Managing driving test nerves

Nervousness is a natural reaction to tests and exams. And driving tests are no different. Driving examiners know this, and they’ll do their best to help you relax.

Why it’s important to practise ways of managing your nerves

Being able to manage your nerves is a really important skill – and not just for your driving test. You might be nervous the first time you:

  • drive in an unfamiliar city on your own
  • have to deal with a really complex roundabout
  • drive on country roads at night

So learning how to manage your nerves is a vital skill for new drivers.

1 in 10 people who fail the driving test say it was mostly down to nerves

Basic tips to help manage your nerves

Talk to your driving instructor about the ways you might be able to manage your nerves. They’re used to teaching people who are nervous about taking the driving test.

Here are some other basic tips that can help.

1. Plan ahead

Do not take your test when other stressful things are happening in your life, such as school exams.

2. Get a good night’s sleep

Get a few good nights of sleep before your test – you’ll feel more stressed if you’re tired.

3. Avoid caffeine

Avoid too much caffeine before your test: it might make you feel jittery and nervous.

4. Be positive

Focus on passing your test rather than worrying about failing it. Stay in the moment and concentrate, avoid thinking back to what has just happened.


Mindfulness might be one way of helping you to manage your nerves.

So what is it? Mindfulness involves paying attention to what is going on inside you and around you, moment by moment.

Studies show that mindfulness can help with stress and anxiety.

Many people find mindfulness helpful, but it’s not right for everyone. Some people find that it does not help them.

How we feel affects how we act. When you recognise what you’re feeling, you can learn ways to support yourself. There are several ways to do this. Controlling our responses to stress is the first part of controlling the car.

San Harper, driving instructor and mindfulness trained teacher

What mindfulness is

The NHS website has more information about what mindfulness is, how it could help you and different ways you can practise.

How and where to learn mindfulness

There are many ways you can learn mindfulness, which come in different formats. Mind, the mental health charity, has information on mindfulness, including how to learn and practise it.

Talk to your driving instructor

Talk to your driving instrutor about the mindfulness techniques you’re using.

Some driving instructors have specially trained in mindfulness techniques and will build these into your driving lessons. Ask your driving instructor if it’s something they can help you with.

Blog posts about driving test nerves and anxiety

Where’s your head at? Control your driving test nerves

This blog post takes a look at what happens when you get stressed and why it happens. It provides techniques to help manage stress and control your driving test nerves.

Tips from driving examiners: talking can help on test day

This blog post explains how talking with your examiner can help you relax. It includes advice on listening to your examiner before and after the driving test.

How to beat anxiety on your driving test

Find out about the challenges Cat faced during her driving test and how she overcome them.

How to control your driving test nerves

Driving instructor Diane Hall shows how emotions can affect your ability to drive safely and confidently on the day of your driving test.

Check you’re ready to pass

You’ll usually be ready when:

1. You do not need prompts from your driving instructor.
You need to be dealing with every part of driving consistently, confidently and independently – without any prompting from your driving instructor. You’ll be getting ready for your test when you’re able to adapt to situations and see why perfecting your skills makes you safer and more fuel-efficient.
2. You do not make serious or dangerous mistakes when you’re driving.
You need to be a good and safe driver to pass the driving test. If you’re making serious or dangerous mistakes during your driving lessons and brushing them off as ‘silly mistakes’, you’re not ready to pass your driving test and drive on your own.
3. You can pass mock driving tests.
Taking and passing mock driving tests with your driving instructor will help you understand if you’ve reached the standard that’s needed to pass.
4. You have practised ways of managing your nerves.
It’s really important to be able to manage your nerves to be a safe driver. Practise ways of managing your nerves to help you stay calm and focused when you take your test. This will help you in the vital months after you’ve passed your test, too.
5. Your driving instructor agrees you’re ready.
If your driving instructor says you’re not ready to take your driving test, listen to them. Driving instructors are specially trained road safety experts. They’ve got lots of driving experience – and they know what it takes to pass the driving test. Remember, they want you to be a safe driver, keep your insurance costs low, and enjoy driving for years to come.

Not feeling quite ready?

You can move your driving test back if you’re not feeling quite ready yet.

It’s free to change your appointment time, as long as you do it at least 3 full working days (Mondays to Saturdays) before your test.

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