Most Common Driving Test Fails and Top Tips For Passing First Time

By: Amy Brown
tips for passing your driving test

You may have seen more learners on the road recently. It follows a pent-up surge of 450,000 cancelled driving tests during the pandemic. The backlog is stretching to 2022 and there are even long delays for those trying to book a theory test. 

Competition for driving tests has forced many people to take their test before they’re ready, snapping up cancelled appointments or simply failing out of practice. To help anyone anxious about a pending test, we’re looking at the most common reasons for failed driving tests and we’ve pulled together our top tips to help you prepare for the big day.

Top 10 Driving Test Fails 

According to the DVSA, here are the top 10 reasons for test failures. Note, the top two have remained consistent for the past five years. 

1. Not making effective observations at junctions 

When moving into a new road make effective observations and always make sure it is safe before you proceed. 

2. Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction

“Mirror, signal, manoeuvre” the old phrase drilled into every learner driver. Check your mirrors carefully before signalling, changing direction, or changing speed. 

3. Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions

Position your car as close to the centre of the road as is safe and avoid cutting the corners. 

4. Not responding appropriately to traffic lights

Make sure you check that the road is clear before you proceed, avoid going too soon as the lights switch to green and, whatever you do, do not rush to get through as they turn to red. 

5. Not having proper control of steering

Demonstrate smooth steering, steering too early or late can cause the car to swing out, or hit the kerb.   

6. Not responding correctly to traffic signs

You need to understand and react to all traffic signs, not giving the right response is something that catches people out often. Make sure to obey traffic signs giving orders and act appropriately to signs giving warnings and directions. 

7. Not responding correctly to road markings

Make sure you’re aware of the rules of road markings such as stopping in a yellow box junction when the exit is not clear and crossing solid white centre lines on the road; you’ll be marked with faults if you don’t follow these.

8. Not moving off safely 

Show good coordination of the accelerator, clutch, brake and steering when asked to move away on the flat, from behind a stationary vehicle or on an uphill gradient. Make sure you use your mirrors, observe all traffic, signals and select the appropriate gear to move away.  

9. Poor positioning on the road during normal driving

Your vehicle needs to be positioned correctly for the route you’re taking, position the car in the middle of marked lanes and only change lanes when necessary. Don’t straddle lanes!

10. Not having control of the vehicle when moving off

This includes moving off on a slope or hill, from behind a parked vehicle and at junctions. Common faults include stalling, moving off with the handbrake engaged, rolling backwards and not putting the car in gear correctly.

Thoughts from qualified drivers

The AA Driving School surveyed qualified drivers about the parts of the test that proved the most difficult. These are:

1. Reverse park / parallel park - 21%
2. Reverse around a corner - 11%
3. Drive at appropriate speed -  8%
4. Park in a bay - 3%
5. Observation - 3%

The parallel park and reverse park came out on top although they did not make the top 10 reasons for failure. 

Our top tips on passing first time

In 2020/21 DVSA revealed that only 49.8% passed their test first time, so here are our top tips to help you pass with flying colours.

1. Practice all the test routes 

It’s impossible to know where you will be going on the day of your test but it will likely follow a predetermined route. Familiarise yourself with the test routes and get to know the area around the test centre. 

2. Practice in different conditions

In the UK we all know the weather can be unpredictable so get used to driving in the dark, wet and foggy conditions. Practice come rain or shine.

3. Go over your theory, remember the meaning of road signs  

Before getting in the car with the examiner, make sure to take a look at The Highway Code especially if it's been a while since you took your theory test. 

4. Do a mock test before the real test

Take a mock test prior to the real thing. If you can book a lesson before your test to help calm your nerves, practice any maneuvers and ask your instructor any last minute questions.

5. Sort out your paperwork the night before

You will need your provisional licence and your theory pass certificate. Don’t forget your licence as you will not be able to take your test!  

6. Relax, be confident and keep calm 

Don’t forget to breathe; it's inevitable you will be nervous, but take a deep breath and remember what you’ve learnt. Good luck! 

Once you’ve passed your test, make sure you come back to MotorEasy to get your car protected with an Extended Warranty, GAP, Alloy, Tyre or Cosmetic Insurance. You should also check out our partners in your MotorEasy account area where you’ll find a whole range of discounts, whether you’re looking to buy, insure or accessorise your next car.


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