Believe in yourself and you should pass your driving test. Then you can focus on getting your first car and deciding what car insurance is right for you.
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.
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). While the result of the test doesn’t change, you might be able to get a refund or a free retest if your complaint is upheld.
If your complaint 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.