What to Do if You Fail the Practical Test

Road barrier

You know what’s worse than those nerve-wracking minutes spent hovering in the practical test centre, waiting for an examiner to approach you and tell you ‘it’s time’? The moment you’re told you’ve failed the test. Followed closely by the (seemingly) long, sad drive back to your house. Yep, we’re not here to sugarcoat—it’s a pretty crappy feeling.

The thing is, it’s also a feeling that just over half of the people who learn to drive will experience at least once. Now, this shouldn’t put you off. On the contrary—it shows that, if you find yourself in this position, you are most certainly not alone. It’s a setback that can actually be a really important part of the overall learning process. Embrace it! Plus, some studies even suggest that people who pass second time end up being better drivers.

Failing the practical test is not some huge blemish on your life story. Honestly, it’s barely a freckle. There’s a lot to keep track of when driving and nerves can affect even the most confident of drivers—not to mention those pesky driving test myths. It’s no surprise, really, that most people don’t pass first time. Dust yourself off, move forward and give it another crack.

Looking for advice that’s a bit more specific? You’ve only gone and come to the right place!

Do not give up

Hand emerging from rough sea

First things first: stop all the negative thoughts about jacking it in. You didn’t pay all this money and put in hours and hours of practice just to throw in the towel at the first hurdle. It’s unfortunate, sure, but definitely not a reason to stop!

If there’s a silver lining (and there always is) to failing your driving test, it’s that you now know precisely what to expect on test day. You can ask friends and family and read first-hand accounts but, unless you’ve taken the test yourself, you won’t know exactly what it’s like. Now that you’ve got one in the bag, you won’t be worrying about the unknown—so you’ll be able to focus more of your energy on the driving itself.

Look, immediately after failing the test it’s perfectly fine (and healthy) to acknowledge that you’re disappointed and feeling a little blue. Take a breather if you need it, get the bad feelings out of the way, and carry on.

Assess what happened

Yellow car with magnifying glass

Once you’re over the initial dismay of failing the practical test, it’s really useful to work out specifically what went wrong. Yes, you need to perform a driving test autopsy—which (hopefully) won’t be as gruesome as it sounds!

The most handy resource at your disposal for this task is going to be the test mark sheet, along with any other feedback from the examiner. Now, we understand that straight after hearing you had failed, you probably weren’t all ears when it came to the constructive criticism part. Not to worry. Instructors are usually pretty good at grabbing a quick word with the examiner before you leave the test centre. Your ADI should be able to suss out where and why you picked up faults.

Once you’ve got an idea of the areas you need to work on, it’s time to do just that. Learn from your mistakes and iron out any problem areas. This is also the perfect opportunity to bring up any other worries your may have with your instructor. They will be able to calm your nerves and assure you that you are test-ready. If in any doubt, it’s always handy to check out the most common reasons people fail their test. Chances are, you’re not particularly bad in any area—rather, nerves just took over in the moment.

Appreciate the stats

clouds forming percentage symbol on blue sky

Failing the practical driving test is not a scenario that can be considered out of the ordinary. In fact, the odds are slightly against you from the beginning. The pass rate for those taking the test for the first time currently stands at 46.7%. This means more than half of learners will fail their test on the first attempt! Again, don’t let this scare you—keep it as a reminder not to put too much pressure on yourself. If you’re curious about your chances the next time round, check how likely you are to pass on your second attempt.

Trust us, even if you’ve taken a few tests at this point, there will always be someone who has failed more driving tests than you. If it helps, you could even Google some of the more extreme cases to put your situation into perspective. We particularly enjoy the story of Christian, who needed 25 years and 33 tests to pass!

You may feel worse when everyone and their mother explains to you how quickly they passed their driving test, or expresses shock or pity that you didn’t manage it first time. Our advice? Don’t listen to other people—this is YOUR journey.

Seriously, everyone learns in different ways and at a different pace. Focus on yourself; whether Cathy down the road took one or five tests before getting her licence does not make a difference to your life. Smile, nod, and get yourself out of those conversations as quickly as possible!

Get back on that horse

Learning to drive

We get that it’s unlikely to be top of your list in terms of fun things to do after failing the test, but getting back in the driver’s seat as soon as possible is really important. Unless there’s a major problem with your driving (which is very unlikely) we’d also recommend booking another test almost immediately. If you’re facing any extra hurdles—learning to drive with dyspraxia, for example—don’t undo all of your hard work by giving up.

Now, the DVSA requires that you leave a gap of 10 working days before your next practical. Taking into consideration existing wait times and instructor availability, it’s a good idea to snap up a new test slot straight away. This will give you a clear goal to work towards. Organise the logistics first, and the positive attitude will follow. OK, so we made that last bit up—but it makes sense!

Be honest with yourself: the longer you leave it to retake the test, the more chance there is that you’ll end up throwing in the towel. It’s just human nature. You know it’s much wiser to keep trying while the knowledge is fresh in your mind. Why waste all of the work you’ve done up to now? You’ll just be making it harder for yourself in the future. Wait too long and you’ll have to fork out for even more money for refresher lessons. Worse still, there’s a chance you could put off obtaining this valuable skill for ever. The horror!


What to do if you fail the practical test

We know it can be crushing in the moment, but moving on and up is the best approach! Accept the bad news, pop your seat belt back on and book a brand new test: now’s the time to get yourself together and aim for second time lucky.

In rare circumstances, you may feel that your fail was undeserved. If you think you have solid grounds on which to challenge the way your test was marked, you do have the option to appeal the result. If successful, your mark will not be switched to a pass, but you may qualify for a free resit. We want to stress that this is not an avenue to venture down unless you have an extremely good reason. Always consult your driving instructor (and other relevant authorities) before taking such a serious action.

If you do fail the practical test, let PassMeFast take care of some of the necessary leg work. We’ll set you up with a few more hours of instruction and a brand new fast-tracked test. The rest is up you—and we know you’ll smash it!

For all the latest driving news and tips, keep checking in with 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.