How To Avoid Test Day Nerves

Light bulb surrounded by driving objects

When embarking on any kind of test, nerves are likely to creep in at some stage. This is completely normal. You can even try to use the extra adrenaline coursing through your veins to your advantage, as it does keep you alert and wired for action. However, an overwhelming sense of anxiety can be detrimental to your performance and, let’s face it, downright unpleasant. When it comes to the driving test, we don’t want you opting for the latter option of the ‘fight or flight’ dilemma your body is experiencing!

Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep nerves to a minimum and produce your best performance on the day. Whether heading in for your theory or practical, try giving these tips a go:

Preparation

Nothing reduces nerves like the sense that you’ve done everything you can to prepare yourself for what is coming. Repeat after me: research, learn, revise!

If you’re about to take your theory test, make sure you’ve studied the highway code, practiced hazard perception and attempted some mock theory questions (there are plenty available online). Alternatively, check out our ultimate guide on how to pass your theory test or test your skills on our theory test quiz.

About to take your practical test? Congratulations! One test is already in the bag. If you’re looking to do a bit of last minute cramming, there are plenty of useful resources on our website. Take a look at the test guides, memorise the different types of pedestrian crossings and have a bit of fun with the oh-so-popular emergency stop game (an office favourite).

Once you feel prepared in terms of driving knowledge and ability, it’s really helpful to organise everything else so that your day can go smoothly. This means having anything you need to take with you laid out the night before.

  • Comfortable outfit? Check!
  • All required documentation? Check!
  • Positive attitude? Check!

You get the gist…

Sleep

Kitten sleeping with paws up

A good night’s sleep is really important to set yourself up for a successful day. It’s inevitable that you’ll have a lot on your mind the night before a driving test and you may find it difficult to switch off. Nothing you come up with in the middle of the night is going to change the outcome of your test. On the other hand, showing up well-rested will be incredibly beneficial. It’s a no-brainer really! Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep before the big day. You’ll wake up feeling fresh as a daisy, ready to take on the world!

Time Organisation

Compass-style watch on arm.

There’s nothing worse than having to rush around before a deadline: it impacts your preparation and adds unnecessary stress to the day. Set your alarm the night before and leave yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning. It’s always a good idea to give yourself slightly more time than you think you need, to allow for any last minute changes or unforeseen circumstances.

Make sure you’ve double-checked the time of your appointment, planned your route to the test centre and know what time your instructor is picking you up (or when you need to leave if you’re going it alone). Having everything planned-out ahead of time gives you a bit of room to relax, clear your head and focus on what’s to come. If time permits (and you’re in control, so it will!) allow yourself 15 minutes to watch a funny TV show or listen to your favourite podcast. This will boost your mood and provide a bit of light relief for your brain.

Hydration

Nerves = dry mouth, dry mouth = uncomfortable. Staying hydrated gives you a clear head and generally makes you feel good. It should go without saying, but definitely avoid alcohol the day before your driving test. Start your morning with a big glass of water. If possible, bring a bottle to the centre with you and take a few sips while you’re waiting for the examiner. Don’t overdo it though—you don’t want to realise you’re desperate for the toilet when the examiner calls your name!

Eat Well

Bacon, eggs, spinach and toast breakfast.

Your Mum was right, a hearty breakfast sets you up for the day. Make sure you have a good meal a couple of hours before your appointment. Concentration and adrenaline both require fuel, so make sure your tank is full enough to get you through the day. Avoid foods high in sugar or unhealthy fats; these can upset your stomach and lead to a sugar crash before your test even begins. Opt instead for a nice mix of protein and carbs: eggs, toast, oatmeal, etc. Aside from the physical benefits, it doesn’t exactly help your nerves if everyone at the test centre is distracted by the loud rumbling emanating from your stomach (we may or may not be speaking from personal experience here).

Breathe

Really, you’ll be fine! If you are struggling to keep the nerves at bay, it’s always helpful to take a few deep breaths. You don’t need to be a qualified yogi to know that a long inhale through the nose and out the mouth can work wonders. Do this nice and slowly at least 3 times and you’ll feel more relaxed in no time.

Interact with the Examiner

Once the test begins, a bit of friendly conversation with the examiner as you walk to the car is a good way to ease any initial tension. Examiners are all different, though, so if you get the impression yours isn’t much of a talker and just wants to get on with things, take the hint. You’ve even got the option to take your driving instructor on the test with you, if you feel like that might help in some way.

If the conversation is flowing, don’t get carried away! This is a test that needs to be taken seriously and too much chatting may distract you from the road.

Be prepared for the fact that the examiner will have a clipboard and will be noting things down on it throughout the test. Try not to be distracted by this, what they’re noting down could be positive or negative. You won’t know until the end of the test so just focus on your driving.

Listen and Focus

Dark road with arrows pointing in opposite directions.

In contrast to your driving lessons, during the actual test instructions are often brief and do not give too much away. It’s therefore really important to listen carefully and focus on everything that’s happening on the road. Of course, if you don’t quite catch what the examiner has said or you feel confused, it’s perfectly acceptable (and necessary!) to ask for clarification.

Again, try not to dwell too much on the fact that you are under examination, treat it as a normal drive but make sure you are doing your best.

Believe in Yourself!

Yes, it may be corny, but never underestimate the power of positive thinking. It’s good to keep in mind that if you’re booked in for your test, someone (even if it’s just you) believes you’re ready. Everyone feels slightly nervous in these situations and some even begin to doubt their own abilities as the minutes tick by before the test. This is just your brain playing tricks on you.

Trust us, you got this!

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Just Try Again!

Chances are you’ll be absolutely fine. If you don’t manage to pass first time, don’t fret! It’s not the end of the world and you can easily book a new test. Plus, the second attempt won’t be as scary because you know what’s coming. Many who fail first (and even second or third) time go on to be adept, confident drivers. In fact, we can’t really be sure what the average driving test attempts number is, so don’t think about it.

The most important thing is to not give up. If you feel like you have failed your test before it’s even finished, make sure you know what your options are! For a bit of inspiration, check out some of PassMeFast’s very own students’ driving test pass photos.

To get started on your preparation and remain aware of changes to the driving test, have a browse through the blog—we update it regularly with the latest news and handy tips! Passed your test but still feel nervous about taking on the open road alone? A Pass Plus course could be perfect for you!

If you’re thinking about learning to drive with PassMeFast but don’t know where to start? Check out the 5 reasons to take a course assessment now! We also have some great advice on learning to drive in winter. It’s all on the PassMeFast blog!

 

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.