A driving instructor answers six common questions about driving tests

Hoping to pass your driving test this year? According to the DVSA, the average pass rate in 2023 was just 48%, with more than half being faced with another long wait.

Pre-pandemic, in 2019, the average number of people with booked driving tests in the UK was 234,000. Fast forward to the end of last year, this number had more than doubled, with 550,527 learner drivers having a test booked.

With the pressure piling thanks to the long waiting time, it’s key that you’re prepared and ready when it comes around – and don’t make any silly mistakes.

To help increase your chances of first-time success, B-Corp accredited car finance specialist Zuto has partnered with driving instructor, James Southall, who answers some common questions to help you get on the road as quickly as possible.

Q 1: As a driving instructor, which mistakes do you find the most common?

James says: “Recent official stats have listed the most common reasons for failing practical driving tests, from not using mirrors correctly when changing direction to not having proper control of the steering. Personally, when attending driving tests, I often see learner drivers trip up when it comes to traffic signs and road markings. 

“Usually, this is down to the nerves of the learner or heightened concentration on other things around them – such as pedestrians and other vehicles – meaning they become too distracted by important road signs and lane markings.”

Q 2: Is it true that you can fail for stalling the car?

James explains: “Simply stalling the car will not immediately result in a fail. It all depends on the frequency at which it happens and the impact on other drivers around you. If you stall just once and you keep it under control, this won’t stop you from passing. However, if you repeatedly stall or your car rolls back a considerable distance, this will likely result in a fail.”

Q 3: Does the location of the driving test impact drivers?

James reveals: “When it comes to your first driving test, nerves will likely contribute to your driving performance. This makes it important that you’re as familiar with the location as you can be. However, that said, also consider the busyness of the area too. 

“Often, driving test centres in busier areas have a lower average pass rate than those in rural areas. For example, last year, Benbecula Island had a pass rate of 93%, whilst Speke in Liverpool had the lowest pass rate at just 27%.”

“Different weather conditions can also impact drivers performance, so not only familiarise yourself with the local roads but also try to practise getting out and about in different conditions so that this is unlikely to throw you off if you’re unlucky with the weather on test day.”

Q 4: When does a minor become a major fault?

James says: “A major is often the result of an accumulation of any particular small faults. Remember that you can have up to 15 minor errors before it becomes a fail. For example, if they repeatedly signal late or too early, or driving too slowly in most speed limits. 

“That said, if a small mistake affects other road users, then this upgrades it straight away to a major fault. As an example, if you roll back on a hill start with no car behind you, small fault. If you roll back when a car is behind you, this is a major fault.”

Q 5: Do you think driving tests have become easier or harder over time?

James explains: “I would say that they have become easier in a way as they are now just 45 minutes, whereas previously they were 1 hour. This means a reduced number of parking manoeuvres are required – an area many commonly trip up on.”

Q 6: What is your biggest piece of advice for a learner driver hoping to pass first time?

James answers: “In most cases, it is okay to make a few small mistakes – in fact, it is expected. Take your time and use the road signs and markings to guide you. Also remember to make mirror checks obvious to the driving examiner, always checking your blind spot when changing direction or setting off. 

“At roundabouts, only enter when you’re 100% sure it is clear and safe to do so with enough time. If in doubt, wait a few seconds then go.”

Do you need to pass your test to buy a car on finance?

If you’re looking to get on the road this year with the help of car finance, it’s usually better if you wait until you’ve passed your driving test.

Lucy Sherliker, Head of Customer at Zuto says: “The type of driving licence you hold at time of application for car finance can impact your chances of approval. Those who applied with full UK driving licences in 2023 were twice as likely to be approved than those who applied with a provisional UK driving licence, looking into our data.

“Lenders will accept a test certificate whilst you wait for your full licence to come through if you’re needing to get on the road quickly.”

Photo by Patrycja Olszak