Driving test recovery

What happens if I fail my driving test?

‘That’s the end of the test and I’m sorry you haven’t passed.’

Once the Driving Test Examiner (DTE) has uttered these morale busting words there is only one thing most candidates want to do.  Get out of the car fast and bang their heads against the nearest wall!  If the following words are even heard they are rarely listened to and hardly ever remembered in any detail.

‘To help you I’ll explain why. Here is a copy of your driving test report’

The DTE will give feedback on all serious and dangerous faults.  This should include a description of when/where the incident occurred and what happened in the eyes of the examiner.  The examiner should also explain why the incident has been marked as it was which may be either the cause or the effect of the error made by the candidate.

Extract from DVSA form DT1 – Standard Operating Procedure for Driving Tests

‘If the effect is greater than the cause then the effect is marked. For example if a candidate approached a junction too fast and emerged – then the effect would be greater than the cause and although the speed approaching the junction caused the fault only the effect would be marked.’

Confusing?  It certainly can be and many situations can also be quite subjective. Especially when you consider the different seating positions they are observed from.  It is therefore not surprising that candidates often forget, or can certainly have difficulty repeating, the debrief points when they meet up with their driving instructor.

This is why I believe the DTE should be able to say;

‘I’m really pleased your instructor is here. And I’m sure they will be able to help you further.’

How will my driving instructor know what the examiner has marked me on?

At the start of the driving test the candidate is asked;

‘Would you like your instructor to accompany you on test and be there for the result and end of test feedback.’

If you answered yes your instructor will seat in the back of the car, usually behind the driver, taking no part in the test and observe in silence.  I always ask my customers if they would like me to accompany them?  Some feel that my presence will put extra pressure on them and some feel it will help.  Although my preference is to ride along I do not attempt to persuade the candidate either way as it is their test and the individual has to follow their own feelings on the matter.

Even if I do not observe the test I certainly come over the car to listen to the debrief.  Although instructors are not trained as examiners they do have knowledge and experience of what the examiner is looking for and how they might mark certain events.  Even just sharing the same vocabulary and being familiar with common terms and phrases makes it easier to interpret what the examiner is saying and what the candidate did to attract the mark they did.

More importantly for me, although not easy to do due to me being as disappointment as the candidate,  when I listen to the debrief I listen without an emotional attachment so that I am able to recall later exactly what was said as I read through the driving test report.  By doing this I am able to identify the cause which will naturally help avoid the same or similar happening again on the next test (for their is always another test!).

In some cases, and this happened to me recently when I observed a test, the candidate will drive differently on test than they have done during lessons.  This may be due to nerves a perceived preferred driving ‘style’ or some other reason. Knowing the candidate and knowing what they are capable of the DTE’s comments can be put into perspective and if the fault is out of character I will recognise this and can communicate it which can help ease the disappointment.

So what happens if the test is failed?  If I observe the test and/or listen to the debrief I am able to identify what happened, what should have happened and what needs to happen next time.  When the dust has settled and I meet the customer again,  I treat the ailment not the symptoms. Ultimately I will try developing strategies and skills that can be applied in all aspects of driving rather than just going back to the same junction, roundabout or stretch of road where the fault occurred previously.

At the end of the next test we should be hearing;

‘That’s the end of the test and I’m pleased to say you’ve passed’

The Practical Driving test

Two learners pass their driving tests in Hereford with just 6 minor faults between them!!

Great work from two lads for passing their tests and a big thank from me for being so receptive to input. Both guys had very different situations but similar difficulties finding time for lessons and practice with the complications of life getting in the way. Josh (17 years 3 months) and Colin (32) only took as many hours as was needed (16 & 6 respectively) during which time we worked hard and made the time count so they that were well prepared and ready to show an examiner that they had the knowledge and skills required to drive safely.

So what did they face on their driving test?

The practical car driving test can be booked online at www.gov.uk/book-practical-driving-test or by calling DVSA booking support on 0300 200 11 22. Candidates with special needs should declare this, so that appropriate arrangements can be made, if possible, to help them during the test.

Important – Do not use an unofficial website to book your Theory Test, as you may pay more than necessary, and your test might not even be booked.

To book your test you will need your driving licence number and possibly your Theory Test Pass Certificate number although the online booking system will know if you have passed your theory or not.

On the day of the test, the candidate must take their driving licence with them.  If they do not they will not be able to take the test and will lose their fee.  For peace of mind it may also be worth taking your theory tests certificate and booking confirmation even those these are not ordinarily needed.

The practical driving test takes place on public roads in typical road and traffic conditions and lasts about 40 minutes. It is designed to see if the candidate can drive safely, knows the Highway Code and can demonstrate this through their driving.

After checking the candidates identity and the examiner will ask the candidiate to sign the declaration on the test marking sheet.  This is to confirm insurance is in place for the vehicle to be used and that the individual is a UK resident.  The examiner will ask the candidate if they want their instructor, or another person, to sit in the back of the car during the test to observe and/or be with them for the result and feedback. Any person can observe as long as they are over 16 years old but cannot take any part in the test.  If you have a friend who is due to start driving this could be a good chance fro them to see what the test is all about!

The test begins with an eyesight test (if the candidate fails, the test will not continue). In good daylight, drivers must be able to read a vehicle numberplate, made after 1 September 2001, from 20 metres. If the learner needs glasses or contact lenses to read the numberplate, they must wear them whenever they drive.

All drivers must meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving.

Vehicle safety questions: ‘show me, tell me’


They will be asked two ‘show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions. The examiner will ask the candidate to show how they would carry out a vehicle safety check, and to explain how they would do it.

During the driving test the examiner will be looking for an overall safe standard of driving in various road and traffic conditions. This will include normal stops, an angle start (pulling out from behind a parked vehicle) and a hill start. The candidate will be asked to do one reversing exercises, such as reversing around a corner, turning in the road or reverse parking. They may also be asked to do an emergency stop.

The driving test includes about 10 minutes of ‘independent driving’, during which the learner will be required to follow road signs or a series of directions, without step by step instructions. This is much closer to the normal driving conditions they will face after their test and is designed to assess their ability to drive safely while making decisions on their own. More details about the independent driving section of the test can be found at www.gov.uk/practical-driving-test-for-cars/independent-driving-section-of-the-test.

Types of faults

There are three types of faults that can be marked in the test:

  • A dangerous fault – involves actual danger to driver, the examiner, the public or property
  • A serious fault – could potentially be dangerous
  • A driving fault – not potentially dangerous, but if the same fault is made throughout the test it could become a serious fault

Candidates can make up to 15 driving faults and still pass the test – but over 15 faults will result in the test being failed. If one serious fault or one dangerous fault is committed, the candidate fails the test.  If more than one minor fault is recorded in a single area the examiner can deem this to be a systematic error in the candidates driving style and convert this to a serious fault.  There is no minimum or maximum number of faults that can be recorded in each section and each and every tests is judged individually with all the circumstances taken into account.

At the end of the test, the examiner will tell the candidate whether they have passed and explain how they did during the test. They will also give feedback about the eco-efficiency of their driving. The candidate’s instructor can listen to this if they wish.

If the candidate has passed the test, the examiner will give them a pass certificate, and ask if they want their full licence to be sent to them automatically. They can start driving straight away, without waiting for their licence to arrive. If the candidate has not passed, they must wait another 10 working days before they can take another test but can book this right away.

After Passing the Driving Test

Passing the driving test is just the first step in a driver’s career. This is when the new driver faces their greatest risk, especially during their first year of driving. There is much that you can do to help your new driver stay safe on the roads.  Further details about the practical car driving test are available at www.gov.uk/practical-driving-test-for-cars.