Driving instructor’s top tips for passing your driving test first time

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. 

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. 

Daniel Hutson
Motor insurance expert
minute read
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Posted 16 JANUARY 2020

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

How long does it take to pass your practical driving test?

According to Noel Gaughan, director of Intensive Courses Driving School, it takes about 47 hours of lessons and approximately 22 hours of additional private practice time to pass your practical driving test.  

Apparently, Noel 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.”  

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What are the most common mistakes that people make in their driving test?

The most common mistakes made by learner drivers taking their test is not checking mirrors, not being observant at junctions and not responding to signals properly.

“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. The next thing that goes is speed and approach. They come up to junctions a little too fast, they brake a little too hard.”

How important is confidence when taking your driver’s test?

Confidence is extremely important when taking your driver’s test and will up your chances of passing first time! 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 confidence can be a real stickler during the test.

“Just try to remember you’re not going anywhere. You’re going around in a big circle for about 50 minutes. Don’t panic to get there. Don’t rush. Don’t worry about what the examiner is doing, just worry about yourself,” says Noel

Will I be able to pass my driving test if I’m extremely nervous?

While nerves are to be expected, a calm, confident approach is what is sure to help you pass. “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.”

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

“Try to 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.”

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