Dealing with Test Day Nerves

Have you got your driving test soon? Are you feeling overly nervous about it? Well you’re not alone, but try not to worry. Nerves are something that we all suffer with from time to time, but unfortunately affect some people much more than others.

In this blog, I will cover some really helpful information, tips and advice on how to help you feel fully test prepared and how to combat those nerves to help you achieve a first-time test pass.

You Are Test Ready

If your instructor has booked your test for you, or advised you to book your own test, he or she must really know that you are a safe driver and test ready. Instructors know the standard that examiners are expecting. You need to believe in yourself and know that you are capable of passing your driving test.

If you think you can…you probably will!

Mock Tests

Have you passed a Full Mock Test? If you have, then you know you can pass the driving test.

Take a Mock Test and then have a Remedial Lesson to work on any faults that you created.

The more Mock Tests you can have the better.

Make sure you are tested on all of the manoeuvres and the Emergency Stop.

Know the Manoeuvres

You will be asked to perform one of the following manoeuvres:

  1. Parallel Park
  2. Reverse Bay Park
  3. Forwards Bay Park
  4. Pull Up on the Right and Reverse

You may be asked to perform the Emergency Stop exercise.

You need to know how to safely perform:

  • Turn in the Road
  • Reverse around a Corner

You’d be asked to do one of these if, for example, the road ahead is blocked due to an accident. You’d have to perform it safely and effectively so make sure you’ve practiced.

Remember, above all the examiner is looking for safety. This is more about controlling your speed and making effective observations than it is about accuracy. Accuracy is important, but not as much as the other two elements.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Just as if you had a written exam, get extra practice leading up to your test. This can be private practice or you could take extra lessons in the week or two leading up to your test date. The additional expense is well worth it if you pass on your first attempt. Paying for more lessons and another test can get very expensive.

Know the Show Me Tell Me questions

The Tell Me questions are vehicle safety questions where you explain how you’d carry out a car safety task. You’ll be asked one Tell Me question before driving away from the test centre.

Watch the Spot On Driving ‘Show Me Tell Me’ video, but make sure you confirm how to perform the checks on the car you’re taking to test. Cars can differ a lot so this is really important.

You’ll get your test off to a really good start by answering the question with confidence. Ask a parent, friend or your instructor to test you on all of the questions well before you take your test. Don’t leave it until test day.

Practical Driving Test

You will be asked a Show Me question as you’re driving along during your test. Again, know how to perform the task in the car you’re taking to test and practice doing it on the move.

The examiner is checking you can do certain tasks, like putting the lights on or opening the windows, while keeping full control of the vehicle.

If you forget how to perform the question during your test, don’t worry. You will get a minor fault, but you are allowed 15 minor faults.

The Night Before There are several things you can do to get yourself prepared and ready at home the night before.

Doing the following will help to relax you. You don’t want to be awake in the night thinking about any of this stuff:

  1. Get all relevant documents ready. Read through your booking confirmation to check what you’ll need to take.
  2. Plan what you’ll wear. Nothing tight and restrictive. Preferably something you’ve driven in before. Appropriate footwear that is comfortable and not too heavy. Make sure that the soles of the shoe aren’t too thick. This can restrict how much you can feel the pedals. A smart casual outfit will give a good impression.
  3. Sleep well. Try to get a really good night sleep but if you do wake in the night don’t worry about it. Do some relaxing breathing exercises (see below) and stay calm.
  4. Eat and drink well. Even of you don’t feel like eating, remember that your body needs the fuel. Bananas are known to be packed with potassium, a mineral that
    serves as a muscle relaxant. For this reason, they are a popular breakfast or pre-test snack.

Know Your Driving Test Centre

Visit the Driving Test Centre before your test. Know what the parking is like, and how you will enter and exit on the day. If you are test ready you will be able to drive on the road, but knowing what to expect can help calm your nerves and give you confidence. If you’re not allowed to drive into the grounds when you’re not on a test, you could park nearby and walk in. Walking into the test centre grounds will give you more time to look around and discuss with your instructor.

Keep it Quiet

Don’t feel you have to tell everyone when your test is. You may feel like telling a bunch of friends but this may make you feel more anxious on the day, knowing that they are thinking of you and maybe sending you messages.

If people persist and keep asking you for a date, tell them a date a week or two later. You can then surprise them with your positive result.

Imagine their faces when you tell them you have passed your test…and they didn’t even know you were taking it!

Prepare Between Lessons

Use videos and books to help remind you of the skills you’ll need to demonstrate in your test.

There are lots of very good YouTube videos online, but make sure you are watching ones that are reputable. Don’t watch anything that tells you different information to what you have worked on with your instructor, it may be old information or incorrect information.

Work through the Spot On eLearning course. The videos, notes and quizzes cover all of the driving syllabus and will consolidate what you already know and remind you about techniques and what’s expected on the test.

Calming Herbal Remedies and Breathing Techniques

I can’t personally recommend any herbal remedies for keeping calm but they are known to help some people. The advice that I’d give is to try them beforehand for a driving lesson or Mock Test. Don’t try for the first time on your test day. It would be best to visit your GP and ask what they’d recommend for you.

I can recommend Breathing Techniques for relaxation and helping you to stay calm. This widely used technique can help you by making your body feel like it does when you’re relaxed. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body, when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.

There are lots of different techniques, but a simple one to use for your test is the 3 / 6 technique.

  • Breathe in through your nose for 3 seconds
  • Blow out through your mouth for 6 seconds Increase this to 7 / 11 if you are able, just make sure you’re breathing out for longer than you’re breathing in.

This technique can be used to help you sleep the night before and on the day of your test. it can be done discreetly anywhere and really works. Give it a go!

Arrive Early and Warm Up Drive

Get to the test area nice and early. You cannot predict traffic jams and accidents and any holdups like this are sure to make you feel more flustered and nervous.

You don’t need too much of a warm up drive, so if you live a distance from the test centre it may be best if you are driven there by your instructor and then have a 15-20 min warm up drive in the area.

Try not to practice manoeuvres just before your test. You know you can do them. If it goes wrong you may start to feel more nervous and tell yourself you can’t do it. If the accuracy of a manoeuvre goes wrong in the test, don’t worry, just correct it. That’s not a problem.

Talk to Your Examiner

Your examiner wants you to feel calm and relaxed, after all, you are driving them around for the next 40 minutes or so. Exchanging a few words and smiling at him/her will help you to relax and to see them as more human. Remember, the really do want you to pass.

If you don’t clearly hear or you forget an instruction, it’s okay to ask. This is the safe and sensible thing to do and the examiner is looking for safe driving techniques!

Ask Your Instructor to Sit In

Having your instructor sat in on your test can help some people to feel more calm and relaxed.

Keep the Car Nice and Cool

It can help to prepare the temperature control dials before heading into the test centre. You want to be nice and cool, but not cold. Being a nice temperature will help you to perform better.

Don’t Take a Test, Go For A Drive!

Throughout your driving lessons you are always aiming to be a safe driver, aren’t you? Well, don’t think about this as a test. Think about it as a drive. Listen to the instructions, ask for clarification if needed and drive as you normally do.

You’re Not The Examiner

Don’t try to judge your own driving during your test. Often, a learner can think they have created a serious fault, but the examiner only marks a minor fault.

Thinking that you have a serious fault will make you think you’ve failed, this can make you start to feel nervous again.

A technique to stop you thinking about a mistake is to start to commentate (talk) to yourself. This is easier than it sounds if you’ve not had a go at it before.

Look ahead and tell yourself what you can see so you can plan a safe approach. While you are telling yourself what’s ahead you have no time to think about what you’ve already done.

Try it…it really works!

This statement by Lesley Young, Chief Driving Examiner, sums the driving test up nicely.

“It’s normal to be nervous before your test, but if you’re properly prepared and your instructor thinks you’re ready, then there’s no real need to worry. Your examiner’s not trying to catch you out; they just want to make sure you can drive safely”.

Have a go at the techniques mentioned. Let us know what worked for you.

Best of luck with your test.

Ann-Marie Winterburn

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