Common driving test mistakes

Common driving test mistakes are easily avoided when you know how.

I’ve sat in on over 400 real driving tests and on this page I’m going to share my experience with you.

I’m going to give you the top 10 most common mistakes and show you how to avoid them. You can fix the number 1 reason without even having to leave your house or pay for a driving lesson.

Common driving test mistakes

I have made several videos highlighting the most common driving test mistakes that you can watch for free below. These driving test videos have had over a million views on YouTube!

Some of the most common mistakes are written on this page but do watch the videos for even more.

The first video is from 2013 when the test was a bit different. The information it contains is still relevant today though.

Top 10 common driving test mistakes

Here are the top 10 most common mistakes with an explanation of each.

This is better than the official DVSA list complied from statistics. Official lists mean very little because they’re just a general overall view which doesn’t really apply to anyone in particular.

This is my list from 20 years experience of doing driving tests and having been on over 400 of them.

The mistakes are listed below and how to avoid them is written in bold text like this.

10 – Parallel parking

Most people fail their driving test on this by getting it right but not knowing one crucial thing.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a car on a driving test when someone has parked the car perfectly.

Then what do they do?

They keep driving forward and back waiting for the examiner to say stop and either drive up the kerb or too close to the car ahead.

Driving test examiners will not usually say when to stop because that would be helping you.

Tell the examiner when you have finished!

Sometimes the examiner will ask you to tell them when you’ve finished but not always. The most common thing they say in my area is “Let me know when you’re happy.”.

Many new driving instructors don’t know this and many experienced ones forget to tell pupils!

This results in the pupil waiting for the examiner to say stop. When they don’t, the pupil thinks they’ve parked badly and keeps driving forward and back frantically trying to work out what’s wrong.

The pupil gets more and more nervous until they get too close to the car they were parking by and the examiner has to use the brake pedal resulting in a fail.

Nothing is wrong. Stop and say you’ve finished then carry on and pass your driving test!

I do tell my pupils this but they still get it wrong due to reason number 1.

9 – Turning right from the left lane

When turning right on a one-way road you often have to position your car in the right hand lane.

You can see an example of this in the photo below which is where many people fail tests from Redditch driving test centre.

See how you must wait in the right lane to turn right, not the left as you usually would on most roads?

There are not always arrows so it isn’t always as obvious as it looks in this photo. Sometimes the road can be unmarked or have a give way triangle painted on the left side making it look like you should wait there.

You will fail your driving test if you wait in the left lane to turn right in this situation. You’d also fail for turning left from the right lane if that lane only goes right.

Always be looking out for this on one-way roads.

If you go in the wrong lane then just turn that way so long as it’s safe and legal to do so.

Going the wrong way won’t result in a fail if it’s safe to do so. You’ll just drive around and come back to that road. If you can’t the way your lane goes because of a no entry sign for example, you may have to turn across the other lane and fail so plan ahead.

Even driving instructors get it wrong!

If you want to have a laugh then watch this video of me taking a driving test in Redditch. It didn’t quite go to plan!

8 – Moving off in the wrong gear

This is another classic!

Many pupils try and move off in neutral or 3rd gear on their driving test. Of course they don’t mean to but they forget to put the car in gear or change the gear after pulling up.

Doing this once or even twice won’t matter but you’ll fail if you keep doing it, if it results in the car rolling out of control or causes danger to other road users.

Driving test examiners will usually tell you to relax and just think about what you’re doing. If you cant work it out then they’ll have to tell you and you’ll fail, shortly before kicking yourself!

Always apply the handbrake and then neutral when you park at the side of the road.

This will help because you’ll have to put the car back in gear to move off again.

7 – Not stopping at stop signs

What must you do at a stop sign?


Many people simply don’t stop at a stop sign on their driving test, or when driving in general.

Stop totally still for at least 2 seconds just before the stop line.

You MUST stop by law. This is not just a thing for the test; it’s a point of law and you can get 3 points on your driving licence and a fine for not stopping at a stop line.

You must stop DEAD still. No movement of the wheels at all. Not creeping, not holding it still with the clutch but dead still with the brake pedal fully down for at least 2 seconds.

Do you have to put the handbrake on? No but that’s another commonly mistaught thing that I go over in more detail in the video below.

6 – Not checking the blindspot when moving off

It really is incredible how many people fail their driving test on this.

Even though it’s something they usually do you can guarantee that come the test people will forget!

There is also a myth about having to check all around the car before moving off. I’m not saying this isn’t a good idea because it is but you don’t HAVE to check all around.

The minimum checks for moving off on the driving test are:

  • Your centre mirror
  • The outside mirror on the side you’re moving off to (usually right)
  • The blindspot on the side you’re moving off to (usually right)

If your instructor is insisting that you look all around or you’ll fail then they’re wrong.

I know because I’m on of the UK’s top driving instructor standards check trainers. That means I prepare instructors for their own tests to make sure they’re up to standard.

I have had hundreds of pupils pass their driving test and drive safely for years after by only checking the one blind spot. Not once has any examiner ever said anything about it.

Top 5 common driving test mistakes

Buckle up for the top 5 common driving test mistakes!

I hope you already have your seat belt on anyway or you failed long ago.

Prepare yourself now for the biggest mistakes of all including that elusive number one error made on the driving test.

5 – Using the wrong lane on a roundabout

I’ve written a whole page about how to drive roundabouts which will be of great help to you. It’s specifically about a roundabout in Birmingham called Beckett’s farm but it will help you no matter which roundabout you are dealing with.

It comes down to two things:

  • Always be in the furthest lane to the left for your exit
  • Stay in that lane and follow it’s course

This is hard to explain in just writing so I recommend you go and watch the videos on that page.

You will see me doing several lessons with Lucy where we do the roundabouts and apply those rules over and over again.

You can see someone failing a real driving test for getting this wrong in the video below.

4 – Not understanding clutch control at junctions

The majority of driving instructors teach junction approaches incorrectly.

This is not just my opinion but something I have seen time and time again from having trained hundreds of instructors for their retests which we have to sit every 2 to 4 years.

The mistake is that people are taught to stop and put the handbrake on at every junction.

Sound familiar? Don’t be surprised! It’s amazing how many instructors teach this but it’s incorrect, unnecessary and can cause you to be marked down and failed for undue hesitation.

It can also lead to you being marked down for observation. If you just stop dead and can’t see then you’ll be unable to take effective observation and can easily pull out of a junction into the path of an oncoming vehivle.

If you have been taught to just stop at junctions all the time then change your instructor.

Only stop still if you need to. This does NOT mean you have to always go, it means you should be ready to go and not just always stop.

I go over this point a lot in the video above called Common driving test mistakes 2.

See my page and videos on gas then clutch which explain the problem in great detail.

3 – Driving differently on the test to normal

People often have this thing about there being the test way of driving and the normal way of driving.

They think that on a driving test you have to drive in an unnatural way, driving at 5 mph on every road and checking your mirrors every 2 seconds to show how safe you are.


Driving like that only gives the impression that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. You won’t impress the examiner, they’ll just wonder what you’re doing.

Drive the same way you normally would when taking your driving test.

You can learn more things like this on my page about driving test myths.

The driving test really is nothing like people think it is.

2 – Not being ready for a driving test

We’re really getting to the hard truth now.

This is not just my opinion but something I have heard from driving test examiners I have spoken to.

The simple fact is that most people who go for a driving test aren’t ready for it.

If you are ready then you won’t find it that hard.

There’s currently no legislation to stop anyone just turning up and having a go at a driving test. It’s silly really but that’s how it is!

Steps have been take to fix this over the last 10 years. The DVSA are currently looking into introducing a minimum learning time so you’d have to have a set number of hours (120 hours was suggested) before taking a driving test.

So why do people go for tests before they’re ready?

It’s largely down to poor instructors taking pupils before they’re ready or pupils rushing in to pass when they’re just not ready.

My experience shows me that it’s far more often the instructors that are at fault.

Only go for a driving test when you are ready.

Now let’s move on to the number one reason people fail their driving test. The biggest reason of all…

The number one common driving test mistake

The number one reason people fail their driving test isn’t anything you’ll see mentioned in top 10 reasons for failing the driving test videos like mine above. It’s not because you’re not ready or that your instructor is not good.

So what is it?


Do you think I take people on driving tests having taught them to move off in neutral? Do you think they don’t know what stop means? Are they just stupid?

No, it’s all down to nerves.

Of course nerves are not a mistake. The mistake is that people spend time preparing for the driving test physically but they do nothing to prepare themselves mentally.

Many experts have long said that driving is 10% a physical skill and 90% a mental skill. Why do people spend so long working on the 10% then and ignore the 90%?

There’s no point in being the worlds greatest driver if you collapse into a nervous wreck when a driving test examiner sits next to you.

Prepare yourself for a driving test mentally not just physically.

See my page on driving test anxiety to see how you can overcome it and pass your driving test.

Now you know the most common driving test mistakes

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