What is a Driving Test Fail

One of the most common reasons for driving test fails is that the learner thinks that a minor error is a major and loses all hope. They might stall the car or bump the kerb in a manoeuvre and the panic and despair kick in. From then on, all concentration is lost, the minor faults rack up and that’s it. Back to the driving lessons and waiting for a new test date. The best way to avoid this happening to you is to familiarise yourself with what constitutes as a major fault and do your best to avoid them!

What is a Driving Test Fail? Minor and Major Faults Explained

How many faults will make me fail my driving test?

You will fail your driving test if you make any of the following:

  • Fifteen minor errors.
  • Three of the same minor errors.
  • Or one major error.

The difficulty lies in fully defining major and minor faults. Largely because it can often depend on context. Failing to adequately check your mirrors when you’re on a quiet road with no other cars about could constitute a minor fault. But doing the same thing when joining a busy dual carriageway with dozens of juggernauts bearing down on you, well, that’s pretty serious.

What are major driving test faults?

Major driving test faults are separated into two categories.

  • Dangerous fault – this is an act that involves actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property
  • Serious fault – this is something that is potentially dangerous

Admittedly, this is slightly awkward to define when you’re driving. Not everyone who fails their driving test can have endangered life and limb. So, how can you tell the difference between a major and a minor fault during your test?

Recognising major faults

The potential for errors when driving is enormous, so we can’t give you an all-embracing list here. But what we can do is talk you through a few of the most common examples to give you a clear idea.

Bumping the kerb

Bumping the kerb is one of those heart-sinking things that you can’t help but be aware of during your driving test. But it doesn’t necessarily constitute an immediate fail.

Minor fault: Gently touching the kerb during a manoeuvre.

Major fault: A jarring impact or mounting the kerb.


Stalling is common, it can happen to even the most experienced of drivers. But it feels like you’ve blown your chances when it happens on your test. In reality, as long as you keep your cool and manage to restart without any further issues, you probably have little to worry about.

Minor fault: Stalling and restarting without further error.

Major fault: Stalling, panicking and restarting without taking the necessary precautions – failing to apply the handbrake, checking for pedestrians, kangaroo hopping into the road.

Poor observation

‘Mirror, signal, manoeuvre,’ is the mantra for all learner drivers. Everyone knows that you need to be seen to be checking your mirrors when driving. Poor observation can lead to a driving test fail. But it’s not a given.

Minor fault: Failing to demonstrate enough observation in a place of little potential risk.

Major fault: Failing to check your surroundings during manoeuvres and high traffic areas that could pose potential risk.

These are just a few examples, but it gives you an idea of how important context is when assessing driving test pass or failure.

The lesson here is really two-fold. Be aware. And don’t panic. Unless you’ve actually crashed your vehicle or harmed a pedestrian or property, you won’t really know if you’ve passed or failed your test until you’ve returned to the test centre and officially received your result. So, if you think you’ve made an error, acknowledge it, take a deep breath and carry on. The worst thing you can do is write off your test before you’ve reached the end of it. Because that way, failure definitely lies.

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