Driving Test Faults Explained

Cartoon of Mark Sheet

Failing your practical driving test is a natural concern that crosses every learner’s mind. At PassMeFast, we’d like to make the process as smooth as possible for you, and put an end to any niggling worries you might be having. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to the different types of fault that examiners may be looking out for on your test.

Our theory is: once you know exactly what not to do, it should be easier to focus on what you should do! Don’t let yourself get too worked up about the number of different faults there are either. Examiners are sympathetic to the fact that you may be nervous. The test is therefore designed so that even if you accidentally make a small number of less serious faults, you will not fail. So let’s get stuck in!


Different Types of Fault

A typical driving test report
A typical driving test report

When it comes to your driving test, there are two types of fault that you need to be aware of. They are most commonly known as major faults and minor faults.

The vast majority of drivers will receive some sort of minor fault on their driving test. No one’s perfect, after all!

A major fault, officially known as a serious fault, is something potentially dangerous to you, the examiner, other people or public property.

minor fault, officially known as a driving fault, is an issue with your driving which, nonetheless, isn’t potentially dangerous. However, if you repeat this type of fault, it could become a major fault.

At the moment, learners will receive a paper copy of their driving test report upon completing their test. However, the DVSA have begun introducing a driving test app so that examiners can digitally record test results.

The Practical Driving Test Pass Mark

Driving licence

You will pass your driving test so long as you make:

  • No major faults
  • No more than 15 minor faults

Do you think you were failed unfairly? Check out this advice on how to appeal a driving test!


Common types of minor fault

Different types of sign
Make sure you pay attention to these!

A minor fault could be anything that is just shy of perfect driving in the examiner’s eyes. Some common examples of minor faults are:

Observation— or, rather, a lack thereof! Make sure you thoroughly look around you at all times to avoid receiving a minor fault for this. Remember, repeated minor faults can become major faults, so try to iron out any bad habits as much as you can before your test.

Hesitation—hesitating is a natural reaction when you’re taking your driving test. However, if the examiner feels that you’ve hesitated unduly, and are not capable of driving confidently and assuredly, they may give you a minor fault.

Awareness and planning—you need to demonstrate that you are aware of what other road users are likely to do. For example, you could receive a minor for this if you fail to slow down when a car in front of you is indicating to turn off the road.

Following distance—this kind of fault is most common on dual carriageways. You need to make sure that there’s enough distance between you and the car in front. This includes when you’re in a queue!

Of course, there are countless more examples of minor driving faults we could give. However, we just want to reiterate that it’s completely normal to receive a few faults.

Common types of major fault

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive list of major driving faults—it’s up to the examiner to decide whether you’re likely to put someone in danger.

Some of the most common major faults in driving tests are:

Observation—yep, observation has come up again! Most commonly, this means not looking around you enough. To avoid making a serious fault like this, you need to make sure that you thoroughly check all directions around you before you make a decision. Common times that people fall victim to this fault include pulling away from the side of the road, and crossing junctions.

Not giving the correct signals—for instance, leaving your left-hand indicator on after having completed a turn. This might not sound that dangerous, but it could seriously mislead other road users.

Poor lane discipline—for example, being in the wrong lane when coming up to a roundabout. Another example of this type of fault is crossing over into the opposite lane when going round a corner.

Lack of steering control—it’s normal to make a few steering faults, but if you steer too far left or right to the extent that you might endanger someone, this could be a major fault.

Inappropriate speed—this one should be pretty obvious! If you’re speeding, that will be an instant major fault. Don’t forget that you can also put people in danger by driving too slowly, so make sure to keep an eye on your speed at all times.

Can my examiner stop the test early? The PassMeFast Emergency Stop Game in action

In extreme cases the examiner does have the right to stop your practical driving test early. However, this happens very rarely. The test will only be stopped if you put yourself, the examiner, or other road users in a particularly dangerous situation. We go over this scenario in more detail in our article covering what to do if you think you have failed during your test. Spoiler alert—just keep going!

The dangerous situation could be any number of things—driving the wrong way round a roundabout, for instance. We’re sure that if you’ve completed a sufficient number of lessons, the kind of driving that would cause your examiner to stop the test simply won’t happen.

If your examiner is forced to stop the test early, this is known as a dangerous fault. It will result in an instant fail.


Driving Test Faults: FAQs

How many minors make a major?
You can make up to 15 minor faults and still pass your test—as long as you don’t commit any major faults. A particular number of minor faults doesn’t exactly convert into a major fault, but if you rack up more than 15 of them you will fail your test.

② How many minors can you have in one category?
Despite what you may have heard, there is no clear cut rule for this one. This is because categories vary so much in terms of how quickly repeated minor faults can result in danger to other road users. Repeated faults within the same category indicate a habitual fault. For some categories, like junctions, this may quickly convert into a major fault. For others, it won’t. The main rule on minor faults from the DVSA is that you can make no more than 15.

③ What’s an instant fail on a driving test?
Anything that constitutes a dangerous or serious fault. That is, driving that poses a danger to other road users, the examiner, yourself, or property.

④ What’s an example of a serious fault?
Driving down the wrong side of the road, failing to look before pulling out into a busy road, driving through a red light or stop sign… you get the idea!

⑤ What are the most common driving faults?
The most common driving test faults are things like poor observations at junctions, failing to move off safely, incorrect or insufficient use of mirrors, and failure to reverse park correctly.

⑥ Do you fail your driving test if you stall?
Stalling the car will not result in a fail, as long as it does not obstruct other drivers and you follow the correct procedure for re-starting the car. As with many things on the driving test, it all depends on the specific situation.

⑦ Is coasting a major fault?
Coasting (letting the vehicle move without the use of the engine, either by keeping the clutch depressed or staying in neutral) is not a good habit to get into. Again, there is no clear cut rule here when it comes to the test. It will be down to the examiner and the extent to which you do it. If it only happens once and is very brief, the examiner might just give you a minor. If it is repeated and leads to driving that is potentially dangerous, you can fail the test for coasting.

⑧ Can you fail your driving test based on the show me/tell me questions?
No; you’ll only pick up a minor fault if you get one or both questions wrong.

⑨ What happens if you fail a manoeuvre on the test?
Your manoeuvres do not need to be absolutely perfect. The examiner is looking for sufficient observations and good control of the car. If you feel you have over-steered or are too close to the kerb, for instance, you can start again. You will only fail based on a manoeuvre if your observations or level of control are poor enough to merit a serious fault.

⑩ How long do you have to wait for a driving test after failing?
If you do notch up more than 15 minor faults or make a major fault, you will have to wait 10 working days before taking another test.

There you have it! While it may seem like a lot to take in, these are simply the kind of things you will go over again and again with your driving instructor. By the time you take the practical test, avoiding these faults will be second nature. If you need any further reassurance, take a look at the top 5 reasons people failed their driving test in 2016/17 and explore the average number of attempts it takes people to pass the practical test.  Stay cool, focus on the positive, and you’ll be absolutely fine!

Do you need more advice about your driving practical test? Or, perhaps you’re stumped by your theory? Don’t worry—we’re here to steer you in the right direction!

By Ben Scott

Ben's had a keen interest in all things driving from a very early age, so is perfectly placed to offer you all the advice you need. When he's not behind the wheel you'll either find him stuck deep into a novel or riding his bike.

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