What If I Know I’ve Failed During My Test?

Taking your practical test is a nerve-wracking experience, even for the most confident of drivers. For some, those nerves can turn into negative thoughts that may convince you the test is over before you’ve even made it back to the centre. Never assume you have failed. This kind of thinking serves no purpose but to disrupt your concentration and add to the stress of the situation. Which reminds us, be sure to go through our tips on avoiding test day nerves before you set off!

It’s really useful to keep in mind that your test does not need to be 40 minutes of perfect driving. The DVSA has taken into account the fact that learners will be nervous and having an examiner in the passenger seat isn’t exactly a normal driving scenario. You therefore have some leeway in that you are allowed 15 minor faults. If you mess up a few times, just breathe and carry on. You cannot see or assume how the examiner is marking your test, so don’t bother trying.

If you are completely convinced you have failed your test before it has finished, you basically have two options: carry on regardless or terminate the test. Both have their pros and cons.

Stopping The Test

The PassMeFast Emergency Stop Game in action

Test is Terminated by Examiner

Examiners have the option of terminating driving tests if they feel it is in the interest of public safety. In such cases they must consider the learner to be a danger to other road users. As you can imagine, this is very rare.

Test is Terminated by Learner

If you feel like you have failed during the test and do not want to continue, you do have the option to request that the test be terminated. Keep in mind that if the test hasn’t been halted by the examiner, they don’t consider you a danger on the road (which is always nice!) so it might be worthwhile carrying on. It’s also not unusual for the examiner to dissuade you from terminating the test. This is not necessarily a sign that you have passed or failed, it is simply down to the logistical issues raised when tests are terminated.

The ‘Walk-Back’

Man with backpack walking away from the camera down a country road

When a test is terminated by the examiner or the pupil, the next stage is referred to as a ‘walk-back‘. This is because, for insurance reasons, the examiner is unable to drive the learner’s car and so must walk back to the test centre. We’re heading into winter now, so this is a little cruel!

As for the student, you’ll most likely be left in the car in the location where the test is halted, waiting for your instructor to find you. If you don’t want to stay in the car, the examiner will give you the choice to walk back to the test centre with them. That’ll be nice and awkward. Of course, if you are with your instructor, they can drive you both back to the test centre. Then again, it’s unlikely you would halt the test with your instructor in the car—this action is really not recommended.

The only other times a driving test will be terminated is if some kind of accident occurs or the car develops a mechanical fault. Terminating tests is a serious decision. Considering how much money and effort you put into learning to drive, we’d think really carefully before taking this step.

Continuing the Test

The Downside

Hand emerging from rough sea

While the best advice is to carry on with the test, we accept that this can be very stressful. If you’ve managed to get yourself all worked up—and trust us, it happens!—this will not be a pleasant experience. No matter the state your head’s in, it is still possible to get your nerves under control and be strong. Just focus on the task at hand and it will be over quicker than you think.

Rather than terminating the test altogether, you can also request to stop for a second. The examiner should allow you to pull over (show off your safety skills here) and get yourself together. Avoid asking the examiner if you have failed—they are unlikely to tell you and it’s not appropriate to discuss results until the test is over.

Why it’s Still the Best Option

Moving on and continuing your test even when you think you have failed shows strength of character and gains you valuable experience. If you do fail, you’ll need to take another test anyway, so having a full one under your belt (even though you failed it) will serve as a great reference point for the future. Looking to appeal the results of your practical? Take a look at how to appeal a driving test.

On the other hand, you might not have been heading towards a fail in the first place. Carrying on means you’ve avoided sabotaging a perfectly acceptable test performance. If a particular mistake upsets you, continuing regardless shows the examiner that you can recover from errors quickly—which is an important driving skill in itself. It might put your mind at rest to study the reasons people before you failed their test. This gives you a good idea of the areas you need to focus on. Some of them can be real horror stories that should make any of your slip-ups seem minor in comparison!

It’s All About the Road Ahead

Nerves are to be expected during your driving test, but don’t let them take over. If you mess up and think you have failed:

  • Take a deep breath and try to put the mistake out of your mind.
  • Focus on doing your best for the rest of the test.
  • Don’t try to second guess what the examiner is thinking.
  • View the whole process as a valuable experience that will help you in the future—whether you pass or fail.

The best thing to do in preparation for your practical test is to make sure you have as much information on how you’ll be tested. Start by learning about the different driving faults and how they are marked on the test. When it comes to the big day, trust your instincts and try to maintain a positive attitude. It might be a good idea to decide if a manual or automatic car is suitable for you. From all of us here on the PassMeFast team—good luck!

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.