- Keep things in perspective
Sure, you might fail a test when reversing. But how much danger are you in when going back at one mile an hour - compared to driving forward at 70 mph? How about driving on a country road you don't know on a dark, rainy night. Think of reversing on test as an opportunity to slow down and take a little time out.
- Move the door mirror
Especially when reversing around a corner, you need to know where the kerb is. It's OK to move the door mirror to get a good view of the back of the car and the kerb. BUT (isn't there always a but) don't stare at the door mirror. Keep looking back through the rear window for other people, and stop and check all around regularly. Oh yes, remember to put the mirror back in position when you've finished.
- Pull forward to correct a mistake
OK, so you're going back, and you get the feeling that your position is not good. Looking in the left door mirror you see the kerb is VERY close. You stop (of course). You're still uncertain. Then pull forward a bit. No problem. Just go far enough to be in a position to be sure. Then carry on backwards. Easy. (BUT you must look around before changing direction. It might not be safe to move at that moment). Someone I taught pulled forward on their test three times when parallel parking. Because she finished in a good position, and kept looking for other road users - she passed. No problem. (This doesn't guarantee that you will pass if you have to make three corrections, I'm afraid. Each test is judged individually.)
- Don't be a perfectionist
We all want to get every manoeuvre just right - every time. Real life isn't like that. Your reversing skills, and spatial awareness, will develop over time. Aim to finish each reversing task - no matter how much you have to correct it. Lots of people hate parallel park, but usually manage to get it done. As an instructor, I'm looking for people to be (relatively) relaxed, and not too bothered about what is, after all, just a small part of their set of driving skills.
- Get out of the way!
When you reverse around a corner into a road on the left, someone else might drive out of that road. You should stop and let them pass you. But what if they don't want to? What if they just stop and wait behind you? Easy. Give it a moment or two to make sure, then drive back to where you started (just remember to look all round for other road users first). Start the manoeuvre again when the other driver has gone. The examiner will expect you to do this without them telling you.
- Try to practice in as many different places as possible
Do you go to the same road every time you do a turn in the road? Always reverse around the same corner? Do you find yourself in the same car park every time you bay park? Hmmm - maybe not such a good idea. Variety is the spice of life - and reversing. Find a car park where you have to reverse between two cars, or try reversing into a road on the right for a change. If you have tried loads of different places to reverse, the examiner shouldn't be able to worry you when he says, "Just pull up next to that car, and reverse into the space behind it..."
That's right, stop. Don't rush back. Stop every now and again. Take stock of your position. Look around for other people. Only move back if you are certain that your position is good. If you feel unsure of your position, or need to look around, then... stop. (I've been a driving instructor since 1987, and I've never had a learner fail their test for going too slow when reversing. Maybe if other people are waiting for you to finish a manoeuvre, you might - but it's unlikely.)
- Find a big empty car park
and drive around backwards for a while. You won't have to worry about kerbs and positioning so much and you will get a feel for the way the car handles going backwards. It's different from going forwards as you're steering from the opposite end of the car. Try doing some 90 degree turns, and straightening up again. Next time you attempt to reverse around a corner, you'll find this could make a big difference to your judgement.
- Observation, observation, observation
There are three things that matter when reversing: observation, observation, and observation. No matter how good your manoeuvre, you have to keep looking all round for other road users. When you check all round, pause. You wouldn't go forwards looking backwards, would you? So stop regularly, and have a good look for pedestrians, cyclists, cars, lorries, dogs, cats... you get the idea. Wait for other people, and let them go if they want to.
- Keep the speed low
- very low. If you're not happy going very slowly uphill using "clutch control," or creeping downhill using the brake, you will find reversing hard. You will often need to hold the car still on an uphill slope using the clutch. Practise low speed skills before you try a tricky manoeuvre.
Finally... relax. It's only reversing.
Worried about your driving test? Here are some tips to help you perform on the day:
- Book a test for the morning - you won't have all day to worry about it
- Make sure you've eaten - a rumbling stomach doesn't help you to relax. Bananas or porridge are supposed to be good for stress. But maybe avoid that five course lunch...
- Try Rescue Remedy
- The examiners are human. If you pass, there's a lot less paper work for them to complete in the office. More time for a cup of tea and a happy examiner!
- Examiners don't have quotas. You stand the same chance of passing on a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning. It's all down to your driving :)
- Recognise the effects of stress. You won't be able to eliminate your nerves completely (a little apprehension is not such a bad thing) but - knowledge is power
- Make small talk in the waiting room. There's nothing worse than silence as those last few minutes tick by...
- Ask your instructor (or whoever takes you for your test) to sit in the back of the car. The examiner will ask you if you want to be accompanied on your test. Having someone on "your side" could help you to feel at ease
- Think of all the places you can visit and the fun you can have once you get that full licence
- You can only fail if you stop trying. Never give up on test - no matter what happens
- Don't tell everyone when your test is. Though well meaning, friends can wind you up about your imminent test
- Finally, if you're well prepared, it's an easy test. It's not rocket science or brain surgery, is it?
- Be rude to the examiner
Examiners do seven tests a day, five days a week, and maybe more on saturdays. They've seen it all before. Red lights ignored, speeding, reversing up kerbs, it won't surprise them. So why not make their job even harder by being rude to them? Let them give the benefit of the doubt to all those candidates who are polite and show a little respect.
- Don't bother looking around when you reverse
Sure, you're taking your test, but why bother checking that there are no drivers or pedestrians around? Just keep going backwards regardless. That door mirror on the left is so useful...
- Approach junctions really fast, then brake at the last moment
The examiner knows you are going to stop, right? And that driver behind you shouldn't have been so close, should they?
- Don't get your eyesight checked
Before you get into the car the examiner will check your eyesight. But why bother making sure you can read a number plate at 20.5 metres? If you can't, you've failed before even turning the key in the ignition.
- Don't get any extra practice in
It's a difficult and demanding test. Why make the extra effort to practise all those little weak points of yours? So what if you haven't had a lesson for the last three weeks?
- Drive really slowly on national speed limit roads
Everyone likes to sit behind a learner doing 20 mph when the speed limit is 70 mph, the weather and visibility fine, and the traffic is light - don't they?
- Forget about checking your car
Yes, it's your instructor's responsibility. But some candidates use their own car. Any problems with the car - no test. So don't worry if a bulb has blown, the tyres are damaged, and the car isn't clean and tidy inside and out.
- Turn up at the test centre at the wrong time, or on the wrong day
You got an email telling you the date, time and place of your test. Why not delete it immediately, hope you can remember the time and date, and turn up the day after the appointment. Or, better still, go for broke, and go to the wrong test centre. Taking the email with you on test is for those candidates who want a chance of passing, isn't it?
- Don't worry about looking ahead
There may be traffic lights coming up, or a pedestrian crossing, or parked cars. Who needs to check their mirrors? Or lift off the gas nice and early? Maybe even brake a little? Those other people will get out of your way when they see you coming - won't they?.
- Why take your licence?
This has to be the top way to waste everyone's time, and your money. It says in the appointment email to bring your licence to the test. Don't bother checking that you haven't misplaced it well before the day, and don't bother on the day. When the examiner asks to see your licence, you will be able to get home and back again in about three minutes, won't you? Otherwise you only lose your money and have to book another test...
Remember the six "P"s
I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. As your instructor I'll make sure none of these things are likely to happen. But you would be amazed at how many times these things actually happen to other people. Remember the six Ps - Proper Prepared Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
New drivers definitely benefit if they take private practice with a friend or relative as well as taking professional driving lessons.
As a relative or friend it can be a bit daunting to supervise a learner - and the learner can find it stressful too!
Planning and information is the key, and RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) has put together a useful website with lots of useful tips and information:
If you've lost the certificate, don't panic! You can find the number here:
You'll need to know your driving licence number and date of birth.
You can claim for:
- the cost of travelling to and from the test centre or vehicle hire
- pay or earnings you lost through taking unpaid leave
You can't claim for:
- the cost of driving lessons or training courses that you took before your test appointment
- extra lessons that you decide to take while waiting for your rearranged test
You can’t claim if the test was cancelled because of:
- bad weather and poor light
- vehicle problems
- driver problems for example driver illness
You can ask for the form at your driving test centre.
Be careful when you book your theory test. There are rogue sites out there which will book your theory test, and charge you more than the correct fee.
The theory test can be booked at the official site, and currently costs £25.00. Some sites will charge much more - typically £60.00 - for exactly the same service.
The official theory test site is at:
(Incidentally, there are similar scams when applying for driving licences, passports, and European health cards).