Want to pass your test first time? These driving instructors share their secrets for success

We speak to the driving instructors of the rich and famous (we're talking Adele, One Direction's Niall Horan and THE James McAvoy) about everything from how long it takes to pass, to staying calm during tests. Because who better to give us tips on avoiding commonly made mistakes when learning to drive?

Meet the instructors

  • Rebecca Ashton: I Am Road Smart
  • Gary Burgess, a London-based driving instructor
  • Noel Gaughan: Intensive Courses Driving School
  • John King: PASS Driving School
  • Nick Smith: Gold Driving Academy
driving instructors

47 hours of lessons

Believe it or not, Noel Gaughan, director of Intensive Courses has people ringing up looking to book their test after only 10 hours of driving lessons or after having had no lessons at all. “It’s about every fifth call,” he says. “The shocking part is it’s often their parents ringing up, who probably ought to know better.” Turns out, on average, a learner driver needs 47 hours of lessons before they are ready to take a test.

For everything about learning to drive from passing your test to getting parents to help buy your first car, use our learner driver content hub. Also make sure you have insurance when you’re learning to drive, use our learner driver car insurance comparison service to compare deals.

Check your mirrors

What are the biggest pitfalls for people failing their driving test? Statistically, not checking mirrors, not being observant at junctions and not responding to signals properly are all in the top ten reasons people miss out on that much-coveted pass.

“Usually, mistakes are made with observational things” explains Nick Smith, co-founder of Gold Driving Academy in Dorset: their mind is taken up with control of the car, and so they don’t see things, they don’t check around the car before moving.”

John King from PASS driving school in Kent agrees. “The mirror and signals, that’s the first thing that goes out the window, next thing that goes is speed and approach. They come up to junctions a little too fast, they brake a little too hard.”

car mirrors
Roundabout

Be confident

Noel, who Adele called “the Dumbledore of driving instructors” insists his students can handle big roundabouts, dual carriageways (and changing lanes at 70 miles an hour) and all of the manoeuvres, especially reversing around the corner, but lacking the confidence can be a real stickler during the test.

Just try and remember youre not going anywhere. Youre going around in a big circle for about 50 minutes. Dont panic to get there. Dont rush. Dont worry about what the examiner is doing, just worry about yourself” says Noel.

Stay calm

As it takes an average of 47 60-minute sessions before we’re ready to take (and pass) our driving tests – whether we spread those lessons out over months or do a five-day intensive course – we all need some tips on how to make the most of our time in the driver’s seat.

“Driving takes your full concentration – almost like mind, body and soul. Your head has to be in the right place,” says Rebecca Ashton, a driving instructor and commercial learning and development manager at I Am Road Smart

“Try to be calm. Try not to rush anywhere. Try to make sure you’re not overtired or not coming off a night shift.”

So having a wild night partying until dawn isn’t a great idea before a driving lesson, in case you had any doubts.

slow down
driving tips

Positive mental attitude

London-based driving instructor Gary Burgess says the key to learning to drive successfully comes down to PMA (positive mental attitude).

“Try and enjoy it. When you cook a nice meal, you want a good end result. It’s the same with driving: you want a recipe for a better drive. You’ll always come across something unexpected - I’ve been driving for 30 years and I’m still surprised - but that life experience is essential in becoming a better driver.”

More tips...

So, if you’re about to hit the road and get behind the wheel for the first time, or you’re a keen learner and looking to take your test for the first (or third time) there are plenty of tips to help you through:

  • Get rest the night before a test, so you’re not over tired for the test
  • You passed that theory test, so put it to use by revising before your practical
  • Remember, if you can do it in your lesson, there's no reason you can't do it on your test. So be confident
  • Give yourself enough time, plan your journey and get to the test early
  • Do something to calm yourself, whether it's meditation, steading your breathing or listening to your favourite song while you wait
  • Don’t focus on the examiner, focus on your driving
  • Don’t rush, make sure to remember your checks before pulling away
  • Remember to use your mirrors throughout
  • If you’re not sure, usually, the most logical solution is the best solution

If this article has tempted you to help teach your child the ropes check out our guide to teaching your child how to drive.

For the right first-time driver car insurance for you, check out our car insurance comparison service.

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