What is a driving test?

An obvious question you may think but my answer will hopefully offer food for thought.

Pupils instinctively worry to some extent about their driving test once the date is booked. To mitigate this pressure, which they do not need to deal with, I offer the following thought:

One day you and I shall be walking side by side towards the driving test centre. We will have made certain that you know within yourself that you are above the standard required for the complete syllabus, and further to that you will have a complete understanding of the test that you are about to take!

To gain a full driving licence in the UK it is a legal formality that you have to pass a practical driving test. Fair enough; but you have already been tested on every aspect of driving and gained the experience and confidence required to drive consistently above the required standard. It is fair to say then that for a properly trained candidate the test can be viewed as more of a legal formality. I would be lying if I said that this approach takes away the nerves for every pupil.

It certainly helps to offer them a different way of looking at that date on their calendar.

If I stall on my driving test will I fail?

I cannot even estimate the number of times that pupils, especially those with a driving test already booked, have asked me the; “If I stall on test” question.

A driving test examiner will not fail you just because you have stalled the engine. I do not care what you have heard or which of your acquaintances has given you this information. You will not be failed just for stalling.

Please allow me to offer you a thought: we are approaching a traffic light controlled junction very slowly and the lights change to green shortly before we would have stopped. You bring the clutch up and whoops, stall the engine. Now I may be wrong here (I am not) but the car is still rolling slowly in its intended direction of travel, you still have a green light, and nobody has died! You feel a bit daft but apart from that there is no injury.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the examiners are trained to judge each fault on its own merit. Not to take a more holistic overview at the end.

If your car is still moving

My advice to pupils in this situation is to restart the engine while the car is still moving forwards and carry on as if nothing had happened. If you can manage this then as far as the examiner is concerned nothing significant actually has. In this situation it is unlikely that the examiner will record a fault and even if they do it will be a driving fault.

If your car is stationary

If you have to stop, apply the handbrake, make sure you are in first (not third because mis-gearing is a common reason for stalling in this situation) gear, restart the engine and move off with a minimum of fuss. In this situation because you have stopped the examiner has to take into account how significant, if at all, disruption to other road users has been because of your stall but as long as you restart the car and move off in a timely manner with a minimum of fuss you would only receive a serious fault if in the opinion of the examiner there had been disruption to other traffic.

Do not do this!

The last thing that the examiner wishes to see if you stall is the application of some bloody great big re-start procedure. Imagine the first situation where you are still rolling. Some people have been taught to do the following:

Stop the car, apply the handbrake, select neutral, cancel any indication, restart the engine, prepare the car to move, perform an all around observation, indicate as necessary then move off.

Seriously! I have met newly qualified instructors who were trained to teach this. Either myself or another experienced instructor in the test centre soon advises that they change their tuition.

Examiners are not out to get you

If you stall more than once on a side road with no other traffic around but do regain control and continue without them having to advise then it will not be viewed too seriously.

Obviously the number of stalls is taken into consideration and each can be marked as a driving fault.

There is a certain amount of nervousness that is expected on test day and I assure you, if driving test examiners failed everyone who ever stalled then the number of passes given out at any test centre in any given week would be significantly reduced.

What are driving test examiners like?

Understandably pupils are always keen to hear an answer to this question once they are further along in their development stage.  The answer often surprises.

Contrary to hearsay they are not animatronic creations of some nether world that are secretly plugged into emotionally screened charging points at the back of the driving test centre at night, to be dusted off and faced forward in the morning.  Such stereotypes are most unhelpful to pupils who are genuinely asking after the experience of others who have already taken their driving test.  Indeed the correlation between having failed a test for which the vocal friend will not accept responsibility and the rolling out of a negative stereotype is clear for all to see, once someone points it out to them.

In the real world: driving test examiners are simply government employees undertaking (pun intended) a days work like any other.  They are well trained friendly human beings who are not out to get you, or your friend.

At the beginning of the test: their assumption is that you can drive perfectly well.  Why else would you have paid to undertake the formality of demonstrating your standard of driving to them so that they can issue you a full UK driving licence?

For the ones who pass: well they get a funny looking pass certificate which brings them immense pleasure and a smile that will not fade for at least the remainder of that day and a full UK driving licence through the post within the next fortnight.  The driving test examiner gets to enjoy the best part of their job which is telling you lot that you have passed!  For them this is a dollop of their job satisfaction comes from.  Who wouldn’t enjoy telling someone that they had passed their practical driving test?

Unfortunately: not everyone does drive well enough during their allotted time.  Often the reason is nerves, pure and simple.  Every driving instructor that there has ever been is familiar with the experience of driving a pupil home who recognises that they did make the major mistake marked on the sheet but just cannot believe that they actually did it.  We fully understand this, as do examiners.

From long experience: I can say that after the test it is quite common to hear pupils say that the examiner was actually rather nice.  Pupils who have failed their test do appreciate the sensitive explanation in the examiners debrief that is the reality; rather than the brusk dismissal of their performance that some are expecting.

It is understandable that you will be interested to hear about the experiences of others in relation to a test that you are about to take.  It will help you if you see the responses in context though, and definitely the person that you should pay the most attention to is your driving instructor who has seen and discussed far more test debriefs than anyone else you may know.  I have seen literally hundreds.  The local motormouth has only seen their own; to which they were clearly not listening!