It is a very common thing for learner drivers, who are preparing for a driving test, to be nervous about it. They will ask friends and family members for hints and tips on how they can help themselves to pass, and what they should expect on the test. Whilst, I’m sure, a lot of that advice is really good, there are a number of stories, that have been around for years, that are simply not true. Most of you will have heard a number of these, and they are things that, as instructors, we get asked about all the time. Here, I will address some of the most common myths and explore if there is any truth in them at all.
Are Examiners only allowed to pass a certain number of people?
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most common thing we get asked about the driving test. The simple answer is no. Examiners are employees of the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency), which is a Government office, responsible for, amongst other things, conducting driving tests. Their performance is regularly monitored, to ensure that all examiners are working to the same standard. It would be massively unfair if an examiner had a set “quota”, and when that was gone, it was gone. In that situation, a candidate could drive absolutely perfectly, and would need to be failed, and similarly, a candidate may do something really dangerous, and still need to be passed. I can assure you all that that simply does not happen. If you drive safely, you will pass. If you make a mistake, then it is the examiner’s job to decide how serious that mistake was.
Are there certain times of day when you are more likely to pass?
I think this is a myth that goes hand in hand with the previous one. I’ve heard people say that they need to book a test in the morning, because if the examiners pass everyone in the morning, they fail everyone in the afternoon. Similarly, people sometimes look to find a test at the end of the week, or the month, for the same reason. Again, this is completely untrue. I also would counter that by saying, even if it was true, by that logic, if the examiner failed everyone in the morning, then surely, everyone in the afternoon would have to pass?!
Having said that, there are certain factors which may mean there is some element of truth in this myth. It is fair to say that if you take your test between 8 and 10 AM, or between 2:30 and 4:30 PM, then the roads will be much busier as people make their way to and from work or school, there will also be things like School Crossing Patrols (Lollipop Ladies) working too. Of course though, if you are capable of driving confidently and independently, then none of that should matter.
Are some examiners harsher than others?
Again, the simple answer here, is just no. A group of Weelz instructors attended a training day in Cardington earlier this year, and we looked at the way examiners are trained. I can assure you that it is an intense, residential training course, with a very low qualification rate. The majority of the course is looking at the way examiners are assessing faults in a bid to make them as consistent as is humanly possible. Every examiner working across the UK, is trained to the same exacting standards, and, as I alluded to earlier, they are assessed regularly to ensure that those standards aren’t wavering.
It is true that most test centres have 1 or more examiners who have a bad reputation, often with nicknames that spread round colleges, and Blackpool is no different (Although I’ve got no intention of sharing those here!). I also think that, if we were being completely honest, most instructors would have examiners they prefer over others. It is quite telling though that changes from instructor to instructor. What is absolutely fact though, is that every examiner passes people and every examiner fails people. Some may have a friendlier demeanour, or may deliver bad news in a happier tone, but ultimately, they are all doing a very difficult job, to an exacting standard. You can’t choose which examiner you get, so it does you no favours at all to go into a test with any preconceptions about examiners, either negative, or positive. Again, if you drive well, all examiners will issue you with a pass certificate.
You want to set your mirrors slightly “off” so that the examiner can see you checking them?
There are lots of “helpful” little tips like these around, and again, most of them aren’t that helpful at all. Most of these seem to come from an older generation of either parents or grandparents, so I suppose it may have ben true in a time when examiners weren’t trained to such a high standard. Your instructor will help you to drive safely though throughout your driving lessons, in preparation for the driving test. If your driving is good, then the worst thing you can do is try to change that to “play a game” to impress an examiner. If you check mirrors in pairs, it is nigh on impossible to do it without an examiner noticing. They are looking at you side on, so they see even the slightest eye movements. Other similar rumours include things like you are never allowed to cross your hands, or you need to change down gears individually rather than “block changing”. None of this is true, but if you do have any concerns with your general driving, raise them with your instructor who will be able to advise you.
Will I fail just for stalling?
There is no easy way to answer this question to be honest. What I will say though is that there are very few situations on a driving test that are black and white. An examiner is trained to assess each fault individually. They will look at how quickly you recovered the situation, whether it affect any other road users, whether there were any extenuating circumstances which may have led to the situation etc. Obviously, by the time you get to driving test standard, a good level of basic car control should be a given, but, everybody can be affected by nervousness, and there isn’t a driver on the road who hasn’t stalled a car. The basic answer is no, you won’t fail for stalling, as long as you rectify the mistake, and get going again as safely and as quickly as is appropriate. However, if you stall in a dangerous situation, or panic and can’t get going again, then yes, that could result in a fail.
Ultimately, the best advice is to focus on become a safe, independent, consistent driver. Once you’re at that standard, and your instructor agrees you are ready for a test, then concentrate on doing your best. You are much more likely to make a mistake if you are focussing on negatives. If your driving is always at that standard, then the driving test should be a fairly easy test to pass. Stay calm and do your best. Don’t approach a test focussing on what could go wrong, or you’ll end up failing because you were scared of failing!