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Over recent years I've seen that more and more say they fail their driving test due to nerves. So here are my top tips for tackling driving test nerves:

  • Practice

It goes without saying that if you are to achieve your goals you need to practice. One of the biggest problems I see and hear with driving test nerves are that people are just under prepared for the practical driving test.

  • Goal Focused Training

One problem within the driver training profession is that much of the training you under take is focused on passing the driving test. That's not a bad thing, as ultimately you want to pass the driving test and gain your driving licence. But....Its a fairly big but. You indirectly add pressure to yourself because you are trying to put your driving into a system that fits a certain criteria. This can often lead to added pressure and anxiety because you want to perform tasks in a certain way rather than being flexible. This type of approach and questions that are asked often start with the words. What would happen on test? If you training is goal focused you will not need to look at the test as a separate task rather your aim is to improve your driving and thus make you able to cope in all situations. If see this approach a lot with theory training. The questions are what trigger an answer. If the question is asked in a slightly different way then the student struggles to find the answer. It basically comes back to my first point of making sure you have enough practice.

  • How to remove test focused training

You need to remove the T word from all your driving lesson. The test is no different to what you should be doing post test and can apply on a regular basis day to day. Between lessons I drive in precisely the same way that I teach. There is just one aspect of the driving test that is simulated and I will explain later. Once you focus on becoming a safe driver, you are removing the focus on passing a driving test. Your aim is already higher than what is required for the driving test.

The item in a driving test that is simulated is the Controlled Stop. Its my opinion that to conduct an Emergency Stop safely it needs to be simulated, otherwise we would have people walking out at random during the test.

You can begin to see the ground work required. This comes both from the student and the instructor.

What practical steps can be taken to remove driving test nerves

  • Accept the nerves & own them

You need to own your nerves. Don't try to pass them off to someone else. This comment may seem a little harsh, but my point is you need to accept they are there and begin to deal with them. If you don't feel anxious you will at some point, so begin to understand how you will manage each and every situation. Try not to hide it away and hope the problem will go away. As we know during heightened pressure situations these nerves and anxiety attacks will re-appear. Once you know what it is and what it looks like you can begin to control it. Think of it as a point in your life that you can take control of. Tell yourself you will not become a victim.

  • How to look out for triggers

We have owned our nerves and anxiety now we need to look at triggers. Each attack on you will have a trigger. That could be the driving examiner coming out the waiting room. It could be the way he talks or smells. You need to recognise this trigger. It will take on different forms, but the feelings will be mostly the same. Sweaty hands. Shaking leg. Not listening. Tunnel vision. Shortness of breath. Once you know the trigger and when its coming you can begin to control it. Each persons way of doing this could be different.

  • What steps to take in controlling the triggers

There are a number of ways to control triggers. Some may or may not work and its good to have someone who can discuss this with you. I would look at ways of scaling your anxiety. This is a great formula to know when and where it is happening. You may not feel the same in all situations. Scaling your feelings can help to understand them.

  • What does it look like?

Our thoughts and feelings can take on very different roles. They appear differently to each person. Rather than just thinking about the emotional experience begin to think about the way it looks. Example: What colour is it? What shape? What are its general appearances? This will help you to see and understand what is happening and when.

  • Write it down so you don't forget

One great way of expressing yourself is to write down your feelings. Using the tools above make notes of what you feel, think at the time your anxiety kicks in. What did it feel like when it passed? When did it pass? What does it feel like before, during and after? Imagine now if you could actually begin to switch it on & off. Take control by understanding all the aspects of what is happening with your body. You are beginning to take the first steps to really look at the bigger picture.

  • Other possible solutions you can take

I've just listed a few others tips and tricks you may want to incorporate.

  1. Don't let everyone know you are taking your driving test

  2. Lock your fears away for a short period

  3. Use visualisation techniques (google may help). Try to imagine being someone who is confident.

  4. Give your fears to someone else for your driving test

  5. Use breathing and mindfulness techniques

  6. Take moments in the test to stay calm and focus on the task

  7. Place positive messages around your house

  8. Look at the positives of driving WHEN you pass

I hope this blog has helped. I try to deal with peoples anxiety from the very first lesson, but each person is totally different. We all have doubts about our ability and all need to find different solutions to what we think and feel. I strongly believe its possible to control these feelings. They may never go away but we can find a way of coping.


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