Driving test experts share their top tips for learners looking to pass in London

Learning to drive isn’t easy! Not only is it proving tricky to get a great instructor right now – with over half (50%) having a learner waiting list of six months or more – but when you’re finally feeling ready to try for your full licence, there is now a 14 week (over 3 month) wait for a practical test slot.

So, when that all important day comes around, how can learners in London ensure they pass without a hitch?

Emma Bagnall from Driving Test Success 4 in 1 app and Nicholas Shaw from learner driver car insurance specialists, Dayinsure, have shared some top tips and tricks that anyone planning to take their test needs to know.

Get on the waiting list for an instructor early
If you or your child are thinking about learning to drive, then it’s worth getting on the waiting list for an instructor several months in advance. Demand is really high right now and many instructors are reporting long waits.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you plan to take your test in an automatic – which is really popular in London right now (26% of new drivers in London got an auto-only licence last year, which is twice the national average of 13%), then there are fewer instructors with these types of vehicles.

In London specifically, it is estimated that 21% of instructors have an automatic car and demand is high, so waiting times could be even longer.

Doing your research and getting on a list in advance should mean that when you’re ready to go, lessons can start pretty much straight away.
Of course, it’s also essential to have a provisional licence sorted (it’s possible to apply for these from the age of 15 years and 9 months old) and learners need be at least 17 years old to take driving lessons.

Don’t assume that an automatic car will make things easier

According to a new study by Dayinsure, around one in three current learners in London are choosing to take their test in an automatic car.

Six in ten (60%) said they think it’s easier to get your licence in an automatic as you don’t have to worry about clutch control and changing gears. However, the practical driving test pass rates show that this isn’t actually the case.

Whereas the average pass rate in a manual car is currently 47%, this is just 39% in automatic cars, even though the test itself is the same.
In London, the average manual pass rate last year was a little lower at 42% and it was 38% for drivers in automatics.

The highest manual pass rate was in Tolworth near Kingston upon Thames (50%), and the lowest was in Erith in East London (32%).
For automatics, the highest pass rate in London was also in Tolworth (47%), and the lowest was in Yeading in West London (28%).

It’s also worth keeping in mind that anyone who takes their test in an automatic can’t then drive manual cars, which some people may find a bit limiting.

Practice, practice, practice

Whether you’re taking your theory or practical test, doing your homework, and getting lots of practice really is key.

For theory tests, tools like the Driving Test Success 4 in 1 app can help you get prepared, by showing you what to expect in the test scenario and building up confidence. Plus, if you’re prepared to put in the work and complete the learner plan, you’ll activate the Pass Guarantee which will refund your theory test fee back if you fail (T&C apply).

When it comes to practical tests, hours spent on the road with an instructor or licenced friend / family member can make a world of difference too. Make sure you have the insurance cover you need before heading out on the road though. Dayinsure offers temporary learner driver cover to take some of the worry out of practice sessions in the family car.

Trying out manoeuvres in a quiet car park on a Sunday evening is something that a lot of people find useful too, as these are the test sections that many people worry about the most.

Be aware of common fail reasons

The DVSA has released info on the top 10 reasons that people fail their driving test in Great Britain. These are:
Not making effective observations at junctions, including failing to judge the speed of an approaching vehicle and repeatedly not looking left when turning left.
Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction, including when exiting a roundabout or changing lanes.
Not having proper control over the steering, including steering late or mounting the pavement.
Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions, including obstructing traffic when you wait to turn right.
Not moving off safely, including not checking blind spots or making rear observations.
Not responding appropriately to traffic lights, including failing to react to a red light.
Poor positioning on the road during normal driving, including getting too close to the curb or using the wrong line on a dual carriageway.
Not responding correctly to traffic signs, including ignoring ‘stop’ or ‘no entry’ signs and driving in a buss lane.
Not having control of the vehicle when moving off including stalling or rolling back.
Not keeping control over the vehicle during reverse parking including taking too many attempts to get into the bay lines.
A lot of these are quite basic, day-to-day driving skills, so learners that have got plenty of practice in really have nothing to worry about.
This list can help to identify any tricky areas though, so practice can make perfect ahead of the big day.

Consider the location, date and even time of your test

It’s a myth that driving test centres have a ‘quota’ of passes or fails to give out, but it is true that it may be slightly easier to earn a full pink licence depending on where and when your test is taken – and if you’ve waited months, you may as well give yourself the best chance you can.

Test centres in city centres typically have slightly lower pass rates whereas those in the suburbs or more rural areas often have higher pass rates.

This may be due to cities having more cars and road users to be aware off, more speed cameras and changing speed restrictions, and lots of traffic lights. All of these can put learners on edge and throw them off their game.
That said, once again if these busy, central routes have been practiced then there is no need to panic or avoid them.

In London, test slots during weekday rush hours usually have slightly lower pass rates whereas those at the weekend tend to have slightly higher pass rates.
If you Google ‘Car driving test data by test centre’ then you’ll find lots of government data on pass rates by location and date. Learners can explore these pass rate figures for their local test centres to see when and where they’d most like to book in their slot.

It is worth keeping in mind that every test centre uses different routes and becoming familiar with those routes during lessons or practice sessions can also help build up all-important driving confidence. Booking a test at a centre with a very high pass rate is very unlikely to help secure a first-time pass unless the learner is also really familiar with that area and has got lots of miles in behind the wheel.

Only take your test when you’re ready

It’s really important that you’re not pressurised into taking your theory or driving test if you don’t feel fully prepared. Ask yourself…am I making silly mistakes whilst out driving, do I rely on prompts from my instructor, have I recently failed a mock test, am I able to control my nerves? If the answer is yes to any of these, then it could be a sign that you’re not quite ready. Talk to your instructor and remember, you can always push your test date back to allow you more time to get test ready.

Nicholas Shaw at Dayinsure added: “We’ve recently announced a partnership with Driving Test Success.

There is a natural fit between the flexible insurance product we offer learner drivers, and the online training tools provided by Driving Test Success. Both are ultimately designed to help learners to become safer drivers, get the freedom and confidence they need to take to the road and get their full pink licence.

With many facing long waits for tests, it’s key that when that day comes around, everyone feels prepared and ready. Getting through the theory element without a hitch, and then getting lots of experience behind the wheel are both really important and we believe that together, Dayinsure and Driving Tests Success can really support learners to pass first time.”

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