No matter how capable or confident you are, your practical driving test is usually a highly stressful experience. It’s not just the anxiety attendant on any kind of exam, although that is definitely there. It’s exacerbated by the fact that many of the test elements are out of your control – other drivers and pedestrians have a terrible tendency to do their own thing! And then there’s the added pressure that comes from having spent around a grand on lessons and test fees already, and the absolute wish not to add to that figure. Combined, these things result in a huge amount of tension. And for many, it’s nerves that are ultimately responsible for test failure.
So, what can you do to keep your nerves under control as you get behind the wheel on test day?
Five Ways to Help Reduce Driving Test Stress
Don’t give yourself extra pressure
Too many people add to their anxiety by giving themselves extra pressure for passing their test. They either broadcast it around so that everyone they’ve ever met know that it’s happening, which adds to the embarrassment when it doesn’t. Or they set a date where it has to happen – you need to take your mum to an important hospital appointment, pick up your mate from the airport, or drive to attend a distant job interview. That sort of incentive never works. Because it makes the test even bigger than it already is.
Don’t doubt yourself
Over-confidence is a bad thing, but self-doubt is worse. If your instructor believes that you’re ready to take your test, then you probably are. So, do a little self-assessment. Bolster your confidence and gird your loins, then go in with an ‘I can’ attitude. It’ll help more than you think.
Take a mock test
Most fears are at least partially powered by the unknown. And this is unquestionably the case with driving tests. You don’t know what to expect. Sure; the tester is going to ask you to sit behind the wheel and drive the car. But the format isn’t like a normal lesson. Both the anticipation and the reality of this feed anxiety, which taking a mock test can help to combat. Mock tests introduce you to one of your potential test routes and allow you to get used to the formal atmosphere of the test car, as well as the likely structure. Knowing what to expect won’t dispel all your nerves, but it can be half the battle.
Eat and drink sensibly on the day
You might feel too anxious to eat, but your body needs food to perform at its best. So, go for some brain food first thing in the morning. It will aid concentration and help to stop your blood sugar from dropping too low and giving you the jitters… And while we’re talking of jitters, stay clear of caffeine on the morning of your test. Yes, it can make you feel sharper, but it is also known to increase agitation. And that’s the last thing you need on test day.
Give yourself time
The worst thing you can do on test day is to not leave yourself enough time. If you’re running late, you’ll be anxious before you start. So, set off early. Reach the test centre with about 15-20 minutes of prep time to spare. Pop in for a wee, so you don’t have to sit through the test with your legs mentally crossed. Then sit and breathe for a few minutes. Gather your thoughts and get ready to go.
Driving tests are stressful. They are. Its in their nature. But it is possible to take steps to handle that stress as you prepare for the big day. And if gets the better of you this time, then don’t beat yourself up. You’re human. And you know what? Most people fail their driving test first time. So, get back in that car, take a breath and learn from your experiences.