Right Driver

Common mistakes that make you fail your car driving test

In this article we look at some advice from driving instructors about what are the most common causes for a person to fail their practical driving test.

Car problems

Turning up without enough fuel or with a car which has an obvious defect like a missing brake light. Check that there is enough tread on the tyres (at least 1.6mm as that is the legal minimum).

Lack of preparation

Being late or forgetting to bring both parts of your driving licence (the photocard and the paper counterpart) to the test. You will lose your fee in both cases. Also make sure that you can pass the eyesight test because the driving test will be stopped before you even start driving if you can’t read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres for a new-style number plate or 20.5 metres for an old-style number plate.

Not getting enough practice also comes under lack of preparation. Examiners can easily spot someone who has been taught by their parents because the bad habits are obvious.

Speed limits

It’s very easy to exceed the speed limit inadvertently if all the other cars around you are exceeding the speed limit. It’s also easy to accidentally go over the speed limit when you are travelling down a steep hill. Remember to change down a gear to let your engine shoulder some of the braking.

If you are moving from a 50mph zone to a 30mph zone remember that you need to be slowed down to 30mph by the time you reach the 30mph sign. If you are moving from a 30mph zone to a 50mph zone, don’t speed up before you reach the 50mph sign.

Don’t forget about temporary speed limits¬†around roadworks or school zones, or variable speed limits that might be marked by gantries over the road.

Failing to move on a green light

If you are not paying attention and don’t proceed when there’s a green light, expect the examiner to mark that against you.


Check that your following distances are at least two seconds. The only time that you might be less than two seconds is if you change lanes, slotting your car between two other vehicles, in which case you should immediately start dropping back to maintain the gap.

Using appropriate gap selection/failing to give way

Gap selection is where you will assess how big a gap is in traffic and whether you are safe to move out into traffic. If you cause another driver to swerve or brake then your gap selection is poor and you have failed to give way.

Stress and nerves

Stress and nerves can really affect your driving. They can cause you to not listen to instructions, or make rash decisions. Read our articles on affirmations and visualisation for more information about how to reduce stress and nervousness.

Checking your blind spots

Remember to look over your shoulder before you change lanes or pull out into traffic.

Failing to stop

If you don’t notice that stop sign and sail straight through, that’s an instant fail. Remember also that you must stop at a red light.

Make it easy on the examiner

First impressions count. If you are confident and friendly, your car is clean and tidy, and your personal hygiene is good, this creates a nicer environment for the examiner to work in. Examiners can’t fail you on any of those things, but by giving them a pleasant environment it makes them less likely to want to end the test early. Check out our article on foods to avoid eating before a driving test.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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Posted in Advice, Car