Driving test nerves

How to beat driving test nerves – part 1

You’re taking lessons and they’re going well – good news, right?

But now you might be secretly dreading your instructor telling you that you’re ready for your driving test.

Why? Surely it’s what you’ve been working towards for the last few months? When you pass, you can drive on your own! No more asking for lifts 🙂 What’s not to like?

But many people really suffer from ‘driving test nerves’. They know that as soon as their test is booked the butterflies will start. And as the test gets closer those butterflies will turn into a flock of woodpeckers! And they are scared that they going to fail.

But by following the ten tips below you can deal with those nerves and actually turn them to your advantage. And by doing so give yourself a great chance of passing your driving test first time.

Top tip 1: Practice Driving

“I’m still not sure whether I can pass; have I done enough? Maybe I’m actually cr*p and my instructor isn’t telling me because they just want shot of me!”

First of all, your driving instructor will not recommend you take the test unless they believe you are ready for it – so take comfort in that fact!:

To help you get into the groove, consider increasing the number of driving lessons and private practise sessions with family and friends in the fortnight leading up to the test.

  • Head out at different times to experience as many different road conditions and traffic flows as possible to get you in the best headspace possible.
  • By practicing something that you are nervous about, you’ll reduce your nerves instead of allowing them to become bottled up inside you.

Top tip 2: Keep Quiet

“Everyone expects me to pass – but I could fail and then look stupid. Actually, I’m bound to fail! It’s too much pressure!”

  • Tell as few people as possible that you are taking your test. Best to surprise them by saying that you’ve passed than to have the added pressure of people’s expectations piling on top of your own.
  • Only tell those who you want to know so they can offer the right support while respecting your space. Plus a hug from a loved one is guaranteed to reduce stress and nerves 🙂

Big hug

Top tip 3: Know the Test

“I have no idea what is going to happen on the big day – I mean, what are they expecting me to do?”

The driving test itself and what it involves can be an unknown quantity for many of us; yes, we know the kinds of procedures we will need to carry out but how is the test actually performed from start to finish?

If you have any questions, your driving instructor will have all the answers so ask them to take you through the entire process so you know exactly what to expect on the day.

What happens during the test, how long the driving test lasts and more

Then ask your instructor to do a mock driving test with you and, if possible, drive to the test centre itself so you have a clear image in your mind of what it looks like instead of letting your imagination run riot!

Find your local driving test centre

“Remember, it’s the unknown that scares us the most normally – and the best way to deal with nerves is to strip away the mystery.”

– Kathy Higgins, ADI, Liverpool.

Top tip 4: Eat, Drink & Sleep

“I know! I’ll drink seven mugs of coffee to help steady my nerves plus not eat – because I don’t feel hungry! And I could stay up all night to go over driving procedures!”

To make sure you have the right frame of mind for your test, it’s essential to look after your body properly:

  • Avoid large amounts of caffeine the night before and during the day of the test because it can add to any nervous energy.
  • Eat at the same times you normally would; your body and mind need food to help keep concentration levels up and to make sure you aren’t so distracted by a grumbling stomach during the test that you instinctively drive to the nearest McDonald’s Drive-Thru.
  • Eat a banana! Bananas are full of vitamin B which helps to calm your test nerves. They also contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into seratonin, the ‘happy hormone’.

Oh, and get to bed at a decent time the night before; no staying out late…

A good night's sleep helps calm driving test nerves

Top tip 5: Choose the Right Time

“I might have to do the test during rush hour – all those cars, all that pressure. Just no!”

Remember, you can decide what time and day you want to book your test on so it’s obviously best to book it on a stress-free day, better still a stress free week! In other words, don’t book it if you have exams coming up the next day or have another important event to attend. If you’re already nervous, the last thing you need is yet more pressure.

If you’re worried about rush hour, then choose a test time between 10am and 1pm.

Also, if you’re the kind of person who loathes mornings (we know that feeling…) then book a test in the afternoon. Alternatively, you may be at your most alert in the morning so book a time then.

Choose what’s right for you and your temperament.

Top tip 6: You DON’T have to impress anyone!

I tell my students to just do what they know – that they don’t need to impress the examiner. All they want is to see how you would normally drive during a driving lesson. No more, no less.

“Some of my students also tell themselves on the day that the examiner is not an examiner at all. He or she is another driving instructor who is having a look at the way I drive before taking me out for a normal driving lesson. Other people have tried imagining that they’re taking someone home and they are telling them how to get there (‘take the next road on the left’ etc).”

– Steve Watson, ADI, Brigg.

Top tip 7: You don’t have to be perfect either.

You don’t have to drive perfectly – the examiner expects you to make a few minor mistakes – so if you do stall or something, don’t let it affect the rest of your test. The examiner might think it’s OK. He or she might not even mark it down as a mistake!

Top tip 8: See yourself succeed 🙂

Many successful people – top sportsmen and women, leading politicians, wealthy business people, great teachers – attribute their success to the power of visualisation.

If you can ‘see’ yourself succeed, if you can ‘see’ the examiner giving you a pass certificate, if you can imagine how good you’re going to feel when he or she says ‘well done, you’ve passed’…then it WILL happen.

Doubtful? Don’t be. It really does work.

The Power of Positive Visualization
Visualization Techniques to Affirm Your Desired Outcomes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Top tip 9: Breathe! Ahhh…that’s better….

Learn some very simple breathing techniques too (like the ones featured here) to help keep any nerves at bay.

At the test centre clear your mind – remember those breathing techniques especially while waiting to be called by your examiner – and let your hard work and expert training take you through to a result you want and have earned.

“If you feel you need more than breathing exercises and planning to help you relax, try Neuro Linguistic Programming – it might sound like something out of sci-fi movie but it’s a great way to learn how to relax and focus your mind using tried and tested techniques that will help you through out your life, and not just with driving test nerves.”

– Kathy Higgins.

Top tip 10: Believe in Yourself

“I’m ready”

Remember, everything that you’re going to be asked to do in your test, you have done dozens if not hundreds of times before:

There are no mysteries or nasty surprises waiting to be sprung on you by an evil examiner clutching a clipboard with ‘Fail’ printed on it in big red letters! All the examiners I’ve spoken to assure me they really want people to pass. None of them want to say ‘sorry…’

You CAN do it!

Next read: How to beat driving test nerves – part 2