Learning to drive can feel like one long journey, at the end of which lies the all-important practical test. For certain people, it can feel like that final hurdle is never quite within reach. They don't trust their abilities and worry that they'll never feel comfortable enough to show off their skills in front of an examiner.
On the other hand, some people see the test like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—they just can't wait to get there and end up rushing towards it. While we're big believers in trusting your instincts, people in both of these scenarios can be mistaken, either because of a lack of confidence or too much of the stuff!
The main issues to bear in mind here are the fact that the practical test costs money, wait times can be considerable and failing is never fun. As a result, booking a test too early is not good for you or your instructor. In fact, it might actually be dangerous for you to be hitting the road without your ADI present if you're not fully capable behind the wheel!
To help you get some clarity on the situation, we've compiled a list of factors that might suggest you're not quite ready to take your driving test. If any of the following 5 signs apply to you, it's probably best to delay it a little longer…
You should know by now that driving isn't as simple as putting your foot down and getting from point A to point B. There are a range of different skills you need to master, which is why the process of learning to drive can be quite long. Once you've covered steering and observation, it's time to move on to gear changes and then manoeuvres and roundabouts and on it goes!
The driving test isn't like one of those school exams where only certain subjects will be tested, so you can take a gamble and only study a couple of areas (just us?). It's designed to test all aspects of your driving—as it should! Learning to drive isn't just about being able to jump through the hoops on test day, it's about setting you up to be a safe and secure driver for life.
So, before booking that test, think: do you really know your stuff?
Look, we get it, suddenly having control over a machine that has the ability to cause a lot of carnage can really put you on edge. Nerves are totally normal (and even to be expected) when you start your driving journey. Plus, when it comes to the test, the pressure and intensity of the situation means you'll struggle to be completely calm and collected—you're only human, after all!
Then again, if you freak out every time a new car appears and feel incredibly anxious about the prospect of driving on your own, you're probably not ready to take the next step. As we said, these feelings are likely to be heightened under test conditions, so take the time to build up your confidence a little more.
While it's true that you might not feel fully at ease behind the wheel until well after you have your licence, you need to believe in your abilities. Even if you're a good driver deep down, extreme nerves can cause you to make mistakes. If you commit a serious error during the practical test, you'll end up with a major fault and thus an immediate fail.
As a learner driver it's really important that you listen to your instructor and take their opinions seriously. They're the experts! If your instructor doesn't think you're ready for the test yet, they're probably right.
Good communication with whoever is teaching you is key to your progression. Think you're ready but your teacher disagrees? Make sure you get a clear explanation of why and work on the areas where you're lacking. Having your instructor take you on mock driving tests is also a really useful way to prepare yourself for the big day.
A few cynics have suggested that driving instructors sometimes delay tests in order to get more money out of their students, but this really isn't the case. We've met and worked with plenty of ADIs over the years and this has never happened!
Remember, when you pass your test it's not only good for you, it makes your instructor look great too. It's in everyone's best interest that you ace the practical, so trust those who are there to guide you.
Of course, everyone's different and learns at varying speeds, so there is no set number of lessons you must complete before being test ready. There are, however, some useful recommendations from sources of authority. The RAC, for example, suggest that learners complete around 20 hours of private practice (with a friend or relative) and 45 hours of professional lessons in order to be ready for the test.
It's natural that you want to get passed as soon as possible, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Driving is complex skill that takes work. You need enough time to get to grips with all of the different elements until you're performing them with ease and don't need any prompts from your instructor. Confidence is great (and doesn't come easy for many learner drivers), but overconfidence can be very dangerous.
Don't rush it—make sure you have enough space on the calendar to learn everything necessary before test day arrives.
Knowing how to drive a car is great, but you also need to be able to navigate the open road without any trouble. Sure, you can go through the motions with your instructor at your side, but can you adapt to changing conditions and make quick decisions when faced with potential hazards?
By the time you're test-ready, basic car controls will be second nature, leaving you to focus on what's happening on the road. Remember when you first started driving and you'd look down at the gearstick when changing from 1st to 2nd? That just won't cut it! All beginner habits should be completely ironed out before you think about heading to a test centre.
The driving test includes an independent driving section precisely because you need to be able to drive on your own. If you try to replicate previous driving experiences on your test, rather than letting the actual road conditions dictate your actions, things could get very messy!
This article isn't designed to put you off booking your practical test. As we've said, being a little nervous is completely normal and not necessarily a sign that you're not ready. We just want you to be in the best possible position to pass on your first go!
If you aren't lucky enough to pass on your first attempt, don't assume that you're not test ready—plenty of factors can get in the way of success on the big day. Acknowledge where you went wrong, dust yourself off and try again.
As long as you don't relate to any of the above 5 signs, you should be good to go!