How to control your driving test nerves

Learner driving with instructor, day.

Published 3 August 2022
Last updated 17 January 2023

In this post, guest blogger Diane from L of a way 2 Pass shows how emotions can affect your ability to drive safely and confidently on the day of your driving test.

Your emotions and the driving test

Although it may not seem like it, emotions affect all of us, every day of our lives – especially when we’re about to tackle something stressful. The driving test is a good example. Some people are clearly nervous while others hide their feelings; but that doesn’t mean that they are calm and stress-free inside!

So let me ask you a question: How do you feel about your driving test? Calm, confident, relaxed and focused? Excited? Self-assured? Can’t wait to prove yourself? Or a bag of nerves, absolutely dreading it, and thinking of every little thing that can go wrong?

Well, to pass your test and become a safe and confident driver, you must control your emotions, rather than let your emotions control you.

The BEST way forward

To give yourself a great chance of success, you need to consider four factors. I like to sum them up in the word B.E.S.T.

They are:

  • Behaviours
  • Emotions
  • Sensations
  • Thoughts

Positive Behaviours, Emotions, Sensations and Thoughts will give you the best chance of success. They include reminding yourself that you have successfully completed driving tasks before, and are well prepared. However, if you experience negative BEST, it could prevent you from passing your test and becoming a safe, confident driver.

Let’s look at this in more detail:

Negative behaviours include missing road signs, rushing or hesitating at junctions, feeling unable to focus (‘brain fog’), not noticing traffic lights changing; focusing on a mistake that you’ve made, and not processing situations that require you to take action.

Emotions are usually summed up in one word and can include nerves, panic, fear, dread, and intimidation. Stress, anxiety, worry, fear of failure, doubt, anger and sadness are also common.

Sensations are the physical sensations that you may experience, and include heart racing, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking leg and lack of peripheral vision. They can also include butterflies in your tummy, gripping the steering wheel tightly, tensing up, holding your breath, nausea, and light-headedness.

Thoughts are usually a phrase, and can include things such as, ‘I hate tests’, ‘I always panic’, ‘I forget everything I’ve been taught’, ‘I know I’ll fail if I get this roundabout/manoeuvre’, ‘I hate being watched’, ‘I’m scared of people I don’t know’.

Of course you don’t always know what you don’t know. Your driving instructor will work with you to explore how you’re feeling about the test, but if you need some more help, the quizzes in this Driving Test Mental Health Course will help you to decide how mentally prepared you are. They also suggest ways to make sure that you’re calm, focused and confident on the day.

Giving your BEST

It goes without saying that it’s much better to experience positive BEST! Noticing every road sign, approaching every junction fully aware and in control, and processing all the changing road and traffic information. Feeling calm, confident (but not too confident!), and focused. Steady breathing, relaxed, in control of your body, no tightness, no butterflies; and fully able to concentrate. Thoughts such as ‘I know I can do this’, ‘driving on test is no different to driving with my instructor’, ‘I feel confident in my ability’.

If you feel that you already have totally positive BEST, then this is fantastic. However, if you feel that your BEST may sabotage you, then help is at hand. The Driving Test Nerves online course explores some psychological techniques to give you control over your emotions. You can also head to the Safe Driving for Life Shop and take a look at The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving. It’s packed full of tips to help you become a safer, more confident driver. It’s also worth checking out the “Examiner’s Tale” series on the Safe Driving for Life Blog.

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