Driving test nerves
Driving test nerves and how to avoid stress on your practical driving test
Are nerves a bad thing?
Being nervous, to an extent, can be a big help on the day of your driving test. The adrenaline it causes can keep you alert and more focused.
Everyone from sports stars to politicians or even astronauts claim to have used nerves to their advantage at some point. So perhaps they’re not so bad after all?
Of course, there is a point where nerves can start to take over, preventing you from being able to perform at the top of your game.
If that sounds like you it’s not surprising (87% of test-takers claim they had some form of driving test nerves on the day of their test, according to The AA) , there’s plenty you can do to help beat those nerves.
How do you know if you’ve got nerves?
There are several ways that nerves or anxiety can display themselves. Their severity and the number of symptoms can vary from person to person.
The most likely signs of driving test nerves are:
- Feeling anxious – either before or during the test.
- Butterflies in your stomach – a feeling of sickness and a dry mouth.
- Hands are shaking – perhaps causing difficulty writing.
- A blank mind – during the test.
- Unable to get a proper night’s sleep
- Listening to (and believing!) unlikely stories – for example, about people taking only ten lessons and still passing on their first attempt.
- Losing your appetite and having low energy levels as a result.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a survey by the AA, 87% of people said they had nerves on the day of their driving test.
Tips for dealing with driving test nerves
First and foremost, remember that your driving instructor – who knows your driving better than anybody – thinks you’re ready to take the test. If they think you can pass, then so should you! So be confident. You’ve got what it takes.
Also, don’t worry about the examiner. Their job isn’t to try and catch you out. Instead, like you, they just want to make sure that you’re able to drive safely.
Here are some tips for managing your nerves before the test:
- Practice, practice, practice – of course, the most obvious way to help calm your nerves is to practise each manoeuvre over and over again. If you’re struggling with bay parking, don’t shy away from it. Go out and practice it until you don’t have to worry about it coming up during your test.
- Don’t tell anyone – one of the worst things about your driving test is worrying about having to say to people afterwards that you failed. Do yourself a favour and don’t tell anyone your test date (be sure to tell everyone if you pass!).
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes – make sure you look presentable but also be comfortable, for example, don’t wear high heels or flip flops).
- Get a good night’s sleep – this might be easier said than done, but do try and rest your mind and maintain your routine to ensure you’re feeling fresh the next day.
- Visit the driving test centre – become familiar with the surroundings of the test centre before the day of your test. Go inside, find reception and take a look at the car park.
- Book your test in the morning – there’s nothing worse than worrying about something all day. Book a morning test and get it over with (leave enough time for a lesson with your instructor beforehand).
If I am severely affected by my driving test nerves?
In some cases, people can be severely affected by nerves and anxiety. In the case of a driving test, you may find you have what is known as a fight-or-flight response – a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event (even a driving test!).
The experience of these kinds of anxieties is hard to control, but you must try and manage them ahead of your driving test. We recommend seeking advice from a trained professional; however, these are two popular treatments known to work for some people:
- Medication – your GP may be able to prescribe a ‘beta-blocker’ for anxiety. This form of drugs can help control your symptoms for the duration of the test and allow you to demonstrate your driving ability without being affected by severe stress.
- Hypnotherapy – this a well-tested treatment for reducing driving test nerves; it can help you focus, experience real clarity and make you feel alert. The deep relaxation techniques used in hypnosis can help restore your feeling of confidence and self-belief.
For further guidance on managing anxiety and stress, check out this helpful article from the NHS.