As an approved driving instructor the examples I will be using relate to learner drivers, however the techniques used to cope with the test nerves are suitable for many other test situations.
Why Learners Get Nervous.
The UK driving test tends to leave even the most confident/positive person feeling nervous and apprehensive. But why should this be? Firstly most of us have taken numerous written tests and exams by the time we reach 17 years old (the earliest that we can take the UK test). However the driving test is quite different, not only is it a practical rather than academic test, but unlike most tests where we can put a line through something we have written if you make a mistake. When driving you cannot go back and have another go. So the learner driver has to make the right choices in real time without the opportunity to sit and think about it for a little while first.
In my role as an Instructor I usually ask my learners a few weeks before their driving test if they are nervous, and if they are, why. The most common reason for their nerves is that they are worried that they will make a mistake in a particular area of their drive.
So how can the learner deal with these worries? Well first we need to identify exactly what the areas of concern are.
What Are You Worried About?
If it was as simple as asking the learner this question then this will be a very short article. However we need to make sure we ask the right questions and use the answers correctly. Let me give you a real example from one of my past pupils.
A couple of weeks before my pupil’s practical driving test I asked her if there was anything that she was worried about. She said that she couldn’t do her manoeuvres. Now as her instructor I knew that she could do all the manoeuvres to the test standard, but wasn’t keen on the turn in the road (3 point turn) in particular judging the front and rear of the car to the kerb. So I asked a series of questions in such a way as to eliminate the areas that she wasn’t nervous about.
I asked:
Can you complete the reversing around the corner? Her Answer Yes.
Can you do both reverse park exercises? Her Answer Yes.
What about the turn in the road? Her Answer No! I can’t do that.
We had now moved from being unable to do any of the manoeuvres, to just being worried about one of them. Next I asked about this manoeuvre.
Do you understand how to do the manoeuvre? Answer Yes.
Can you control the speed of the car and still do positive steering? Yes.
And carry out effective observation? Answer Yes.
I was now left with the actual area that my pupil was concerned with.
Can you judge the distance to the kerb at the front and rear of the car accurately? Answer No.
Again knowing their driving I was able to ask the right questions next.
When we normally practice this manoeuvre, do you keep hitting the kerb? Answer No.
Do you occasionally stop a bit short from the kerb and need to take 5 turns instead of 3? Answer Yes.
Will taking 5 turns mean that you fail the test? Answer No, just a minor mark (driving fault).
I was now able to confirm to my pupil that the good news was that the only thing that they had to be nervous about was picking up 1 driving fault on their driving test (you can get 15 of these and still pass the driving test).
A few weeks later and with renewed confidence this pupil went on to pass their driving test 1st time!
By talking through the area that the learner is nervous about we were able to isolate the exact area of concern and deal positively with it.
If the nerves had been well founded, being about an area of their drive that was not as good as it should be then we would still have had time to work on this area and improve it prior to the test.
Dealing with Test Nerves.
Talking through our nerves is a great way of bringing them out into the open, where they are always easier to deal with. Hiding our worries away is never a good way of dealing with them, it’s a bit like sticking our heads in the sand, and it simply doesn’t help.
If you are coming up to a test then sit down and think or even better talk through your worries with someone you trust to give you honest answers.
Possibly write down your concerns as seeing them listed will help you isolate your true worries. You can then ask your teacher or instructor about these worries, so that, as detailed above you can deal with these worries in a positive, constructive manner.
Confront the reasons for your nerves head on. Then you will be ready to deal with your test, and achieve the result you want.
By facing up to your nerves you can deal with them rather than letting your nerves beat you.
Good luck.
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Author's Bio: 

Colin Brown DSA ADI has been an Approved Driving Instructor since 1996. With particular intrests in how we learn and cope with pressure and nerves. If you want to know more about learning to drive in the UK please visit my websites and