It’s one of the biggest days of your life so far, and while it’s taken you ages to get this far, the actual driving test itself will often feel as if it’s over in mere seconds. It’s natural to be nervous, and it’s easy to become flustered on the test itself, but if you take some time beforehand to prepare, you’ll be that much more ready and better able to deal with the stress of the test.
1. Make sure your car is ready.
Obviously, if you’re using an instructor's car to take the test, you can leave all of this up to them, but if you’re taking your parents’, car or your own, you need to make a few checks to ensure that it’s ready to go. It has to have current valid insurance, tax and NCT (if it’s old enough) certificates, and you must have your ‘L’ plates properly attached and displayed. The car must be registered here in Ireland, you can’t have a chipped or cracked windscreen and all the tyres must be of the appropriate type, correctly inflated and fitted properly. Tinted windows aren’t allowed and the car must be in good mechanical order.
2. Make sure you have your driver sponsor.
Your driver sponsor is the person you’ve nominated to help you through Essential Driver Training (EDI) and it’s most likely your mum or your dad. They’ll have to accompany you to the test centre and must be on hand to accompany you home whether you pass or not – you’re only allowed to drive on your own once your full licence has been physically issued.
3. Make sure you’re ready.
Don’t be tempted to jump the gun and try and pass the test after just a few lessons. It’s reckoned that the average driver needs at least 45 hours of structured driving tuition to pass, so don’t assume you’re going slower than anyone else when it comes to learning. Get your professional lessons set up, make sure you have plenty of free practice time and then you’ll be ready when you get to the test centre, rather than worrying that you’ve not done enough.
4. Practice makes perfect.
In busier city driving test centres, it can be hard to predict what route an instructor will send you down, but as much familiarisation with the roads in and around the centre is always a good idea. The more you know the layout of the roads, the more you’ll already be aware of the major danger points and awkward spots. It also helps to be familiar with the rights of way on the test route as sometimes they’re not obvious, and it’s easy to make a mistake.
5. Make sure you know the rules of the road.
Of course, you’ll have had to pass your theory test before this point, but you still need to know to recognise unusual signs, or be able to react appropriately to unexpected situations, so bone up on the rules before you go – you’ll need to know them.
6. Don’t listen to your mates too much…
We all know the pre-or-post exam drill — what questions are likely to come up, what certain people put down for certain questions and there’s nothing more likely to rattle your nerves than listening to stories of ‘so-and-so’s cousin who had a nightmare test…’ Ignore all the chatter and concentrate on getting things straight in your own head. If you’ve done your prep and practice and your confidence is up, you’ll do just fine.
7. Take your time.
If you exceed the speed limit on the test, you’ll be failed so keep an eye on the road signs and keep an eye on your dial and when practicing the local routes, get to know the speed limits in the area so you’re ready to react. While it is possible to fail a test for ‘failing to proceed with the traffic flow’ you’re much better off taking your time, not rushing and erring on the side of going a little slower.
8. Remember, it’s OK to fail.
Most of us failed our tests first time out, and forget stories about examiners failing people on purpose —the system is much more professional these days. Go in with confidence and expect to pass, but don’t be disappointed with a fail; it’s a hard test and it’s easy to make a couple of small mistakes so don’t get down-hearted if you don’t come away with a pink licence. Nothing wrong with trying again later.