The first thing to remember is: Nerves are not necessarily a bad thing
For the theory and practical tests, a bit of nervousness can help your performance. Any actor or performer, or anyone in a high-stress job, will tell you that some amount of adrenaline helps them achieve good results.
Being too laid-back could mean you miss mistakes in the driving theory test, and in the practical driving test you may appear to be over-confident, and this will not impress the examiner.
Too much nervousness, however, will lead to the ‘fright or flight’ reaction, a known physiological reaction, a legacy that reminds us humans are also animals. This can lead to among other things, sweaty palms, increased heart-rate, loss of concentration, physical discomfort and a host of other symptoms. These are not helpful.
So: how can you keep your nerves at a controllable level?
The THEORY Test
Be prepared: this means not just ‘know your stuff’, but also, think about how you are going to deal with any nerves.
Cast your mind back to other written exams, the ones you failed, the ones you passed. How did you control/fail to control your nerves on those occasions? If you haven’t taken any written exams, think of other stressful situations and how you dealt with them.
Try deep breathing Concentrating on the simple action of breathing in and out not only increases the oxygen to your brain, but also helps you think about something else other than the ‘ordeal’ ahead. Be careful not to hyperventilate! Incidentally, having a cigarette will only increase your heart rate – the ‘calmness’ that smokers claim they feel is more to do with the action of smoking, not the nicotine.
Make sure you know where the theory test centre is and plan your route. You don’t want to be stuck in traffic, on the wrong bus or dealing with engineering works, particularly if the test is at 9.00am.
Visualise success Some people find that imagining a successful result will make this a reality. Try not to let thought of failure slip in – even if you’ve had a nightmare. Thinking it so won’t always make it so, but it goes a very long way.
Medication There are many herbal and prescription drugs to deal with ‘nerves’. These are not to be recommended, especially if you have never used them before. And anyway, the lessons you learn about how to control nerves the ‘natural’ way are good practice for the practical examination you will be taking later.
The PRACTICAL Test
Remember: the practical driving test is not a job interview or personality test. Follow the advice for the theory test, with the following extras:
Make sure you are confident enough to take the test and have had enough lessons. Arrange to take a mock driving test as near to the test date as you can. Your driving instructor understands and can tell the difference between silly mistakes made under stress and genuine problems that need to be solved and will tackle both.
Choose a test date which suits you: If you’ve booked a test date and something else more stressful crops up in your life, change it. Yes, learning to drive is important and a wonderful achievement, but if another part of your life has gone topsy-turvy, the chances are you won’t be able to concentrate.
Wear comfortable clothes:
Look smart and neat, but do wear something comfortable. You don’t want to be distracted by shoes that pinch or a jacket with tight underarms. If you are going to sweat, try wearing cooler clothes for the time of year – and not too much make-up!
Don’t be put off by an unchatty examiner:
He or she is concentrating on the job in hand. Not responding to your attempts at conversation (and if you’re nervous, it’ll probably only be meaningless babble anyway) is not unfriendliness, it’s professionalism. Adopt a similar professional attitude and you’ll get on fine. Examiners are human, even when they’re testing you!
Try not to be put off by a mistake:
Many people have made a minor error in the stress of the moment. If the driving examiner can see this for what it is, and you correct it immediately, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve failed. Take a breath and continue.
Medication and other drugs:
We all know the drink-driving rules but, if you are a drinker, don’t be tempted to have a few to help you sleep the night before. Not only could you still be over the limit, but if the driving examiner smells the slightest whiff of alcohol on your breath (or from your pores), the chances are you won’t be allowed to sit the test. If you have even a slight hangover, you’re hardly going to perform at your best, and it’s probably better to cancel the test anyway.
Because of the relaxation of the laws surrounding cannabis use, it is commonly misunderstood that this is not as illegal or dangerous a drug as alcohol to take before driving. Don’t even think about it.
If you take medication prescribed by a doctor, it might be an idea to check with the DVLA that it is permissible to drive with this. As above, herbal or other remedies are not a good idea if you’ve never used them before, and the ‘natural’ way is best. You don’t want to have to take something to calm your nerves every time you drive!
And remember the old clichés: You can only do your best! Think positive.
No cuts or bulges, 1.6mm of tread depth across the central 3/4 of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire circumference.
Q9. Show me / explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
If the steering becomes heavy the system may not be working properly. Before starting a journey two checks can be made. With the wheel turned slightly, maintained while the engine is started, you notice a slight movement in the wheel as the system begins to operate. Alternatively turning the steering wheel just after moving off will give an instant indication the power steering is functioning ok. Make sure you have checked the car has its handbrake on and is in neutral.
Q10. Show me / tell me how you would check that the headlights and tail lights are working.
Turn on ignition (if necessary), operate switch for lights, walk round the vehicle.
Q11. Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.
Turn on the ignition. Apply indicators and check all indicators.
Q12. Show me how you would check that the horn is working (off road only).
Turn on ignition (if necessary). Operate horn.
Q13. Show me how you would check the parking brake for excessive wear.
Demonstrate by applying the handbrake and when it is fully applied it secures itself, and is not at the end of the working travel.
Q14. Tell me how you would make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a collision.
For maximum protection the head restraint should be adjusted so that your eye line is level with the centre of it and it should be as close to the back of the head as is comfortable.
Q15. Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it (them), please don’t start the engine.
Turn on dipped headlights, then turn on the rear fog lights. Fog lights should be used when visibility is reduced to 100m or less.
Q16. Show me how you switch your headlights from dipped to main beam and explain how you would know the main beam is on whilst inside the car, please don’t start the engine.
Turn on dipped headlights, then operate the switch to change to main beam. Inside the car a blue light will show on the instrument panel when the main beam is in use.
Q17. Tell me how you would know if there was a problem with the anti-lock braking system. (Used only when the system is fitted to your vehicle)
An ABS warning light will appear on the instrument panel if there is a problem with the system.
Q18. Show me how you would use the demister controls to clear all the windows effectively, this should include both front and rear screens.
Turn on the ignition and direct the cars heating control to the windscreen symbol and increase the fan speed as necessary to clear the front windows. Operate the heated rear window switch to clear the rear screen.
Q19. Demonstrate how you would use your wipers and washers, to clean both the front and rear screens.
Turn on the cars ignition, (without starting the engine) and operate both front and rear washers.
Note: Failure on one or both of the show me tell me questions will result in one minor fault.