How to Fail the Driving Test

Driving tests are often failed due to the learner having a lack of experience. A learner may be able to control a car well for example, but forgetting a mirror or observation at a crucial time can easily result in failing the driving test.

This section explains the top most common and frequent mistakes for failing the driving test so to allow you to practice and avoid them. Nerves also often play a big part in failing a practical test, so it’s a good idea to get as many hours as possible learning to drive so as you feel confident in your ability to pass. If you don’t feel totally confident in your ability to pass, the chances are you wont.

Fail the driving test at junctions and crossroads

Much of this number one driving test fail evolves from not looking ahead and not thinking in advance. By not looking ahead, many learners realise the junction is upon them too late. Test fails in this situation arise from inappropriate use of mirrors, signalling speed and position.

When on your driving test, look out for any types of indication of what may be ahead. Give way signs, roundabout signs for example. You may also see cars crossing in front of you up ahead which may signify a junction or a set of traffic lights. When you have spotted that there is a traffic system up ahead, talk yourself through the approaching procedure well before you get there. Mirrors, signal, position, speed and look (MSPSL). Slow down in plenty of time.

By approaching a junction or roundabout too fast, you simply have no time to see what is going on and often have to stop regardless of whether it is clear or not. By approaching slowly will enable you to go through the MSPSL procedure and give you plenty of time to see if the junction or roundabout is open or closed:

  • Open – can easily see that it is safe to proceed without the need to stop
  • Closed – will need to slow down or stop the car due to lack of clear sight

Approaching slowly will also enable you to stop just before the junction line if necessary as stopping over the line is often a common driving test fail.

Failing the driving test on Manoeuvres

The number two position goes to failing the driving test due to mounting the pavement, hitting the kerb (or curb as it’s known in other locations) abruptly or lack of all-round observation. The driving test will involve one manoeuvre which can be:

It is likely that you will only be asked to perform a reverse bay park if your chosen test centre has suitable parking bays or another test centre within driving distance in test the test time available has parking bays. The new driving test which includes forward bay parking makes use of local supermarket or hotel car parks.

Manoeuvres are part of the driving test where you are the one that has complete control. It is important that the car is kept as slow as possible so as to keep complete control. All round constant observation is essential in case you need to stop for oncoming traffic or pedestrians. Manoeuvres need to be practiced so as you are completely confident with them. Complete and in-depth tutorials for all manoeuvres can be found in the Driving test tutorials section.

Fail the driving test due to Inadequate clearance

Another common test fail is allowing adequate distance when passing parked cars or cyclists. If you are slightly too close to a cyclist or parked car, you will receive 1 minor. If the examiner deems you too close, then you will receive a serious or even a dangerous which results in a test fail. 3 or more of the same fault will also result in a test failure.

Fail the driving test Whilst Moving off from a stationary position

This is a very common test failure as many learners seem to get confused as to what they should do. This often results in a test fail due to no indicating or inappropriate indicating or lack of appropriate observations (usually the blind spot).

Blind Spot
Blind spot is indicated by the blue shaded area. The red car’s driver can see the orange car through his rear view mirror and right mirror but cannot see the yellow car without turning to check his left blind spot.

The examiner will frequently ask you to park on the left. This is to ensure you do not mount the pavement, abruptly hit the kerb and that you use correct observation and signalling if necessary. The examiner will then often simply ask you to move off again when you are ready.

The correct procedure for this is to get the car ready by selecting 1st gear and put your hand on the hand brake ready to release. Look for any approaching vehicles out your front windscreen, look for any approaching from the rear by looking into your rear view mirror, then check your right side mirror and finally check the right blind spot.

If there is a vehicle approaching from in front and it is safe to move off, signal to the right, then move away. If a vehicle is approaching from the rear but you still have time to move off safely, again indicate to the right before moving off. If a vehicle is approaching from the rear and you feel it is not safe to move off, do not indicate.

Wait till the vehicle has passed and go through the whole procedure again. Indicating at this time may cause the vehicle to alter their speed or course due to your indicating and may result in a test fail. Essentially, inappropriate of lack of signalling and not checking the blind spot is often the test fail in this case.

Fail the driving test – Use of speed

A significant disadvantage for most learners is lack of experience when it comes to speed. Typically during the driving test the examiner will take you around 30mph main city or town roads which in most cases are often wide and reasonably straight roads. The examiner will then take you on narrow residential areas that will have parked vehicles and other hazards.

A common test fail will be for a learner to not adjust the cars speed appropriately and drive slower. These areas although quieter are often more hazardous due to oncoming vehicles that may be difficult to pass due to parked vehicles. Or small and closed junctions that are difficult to see.

Another example is whilst on the test, driving on high speed A roads at 60 or 70 mph and then driving back into an urban environment which can be abruptly down to 30 mph again. On the other hand, nervous learners who drive too slowly on the test can be dangerous for vehicles behind as people tend to get impatient and try to over-take. Either extreme can easily fail the driving test.

Fail the driving test – Inappropriate use of mirrors or observation

It’s quite common to miss a mirror here and there during the driving test. Generally the odd mirror missed will just result in a minor or 2. It’s when it is essential to check the mirrors is when it counts. An example can be for when moving off from a stationary position or making a left turn soon after you have just passed a cyclist. Not checking the left mirror just before turning is dangerous for the cyclist and may result in an instant test fail.

Often another example of a test failure can be changing lanes. You may check your mirrors but failure to check the appropriate blind spot can also instantly fail you. If you’re not too great at looking in your mirrors, see keep forgetting to check mirrors for help.

Fail the driving test – Incorrect use of gears, clutch and steering

Towards the end of the list see’s the incorrect use of gears and steering. It is a bit of an old tale that you need to hold the steering wheel rigidly at the ten-to-two position of a clock. Generally, that is the best and most appropriate way but essentially, providing you have total control of the car and you keep your hands generally in that position, all should be good.

Problems arise for instance when you are turning sharply and let the wheel straighten up by letting it spin by itself. This can potentially lead to a loss of control so it is best to use the push and pull technique.

Incorrect use of gears can be for example to drive on a relatively straight road with few hazards in the incorrect gear. If it is a 30mph limit the gear should be the highest gear for that car that is most suitable for that speed. Often this is 4th or possibly 3rd gear.

Another typical incorrect use of gears when you stop at a junction for example and not selecting 1st gear when moving off and stall. This doesn’t usually result in a test fail unless you stall in a particularly hazardous place or are stalling frequently throughout the test.

Depressing the clutch whilst making turns or depressing the clutch too early before stopping the car is called coasting and if done excessively can fail a driving test. For further information on coasting and how to prevent, see the article What is coasting.

Tips on how not to fail the driving test

If possible, look at the driving test in terms of individual sections that need to be achieved instead of a single complete accomplishment.

    • Driving test manoeuvres

      Essentially, the only way a manoeuvre can fail the driving test is if you do something wrong. The fact that they are confined to a small area and are completed extremely slowly means you have a high level of control. Manoeuvres should be practiced until completely confident you can do each one of them successfully.

    • Junctions, crossroads and roundabouts

      Look well ahead at all times to spot any of these traffic systems in plenty of time. Approach very slowly to ensure you implement the correct procedures and also to give you plenty of time to stop if necessary. Approaching slowly will allow you to assess if a junctionroundabout or crossroads is open or closed as suggested in the diagram below.


Open junction
This junction has no trees, bushes or houses blocking the view of the road that the driver of the orange car intends on joining. As a result, the driver has no need to stop at the junction if it is clear. When a junction is clear such as this, it is called ‘open’.

Open Junction
Open Junction

Closed junction
This junction looks a little different. The traffic on the road ahead for the driver of the orange car is completely obscured by trees and bushes. Traffic on the road the driver intends on joining only becomes clear as he reaches the junction line. The driver has little option but to stop at the junction. Junctions such as this are called ‘closed’.

Closed Junction
Closed Junction

  • Cyclists

    Cyclists result in a lot of driving test failures. If you have the slightest doubt that it is not safe to overtake a cyclist, then wait back, giving plenty of distance from the cyclist until you are sure.

  • Moving off from a stationary position

    As this is high on the test failure list, practice moving off, using the correct procedure on as many different road types as is legally possible. If during the test you are doubtful it is safe to move off, wait until it is clear, perform your check again and move off. The examiner isn’t looking for you to do it as fast as possible, they are looking for you to do it safely.

  • Use of speed

    Whilst you are learning to drive practice on all road types to gain a good understanding of the various speeds needed.

  • Blind spot

    Again, high on the test fail list. The all important blind spot, a simple check can be the difference between a test fail and pass. Plenty of of lane-change and moving off practice, ensure you check the blind spot before you do should ensure this becomes second nature.

Conclusion

The driving test normally tends to find any weak points you may have. If you feel that you are still making some of the mistakes listed on this page, keep practicing until it is perfected. It will be cheaper in the long run to have a few extra lesson and pass the driving test first time than to fail.

21 thoughts on “How to Fail the Driving Test”

  1. sheena wilkie

    Can u fail driving test by not checking blind spot going back in test centre

  2. Hi Sheena,
    If it is a situation where the blind spot should have been checked, then yes, you can fail the driving test even in the test centre. The test isn’t over till the engine is turned off.

  3. Kim

    I failed my test because I stopped at a traffic light for apparently too long. I only got 4 minors but apparently this was classed as a serious fault. I have spoken to other people I know who drive and they do not think I should have been failed. Should I of been failed?

  4. Hello Kim,
    So I assume you mean that it took you a while to get going when the light changed to green?
    If this was the case then it really depends on how long it had taken you.
    If it took you quite a while, then this can frustrate drivers behind, potentially resulting in some drivers doing dangerous things.

  5. Sean

    I just took my test and failed although i dont beleive it to be correct . I was heading up a dual carriageway in the right hand lane approaching a roundabout and was instructed to leave the last exit and come back on the carriageway . I left the roundabout on to the right hand lane ov the carriageway as somedody was on my left . I was instructed to take a left at the lights so attempted to signal and move to left lane but nobody would let me in early. When i finally got over i turned left and headed back to test centre . I had 6 minors but was failed for being in the right lane too long on the carriageway . Any thoughts ?

  6. Hi Sean,
    That’s a difficult one without seeing it. Did you have previous opportunity to get back to the left lane but didn’t take it? You may of failed if that’s the case. Or if you left it too long to come back into the left lane to make the exit off the carriageway, then it may of been worth considering abandoning making the exit and explaining to the examiner that you feel that there isn’t enough time to move over safely.

  7. Viji Saji

    I fail my test due to didn’t wait for a car coming far away.This is straight away from getting out from the test centre.I don’t believe this There was enough time.I didn’t hold the traffic.

  8. Eleanor

    Hi,
    Just wondering can you fail your test if you stall waiting in a set of traffic lights?

  9. Hi Eleanor
    Providing you recover from the stall reasonably quickly and get going then you should be fine. If you frequently stall throughout the test or if you do it in a particularly hazardous location, then you might fail.

  10. I’m teaching my daughter to drive. I’m not a professional instructor. When driving on narrow roads with cars parked on the left, so you have to cross the centre line to get passed them (or there is no marked centre line), do you have to be signalling right while you are over the centre line? That’s what I remember from my instructor in the 80s! Is that still the correct procedure? Great site btw!

  11. Hello Mo,
    When passing parked cars on the left, you generally don’t indicate at all regardless of whether the road is narrow or whether there’s a centre line or not. You only indicate in order to make your intentions clear to other road users, so for instance if it is a narrow road and you need to stop behind parked cars to give way to oncoming vehicles, you might want to indicate so that other road users behind you don’t think that you’ve parked up on the left. Excessive indicating when unnecessary can cause more confusion as it may appear to other road users that you intend on turning off. You can read more about it here: Passing parked cars.

  12. Excellent! That has all the info I need. Thanks very much.

  13. Eric

    “If you have the slightest doubt that it is not safe to overtake a cyclist, then wait back, giving plenty of distance from the cyclist until you are sure.”

    I failed my Drivers test for not overtaking a cyclist fast enough . I felt it was safer to wait and give distance, but the tester failed me because I could have passed him. He marked it as my only severe fault and failed me.

  14. Hello Eric,
    It sounds as though you were perhaps a little too hesitant. It’s a balance between being confident with yourself and the car you’re driving and getting the overtaking manoeuvre done safely. It’s not really something you can practice very much unless the situation presents itself.

  15. Harlan

    I just failed my driving test because I reversed slightly out towards the road twice. Did not come near any other cars, and was only out by a foot or two.

  16. Driving test is a lottery. They have a quota of pass they can give. You got to be at the right time of the day with the right examiner and get things right.

  17. James

    Hi,
    I was wondering during the practical test, when doing the parking manouver after going into the bay and putting the car into neutral and pulling your handbrake up. Are you allowed to open your door and check if you have parked well in the required space or is it not allowed?

  18. Hi James, yes this is perfectly acceptable. As you say, first ensure the car is secure, then you can open the door and check if you wish. It’s what many people do in reality.

  19. Laura

    Is touching the dot on a mini roundabout with all 4 wheels a major fault on a test?

  20. Hi Laura,
    It really depends on how strict the examiner is, whether it is something you could have avoided and to what extent the driver went over the centre of the mini roundabout.
    Making little effort to avoid the centre will result in a test failure, anything less severe may result in a ‘minor’ fault, but it really depends on the above.

  21. Danielle

    In reply to PJ.

    This is not true, having a pass quota would be illegal

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