The practical driving test can be an intimidating experience - and many learner drivers, no matter how prepared they are, fail. It’s okay! It happens to a lot of people… including many of us at Cuvva! 👀
To help learner drivers, we’ve crunched the numbers to find the 10 most common reasons for failing the practical exam. Think of it as a cheat sheet for what to avoid on the big day.
The test is split into three sections:
The driving section will probably last around 40 minutes. Even if you realise you’ve made a mistake, just keep calm and carry on. After all, you might not have failed because of it.
(Because we’re nice, we’ve put together a couple of other driving test guides for you that go into this stuff in a little more detail. Here’s a guide on what to expect when you take your driving test, and here’s a driving test checklist that tells you what the examiner is looking for.)
When you take your driving test your examiner will make a note of any mistakes you make. You’ve probably heard of ‘majors’ and ‘minors’ – get one major and you fail, get over 15 minors and you also fail. ❌
But technically, they’re not actually called majors and minors. Instead, there are actually three different category of faults.
Let’s take a closer look with some hypothetical scenarios.
You’re driving on a quiet road and there are no cars, pedestrians or cyclists. Your instructor asks you to pull over. You check your mirrors properly. You notice there’s a car coming towards you on the other side of the road. You pull over without indicating.
This mistake isn’t dangerous or potentially dangerous. It would have been better if you’d given the driver coming towards you the heads up that you were pulling over though. So you’ve made a minor fault.
Your examiner asks you to make a left turn. You do all the usual mirror checks and indicate. But you don’t brake until you’re very close to the turnoff, and there’s a car five or six car lengths behind you.
You should have started braking earlier. Driving too fast towards a junction with a car coming up behind you could potentially have been dangerous. So that’d be a fail.
You’re driving on a dual carriageway and your examiner asks you to move lane. You check your mirrors and indicate but you don’t check your blind spot.
Your examiner has to grab the steering wheel to stop you crashing into a car you hadn’t seen. Yikes! This is a dangerous fault because you could have caused an accident if your examiner didn’t intervene. You’ve failed - and depending on the examiner’s confidence in you, you may even need to let them drive you home.
We’ve delved into the data to find the top 10 reasons that learner drivers fail their driving practical test. Over the years, the most common mistakes haven’t varied too much. We’ll go into the most recent data in more detail in a minute, but in general the mistakes usually fall into these categories, with slight variations:
If you fail because of a mistake in any of these areas you’ll get a detailed explanation from your examiner. Say you make a mistake at a junction when you’ve been asked to turn right. This would show on your results as ‘Junctions - turning right’.
Junctions and checking mirrors have actually been the main two reasons for people failing since 2009 😬. So they’re definitely worth practising as much as possible before the big day!
Here’s the top 10 reasons people failed their tests in 2020 and 2021:
1. Not making the proper observations at junctions This means failing to look around properly when you’re turning at a junction. A few examples of this kind of mistake are:
2. Not using mirrors properly when changing direction This is where you don’t check your mirrors properly when you need to change direction. Examples of this kind of mistake are:
3. Not positioning properly when turning right at junctions This is where you don’t position the car properly when you need to turn right. A few examples of this kind of mistake are:
4. Not responding properly to traffic lights This is where you don’t get things right at traffic lights. A few examples of this kind of mistake are:
5. Not having proper control of your steering There is where you don’t have proper control of your steering while you’re driving. Some examples of this kind of mistake are:
(By the way - we've partnered with Otimo, a learner driver app that helps with everything from theory test practice to getting the low-down on practical test routes. Download the 'Otimo: for Learner Drivers' app, choose '1 Month' during the sign-up process, and then get 50% off the first month of your Otimo subscription by selecting 'redeem code' and entering CUVVA50 🔥)
6. Not responding properly to traffic signs This is where you don’t react properly to traffic signs. Some examples of this kind of mistake are:
7. Not responding to road markings properly This is where you don’t respond to the markings that are on the actual road properly. Some examples of this kind of mistake are:
8. Not moving off safely This is where you don’t move off safely from being in a stopped/parked position. Some examples of this kind of mistake are:
9. Not positioning the car very well in general when driving This is where you don’t keep the car in a good position when you’re driving around in general. Examples of this kind of mistake are:
10. Not having control of the car when moving off This is where you don’t have good control of the car when you’re moving off. Examples of this kind of mistake are:
Driving tests can be nerve-wracking, for sure. But we reckon if you get plenty of practice in for these common tricky areas, you’ll feel much more confident 💪.
By the way – if you’re planning on getting a few extra hours of practice with a parent or someone else, our learner driving insurance is worth checking out.
It’s super flexible, and you can manage it all on your phone through our app – so you’re only covered for the exact amount of time you need. Nice.
If you’ve got your full driving licence and you’re looking for cover - from one hour to 28 days, with no nasty extra fees or tie-ins - it only takes a few minutes to get a quote.