One of the biggest milestones for most people is passing the driving test and gaining the freedom of the roads. With decent public transport around Salford, I didn’t see much point in learning to drive—until I landed a job with PassMeFast and figured it was fate telling me not to push it off any longer. Though I was familiar with the ins and outs of the practical test, to say I wasn’t fully prepared for the bumpy road ahead would be an understatement.
This time around, we’re taking a look at my very own PassMeFast experience and how I ended up passing first time! (Trust me, it was not smooth sailing!)
Table of Contents:
- First things first
- Booking my PassMeFast course
- My first lesson
- Progression of my course
- Areas I struggled with the most
- The test route
- Hitting a bump in the road
- The big day
- The outcome
First things first
I started working for PassMeFast in 2017. After a few months of familiarising with the office and the inner workings of crash courses, I finally decided to take the plunge and get my full driving licence. I figured, if PassMeFast can help hundreds of other people learn to drive, they should be able to do the same for me!
Before I asked the PassMeFast team for help, I booked my own theory test to get it out of the way. (For those of you who don’t know, you need to pass the theory first—you need a theory pass number to book your driving test.) I headed to the DVSA’s booking system and found a theory test date one week away for September 16 at Salford theory test centre. After revising for the entire week, using the methods I’ve listed in my theory test revision resources, I passed my theory test first time.
With my theory test pass certificate to hand, I was finally ready to move onto the next step—starting my driving lessons!
|My top tip → Unless you want to fail your theory test and lengthen your learning journey, make sure you revise for it properly. Take a leaf out of my book and read my tips for passing your theory test successfully!|
Booking my PassMeFast course
I had zero driving experience before I came to PassMeFast, so I knew that I’d need the complete beginner course: 48 hours. When it came to picking a transmission, I knew I’d want manual—it meant that I’d have the freedom to switch between manual and automatic cars once I’d passed. Though most people coming to PassMeFast like to learn intensively, I knew that I wanted to take things slow, with lessons taking place only on the weekends.
I gave all of these requirements to the PassMeFast team and they proceeded to:
- Match me up with Greater Manchester-based ADI Ged
- Give my contact information to Ged so we could sort out my first lesson
- Start looking for a practical test at Cheetham Hill
In no time at all, Ged got in touch with me to get an idea of what my availability was like and to book in my first ever driving lesson!
|My top tip → If you’re not sure how many lessons you need, or what the process entails, give PassMeFast a ring. The Sales team are great at explaining what PassMeFast does and what you need. Or, if you’d prefer, you can give our course recommender a try!|
My first lesson
I’m not going to lie to you. My nerves were all over the place on the build up to my first driving lesson. I’m a pretty anxious person in general, so the idea of getting behind the wheel and taking to the roads really had the butterflies going. Luckily for me, Ged was pretty easygoing, so I didn’t have much to worry about. He met me at my front door, introduced himself and showed me to the car. We sat there for a few minutes as he discussed what we’d be going over in the lesson together.
Next, he took us to a quiet, residential area which would be the battleground for my first lesson. For the first hour, I learned about the cockpit drill, the different pedals and the process of finding the biting point. Once I had that down (mostly), it was finally time for me to start driving. I must’ve looked hilarious to any passersby—I was tensed over the steering wheel, driving at a snail’s pace. (Ged had to keep urging me to press down on the accelerator!) By the time I got home, my legs were killing me from how much I’d been tensing them when using the pedals!
Before finishing, I discussed my schedule with Ged and we both agreed to two hour lesson blocks at least once every weekend. This suited me perfectly, as I wanted to take things at my own pace. At the time, a lot of learners were rushing to get passed before the 2017 test changes. After talking it through with the PassMeFast team, however, they assured me that the test wouldn’t be any harder to pass with the new format. So, I told them to look for a practical test in early 2018 instead.
|My top tip → As nerve-wracking as it can be starting out driving, take a deep breath and relax. Your instructor will be more than experienced with helping beginners. If you’re worried about your first lesson, read up on our guide to what your first lesson will be like.|
The progression of my course
For the most part, I had two hour lessons once every weekend. It wasn’t always at the same time either. By mixing up the times a bit, I had the chance to experience driving on roads with varying levels of traffic. Sometimes, in the early mornings, I’d have the roads mostly to myself. When it got to the afternoons, however, I’d be facing heavy congestion and streams of oncoming traffic.
What I appreciated most about my lessons was the even mix of theory and practice. Ged would start a lesson by briefly explaining which road type or skill we were going to cover. He’d then get out his binder to show me example diagrams and explanations. Once I had it figured out in my head, I’d move onto actually trying it out myself. This definitely fit with my personal learning style—I like to properly prepare for things before going ahead.
For the first few lessons, Ged would drive us to the same residential area. It was here that I got to grips with basics like steering, lower gears, observations and pulling over safely. As my confidence grew, my lessons started right outside my house—with Ged directing me along a route of his choosing. Before I knew it, I was progressing onto roundabouts, dual carriageways and the driving test manoeuvres.
|My top tip → Don’t rush things if you’re not ready. If you need to take your time, opt for a semi-intensive approach. Rome wasn’t built in a day!|
Areas I struggled with the most
With how poor my hand-eye coordination is at the best of times, I kind of figured I’d run into at least one problem on my learning journey. I assumed, however, that after 10 hours or so, I’d finally get the hang of things and it’d be smooth sailing. As you’ve probably gathered, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Throughout my entire course, there were a few problem areas that proved to be the bane of my existence…
To say that the clutch pedal was my worst enemy during my learning journey would be an understatement. One lesson I’d be using it perfectly and the next, I’d be stalling five times in a row! (Is there anything worse than stalling a car?) When this would happen, my automatic reaction would be to panic. I’d think about the queue of drivers behind me and would end up stalling all over again in my rush to move.
With more practise, and Ged’s handy tip of switching to shoes with a thinner sole, I slowly mastered the clutch pedal. I was also able to overcome the instinct to panic when things went wrong. Though I still had the occasional struggle with the clutch, I let my calm head prevail.
If I had to pick my biggest flaw, it would be my tendency to overthink things. This became a bit of a running joke during my lessons.
I found that during some of my lessons, I’d be driving perfectly (or, as close to perfect as I ever got). I’d be cruising down the road without a care in the world. Then, the moment Ged would tell me I was doing well, my brain would decide to sabotage my efforts and make some kind of mistake.
It would usually go along the lines of:
Ged: “After the lights, turn right.”
Me: “Ok. After the lights, turn right…”
My brain: “After the lights, let’s turn left instead.”
(Or, I’d end up stalling just to mix things up a bit!)
It definitely takes a lot of work to relax when you’re driving, but it does eventually happen. Sure, it took me over half of my course to get there, but the important thing is that it happened.
I think most learners end up having a problem with at least one of the driving test manoeuvres. It’s only natural. You’ve got to memorise a lot of key information—from when to turn to what observations you need to make to overall timing.
I hated the manoeuvres at first, if only because it meant I had to be extra careful with the clutch pedal! At the time, it also seemed like there were a hundred steps involved in order to pull them off successfully. Though I didn’t want to practise them, Ged didn’t let up. We spent hours practising them in car parks and on residential roads until I felt like I finally had them sorted.
To make sure I was ready, I also revised the manoeuvres in my spare time:
|My top tip → If you’re a nervous driver, like I was, it can be all too easy to feel like you’re never going to be ready. Ignore this feeling. If you get through your course, you’ll have all the skills you need to fly through the test.|
The test route
During one of my lessons, I offhandedly asked Ged if he knew of any test routes. Though I knew that the DVSA had stopped publishing its routes in 2010, I figured that he might have one or two memorised. Ged told me that there was no point in trying to learn specific test routes.
This was due to a few reasons. Firstly, there’s no way of knowing what your exact driving test route will be—meaning you might end up memorising potential routes for no reason. Secondly, if you’re taking your lessons and test in the same local area, you’ll end up knowing the roads like the back of your hand by the time your test date rolls on by. Lastly, if you’re truly ready to take to the roads unsupervised, you should be able to drive in any area and on any route.
|My top tip → Don’t bother looking into test routes or pass rates. Instead, find your local test centre and take your test there. You’re going to be driving in that area once you’ve passed, so there’s no point in heading elsewhere.|
Hitting a bump in the road
I began my PassMeFast course in late September 2017 and finished it in late February 2018. Though it seems like a long time at a glance, it really flew by. Before I knew it, my test date was quickly approaching.
My practical test was booked in at Cheetham Hill on March 1 2018. Though I was nervous about it—on account of Cheetham Hill having the lowest pass rates in Greater Manchester—I was as prepared as I was ever going to get. Unfortunately, the powers that be decided to throw me into a complete tailspin. Heavy snow swept across Manchester and my driving test was promptly cancelled.
To be honest, I was extremely disappointed and annoyed that I’d gotten to the point where I felt ready, only to be told that I’d have to wait weeks to take my next test. The DVSA booked me back in for April, but I really didn’t want to wait. Enter: PassMeFast’s fast-tracking department. They intervened and managed to snatch me up a date less than two weeks later!
The big day
Date: March 13 2018, Time: 11:11am
Before the test
If I thought my first driving lesson was nerve-wracking, I had another think coming with my driving test. Even after going through some relaxation tips and steps to avoid test day nerves, my stomach was still doing backflips and caused me some major nausea. As tempted as I was to just sack off the entire thing, I knew Ged wasn’t going to let me off easy!
He showed up an hour before my test so that we could have a quick lesson beforehand. This is standard practice for PassMeFast courses and for good reason—it gave me time to relax and get all of my jittery nerves out of the way.
The hour flew by and soon enough I was parked up at Cheetham Hill test centre. We made our way to the reception area and met my driving examiner. After filling out the necessary paperwork, we were ready to start. The examiner asked me if I wanted Ged to accompany me on my test. I’d already decided I would, for these reasons:
- For moral support
- To give him the chance to see which roads/routes the examiner was favouring
- So that if I failed, Ged would be able to give me extra feedback
During the test
Show me, tell me
Once I completed the eyesight test, the examiner asked me to open the bonnet and tell them how I’d check that my engine had sufficient engine coolant. (Fortunately, I’d already studied the questions with Ged a few times!)
Things didn’t go as smoothly with the show me question, however. I was asked to show the examiner how to clean the front windscreen while driving. In my nervous state, I ended up showing them how to demist it instead. The examiner must have realised though, because she repeated her question and gave me the chance to redeem myself!
Out of the three manoeuvres available, the examiner asked me to demonstrate pulling up on the right. (I inwardly cheered at this—personally, I think it’s the easiest manoeuvre on the roster!) I hit the ball right out of the park with this one… except for when the examiner had to give me a nudge to tell me to stop reversing. In my defence, it seemed like I needed more space for it to be two car lengths.
For one half of the test, I followed verbal directions from the examiner and for the other half, I followed directions from a sat nav. Much to my delight, I ended up recognising most, if not all, of my test route. This was partly due to the fact that I’m a local and also because Ged had us practising all over Salford and Manchester!
You’d think that by the end of a 48 hour course, I’d be the perfect driver. Unfortunately, nerves have a way of getting the better of us.
On the approach to a roundabout, I slowed down and came to a stop. I forgot to switch to first gear, so upon moving, the car stalled. My heart sunk at this point and if not for the traffic behind me, I probably would’ve sobbed at the wheel. Instead of panicking, however, I started the car up again and switched it to the correct gear. After making my observations I proceeded onto the roundabout.
I ended up slipping up a bit later on in the test when I was asked to make a left turn, not too far on the journey back to the test centre. I didn’t switch down a gear on the turn, so I ended up going around the corner far too quickly. Fortunately, I managed to maintain control of the car with quick steering (go me!), but I definitely felt like I’d gotten at least one minor from it.
Additional mistakes include not moving down a gear on the way up a hill (leaving me to drive at a snail’s pace), and giving way to another driver on a mini-roundabout even though I had priority.
Before I knew it, I was back at Cheetham Hill test centre. After I parked up and switched off the ignition, the examiner started completing their feedback sheet. At this point, I started recounting all of the things I’d done wrong. I’ll be honest with you, I was convinced that I’d failed.
Apparently, I’m slightly more critical of my driving than the examiner was. She told me that I’d ended up passing first time with 8 minors! Using the feedback sheet, she walked me through the main parts of my test in which I’d made mistakes. It turns out that stalling the car on your driving test isn’t an instant fail! As long as you keep your cool, make your observations and react safely, you’ll be fine. Go figure!
The areas I picked up minor faults in were:
- Control – Steering – 2
- Move Off – Control – 2
- Use of speed – 1
- Following distance – 1
- Junctions – Observation – 1
- Awareness/planning – 1
After the test, Ged drove me back home. As a newly qualified driver, his learner driver insurance no longer covered me. (Plus, with my shaky nerves, I definitely wouldn’t have trusted myself to drive!)
It took me at least an hour to fully process everything. I really couldn’t believe that my learning journey had finally come to an end—or that I’d ended up passing first time! One thing’s for sure, I certainly couldn’t have done it without the help of Ged and PassMeFast!
Fancy delving into another first-hand driving experience? Check out how PassMeFast Sales Executive, Jordan, earned his licence!