How to Impress the Driving Examiner

For many, the driving test is highly stressful. Mistakes are often made during the test, but were those mistakes serious enough to fail you, or have you impressed the examiner enough for them to be a little lenient?

Contrary to popular belief, many driving examiners are in fact human, and most of them are actually quite friendly too. In terms of figuring out how to impress the driving examiner, that can be a little difficult – even if they are human.

Often though, it’s the little things that have an impact and can ultimately influence an outcome. Let’s look at a few basics on how to impress your driving examiner.

First impressions

People form an impression about another person within the first few seconds they meet. We then usually judge that person based on that initial first impression.

Driving examiners are of course professionals and shouldn’t judge people outside of their driving ability. We do however all form an initial opinion that may somewhat determine an outcome. So, arriving for your driving test in smart but casual clothing will tell the examiner that you are bothered.

The examiners driving test report sheet
The examiners driving test report sheet

Ensure you have all applicable documents at hand so as not to cause any immediate complications – see what to take to driving test, and if possible, greet the examiner with a friendly smile. It’s all just a bit of basic psychology.

Will you be my friend?

Driving examiners tend to come in two forms – the bot type mentioned at the start, who appear devoid of emotion and simply emit instructions on what you need to do, and there’s the more chatty types.

You’ll be able to distinguish the type you have been assigned on the way to the car. The more friendly and chatty examiner type will initiate a conversation on the way to the car, essentially as a means to help put you at ease.

Use this to your advantage and during the driving test, strike up little conversations with the examiner. This could be about their job, the type of people they have had on the test, scary moments etc. A driving examiners job can become monotonous, so having a friendly chat and perhaps a laugh may break up any monotony. You may also find that having a chat helps to alleviate tension and stress and by making you more relaxed, helps you on the test.

This may all sound a little superficial, but the fact is that we all tend to be a little more lenient and forgiving to people we like, compared to those we feel impartial to. If however, talking and driving isn’t your thing and you feel that is may increase your chances of making mistakes, you’re probably better off keeping quiet.

Making the Examiner aware

So mounting the pavement and taking a little old lady out isn’t going to pass a driving test any time soon. But what you need to do is reassure the examiner you are safe. A clean test report at the end isn’t too common, so the chances are, you will make mistakes.

Although driving examiners have predefined rules they must follow, they also have rather a lot of leeway in determining whether a particular fault is only a minor, serious or dangerous. If you make a fault and are aware of it yourself, tell the examiner that you are aware of this. So for instance knocking into the kerb may or may not fail a driving test.

But by informing the examiner that you are aware of the mistake you made and that you’ll ensure it doesn’t happen again is far better than the examiner believing that you are completely oblivious to the error. This could apply to many faults and errors to a certain degree and it will allow the examiner to test you further in this area to ensure it isn’t a recurring error.

Perseverance is admirable

We all admire a person who perseveres and driving examiners are no exception. If you mess something up, ask if you can do it again. Take one of the driving test manoeuvres for example, if you make a terrible mistake, such as mounting a kerb or ending up in the middle of the road, ask if you can give it another try. You’ve nothing to lose and if there’s enough time, the examiner may well let you have another go at it. There is of course some things that aren’t recoverable, such as running a red light for example as that would be pretty much fatal, but there are plenty of things that may be a test failure, but turned into a minor.

Generally what we’re saying is that examiners won’t turn a blind eye to anything, but providing it’s not dangerous, they will often be willing to let you give it another go to prove yourself.

Outside of this, then there’s not much else you can do to impress the driving examiner and it really comes down to your driving ability and safety, of which there are plenty of tips within these pages.

What a driving examiner looks for

Driving examiners are mostly looking for natural and safe driving. Don’t listen to anyone saying that you should drive a certain speed under the speed limit, all that’s going to achieve is to annoy the examiner and perhaps even fail the driving test. On the whole, keep up with other motorists provided they are keeping to the speed limit.

Situations where you can allow yourself a little more time than other drivers are all the various junctions which include roundabouts. Examiners expect this as you are a learner and may require a little more time. Manoeuvres in particular, keep nice and slow with plenty of observations. Mirror checks are particularly important, but you don’t need to exaggerate head movements as examiners are perfectly aware of your mirror observations.

50 thoughts on “How to Impress the Driving Examiner”

  1. Shannon Denman

    I have my 3rd test on wendsday so nervous I failed my 1 one becouse where I stopped on the left I would have potentially blocked someone in then the 2 one I failed was because I was hesitant because there was a lady oppersite me and she kept stop starting and I wasn’t to sure whether I could go or not and then I was in the wrong lane for the turn I wanted to Make so thats not good but I only came out with 2 minors on my 2 second one I’m so worried the same thing is going to happen again when I get nervous if I don’t know where I am I can tend to panic how do I overcome those nervs besides places I don’t know my driving is excellent !! any advice ..

  2. Hi Shannon,
    It’s very common for learner drivers to drive great during lessons and then on the test drive erratically. It’s a psychological issue that produces nerves. I often find that if you try to convince yourself that you don’t care if you fail, then this reduces the nerves. It’s the worry of whether you’ll pass or not that piles on the pressure and increases nerves.
    Another method is commentary driving. This is essentially talking yourself through the test and works very well. It’s kinda like a second person giving you instructions and helps with the nerves too. I’ve had people do this out loud during a test, but you can talk in your own mind if you wish. Might sound a bit mad, but it does work. So for example if you were making a left turn, you would say ‘main mirror, left mirror, indicate to the left, check junction for hazards, all clear’ etc..

  3. Kelebogile

    Thanks for the tips guys I hope and pray everything goes well for me on the 19th

  4. Lin

    I just failed my exam yesterday and one serious for Use of Speed…And I totally agree with the speed part wish I had read your artical before.
    At build up area, when no car in front or behind, I was driving around 25 mph at gear 3 when speed limit was 30, and examiner said I was driving too slow…
    Additionally, the examiner told my instructor I slowed down too early approaching the roundabout and then build up the speed bit more to reach the stop line. 20 mph in gear 3 was my approaching speed (without blocking anyone).
    In order to be able to read Road signs , what speed would you suggest then?

  5. That’s a shame Lin,
    It’s difficult to say without seeing the specific road, but generally do the speed limit if it’s safe to do so. So if that road is clear and you have a clear view of the road ahead, do 30 mph. If you’re passing parked cars for example, then you might want to slow down due to the extra hazard. Use the highest gear possible at all times in which your car is comfortable with.

    Approaching roundabouts / speed is often related to what you can see – open / closed roundabouts / junctions. So in a 30 mph area, if the roundabout is open / clear on the approach and you can safely see that it’s safe to continue, there’s no need to slow down as much compared to a closed roundabout / junction.

    Essentially, there’s no specific speed for any situation as every situation is different and requires early observation to assess which speed is appropriate.

  6. Sonia

    Good night everyone do anyone has any tips for me because I have my driving test coming this week so can anyone help me to keep my nerves dwn

  7. Good luck Sonia.
    If you don’t mind a little chat whilst driving, try and start a little light-hearted conversation with the examiner. That usually works well for nerves and think of the test as a ‘dry-run’ so that you don’t put too much emphasis on passing.

  8. Behzad

    Hi everyone:
    I am a disable person and I can’t move my right leg properly. Owing to this reason I must drive an automatic vehicle.
    I must apply both accelerator and clutch pedals by my left foot which it can be a little bit weird for examiner and may be indicate him or her to wrong direction about how I am driving during the exam.
    Is it really a big problem and how could I have to explain my condition to make examiner sure about my ability? I am concerned if the examiner judges my ability based on my health condition rather than my ability.

  9. Hello Behzad,
    Assuming you have a left-foot accelerator fitted to your vehicle, then I can assure you that an examiner will judge your ability to drive just the same as they would any other test candidate.

  10. Karamjit

    I am having some problems when I drive even if my instructor keep repeating me how to do ,but I keep doing same mistake, but my main problem is to positioning at roundabout and usually don’t know why I.forget to mirrors.
    Can you help me please.

  11. Hello Karamjit,
    Your instructor needs to find an alternative way to deal with this. Whilst telling some learners on how to do something is sufficient, for others it isn’t. You need to see what is coming and think through what needs to be done before you get there – at the moment, you’re dealing with it whilst at the situation. So for example the instructor needs to ask you what type of road system is approaching. Ensure you always look for road signs and you see a roundabout sign. The instructor then tells you where to go; 1st exit for example. Then the instructor asks you how you’re going to do it in plenty of time before you get there. So you’ll explain ‘main mirror, left mirror, signal to the left etc’…Then, say it aloud again whilst dealing with the roundabout. So it’s all about getting you to see the approaching situation, you explain how you’re going to deal with it and run through it again whilst dealing with it.

  12. Amazing

    Hello everyone, do anyone know an approved driving instructor in Chingford?

  13. Tahmina

    Hi my name Tahmina I am ready to go part 2 ADI test I need some help.if possible to give me some advice about the Adi part 2 test . Thank you

  14. Olivia Mutemanga

    I have my driving test on tuesday and due to complications, my instructor will not be there on the day of the exam. Is it possible that taking my own car that i have more experince driving anyway would increase the chances of me failing?

    Thank you

  15. Hello Olivia,
    Taking your own car or using your instructors car will make no difference to the test result. The differences are which car you feel most comfortable and confident in driving. If you have more experience in your own car and feel confident driving it, you’ll have a higher chance of passing.

  16. William Tillbrook

    Get Bach’s rescue remedy from Boots works a treat for calming and relaxing you it’s herbal … wife used it before her 3rd attempt and passed with flying colours a couple of sprays on your tongue does the job …..she didn’t feel nervous at all ….give it a try you’ll be surprised

  17. Tristan

    i have driving test tomorrow what would peoples top tip be for me?

  18. Good luck on your test Tristan. Nerves usually impact tests the most, so do your best to just try and relax and if you make a mistake, put it behind you as it may well just be a minor fault.

  19. Tristan

    i failed

  20. Tristan

    thanks for the support im sure i will

  21. Watt

    I got the “offended bot” examiner today. He started huffing as soon as he got in the car, visibly disturbed by his incapacity to… adjust his head restrain and his belt, also by the fact that he had to (oh, my God, no) bring his own rear mirror and L plates.
    Guess we all guessed the outcome of this test.
    Main failure: (not) use of mirrors – as seen in the report. I believe that the ‘bot’ didn’t realize that some people only need a fraction of a second to check a mirror and a blind spot, and he was expecting everyone to stare at each mirror for a few seconds.
    Oh, well. I’ll get next one cookies and a cup of tea, maybe this way we’ll start on the right foot.

  22. Hello Watt,
    Yes, examiners are a bit of a mixed bag. Some approachable and polite and others, well..
    Examiners have always stated that a leaner need not emphasise mirror checks as the examiner can always see what’s going on… I’ll leave you to make your own mind up on that one.

  23. Kacey Dent

    Thank you!! Got my test next week, gonna give this a go

  24. Jayne Stroud

    Is it possible to question an examiners decision? Or to lodge a complaint against one

  25. demi

    hi all, iv got my test very soon i dont know what to expect and im so nervouse

  26. Mel

    I have my test for the 2nd time next week but at a different test centre my main obstacle is my confidence and I have severe anxiety disorder I’m petrified and really don’t want to fail again my driving instructor has every confidence in me but really need to pass this time but I’m anxious already at the thought

  27. If your instructor says you’re ready, then you’re ready 🙂
    I’m sure you’ll do great Mel. Best of luck for your test.

  28. Bryan

    I passed witten test and have a driving test coming up. Ive been practicing but still get confused and hesitant on the road. Passing written test and trying to remember information fram it is hard to use on the road. What to do

  29. Hi Bryan,
    I’m afraid it’s just lots of practice. The more you do, the easier it will get. Probably not much help, but that’s really all you can do.

  30. Gigie

    Hi! I will have my test soon, can you please give me some tips, I will be using my own car and go to the testing centre on my own. I still have a valid license from other country that I need to change.

  31. Hi Gigie,
    Examiners do expect to see nervous test candidates, but they also like to see test candidates drive with a reasonable level of confidence. Make sure you are cautious, particularly around junctions where most tests are failed. Approach junctions slowly to ensure you have sufficient time for effective observation. Be cautious but not too hesitant. Examiners don’t like test candidates that are too hesitant – approach everything at a sensible speed based on what you can see, but be confident (Look, Assess, Decide and Act – LADA).

    If you make a mistake, it can be a good idea to make the examiner aware that you’re aware of it. This is better than the examiner thinking that you might be oblivious to it. If you mess up a manoeuvre, ask the examiner if you can try it again (it works sometimes). If a manoeuvre is going wrong, don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your car’s position (just do it safely).

    If you go the wrong way during independent driving, don’t worry about it. Just make sure you go the wrong way legally and safely – examiners are not supposed to fail you for taking the wrong direction.

    Try and enjoy it. Perhaps make a little small-talk with the examiner to help with nerves. Good luck 🙂

  32. Mecki

    I am a Male, Age 91, driving accident free since January 1947.
    From that Time until May 1951, when I emigrated to Canada, I drove
    U.S.Army Vehicles, all Standard Transmissions, from Jeeps, 3/4 Ton and up to
    5 ton Trucks, including Wreckers and amphibious Vehicles. The Cargo included Bombs, Ammunition
    and Automotive Parts.
    In Canada, I obtained an Ontario Drivers License for Delivery Trucks and drove in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and most of the United States.
    I had a Class 4 License, and was involved in Transporting up to 15 Passengers,
    for 16 Ski Seasons, I drove app.20,000 kilometers on Ice and Snow covered Roads, the Banff to Jasper Highway, Rogers Pass and to the Whistler Ski Area.
    I have a clean 10 year Drivers Abstract. The Job with the german based Ski Tour Company ended when they implemented a change in Age to 60 years due to the high cost of Insurance.
    Since then, I am driving with a Class 5 License and I received a Notice today that I have to complete a
    Class 5 Road Test within 90 days.
    While driving in Alberta, I was rear ended 3 times by female Drivers on slippery City Roads when they were following too close, they had to pay for the Damages to my Vehicle.
    My Concern this time is the Opinion of many People that older Drivers are not safe drivers and some comment that they should be banned from driving.
    As I mentioned above, I drove all standard Transmission Vehicles with the US Army and there were
    no signal Lights, many times there were no Mirrors and no Doors.
    I am confident in my Abilities to drive safe, I always use my Mirrors and as much as possible I also do a shoulder check.
    My Vehicle is fully winterized, All wheel Drive with top of the Line Snow Tires.
    I will use this Vehicle for the Drivers Test.

  33. Hi Mecki.
    If you’re a safe driver, then you’re a safe driver. Age shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Good luck on your test.

  34. Steven

    In reply to Lin.

    That’s incredibly harsh in my opinion. If you were closer to 20mph in a 30 zone in that situation then fair enough. Being given a serious fault for 25mph is a bit of a disgrace in all honesty.

  35. I’ve failed my full license twice. I’ve had my “N” for 7 years. I have a clean driving record, no accidents. I do not do well with strangers in my vehicle, and in reality, nobody drives like you do in the test. I’m frustrated and angry and refuse to go in and try again. My examiner left me with PTSD and ruined my confidence. The test was extremely hard (everyone told me it was easy.) Botb I went 1km over the speed limit and *bam* she failed me and it was over. She also said when I went 1km under the speed limit it was too slow. Like wtf? I’ve been told that examiner has failed a whole grad class trying to get their N. I wasted my time taking off work and paying for this ridiculous test. I dont understand why ICBC hasn’t had a conversation with them. Many people I’ve talked to sped in their test and didn’t fail. Why was it me (who literally sticks to the speed limit and gets passed constantly,) who fails twice ?? Ridiculous sh*t if you ask me.

  36. Hi CW,
    I’m not too familiar with the Canadian driving test as we deal with the UK driving test. However, by the sounds of it, just like in the UK, you have also have examiners that vary when it comes to strictness and attitude. They claim that they all examine driving tests to the same standard and maintain a professional demeanour and in general, most do, but in reality, there are a few examiners who are a little too harsh or that have a personality that’s not best suited to dealing with members of the public.

  37. James

    Hello! thanks for this article, I had my penultimate lesson today (driving test is tomorrow) – i drove horrifically and surprised myself as a result (i then ended up bursting into tears in Morrisons after when picking up shopping LOL). The positives i’m taking from the sh*t lesson is that I should not repeat the mistakes tomorrow. MY instructor also was yammering on about personal stuff so I won’t have that to deal with tomorrow! I have a diagnosed Mental health condition and have disclosed this prior to my test so hoping it won’t go against me. I find when i’m driving narrating what i’m doing helps me; also I want to ask, you mention that if you say ‘whoops, didn’t mean to do that’ it can go in my favour, however I do this as a rule and my instructor has explicitly told me not to on the test….. what are your thoughts? Should I continue as normal? I’m aware that changing too much too close to the date could cause fundamental changes to driving. thanks, James

  38. James

    oh… i should have added, this is my third test…. my last one was in 1996! as an older learner i definitely feel the nerves more!

  39. Hi James,

    First off, don’t worry about the bad driving lessons. This is perfectly normal and I have seen learners drive horrifically right before the test. Really quite common. When you say ‘narrating’ what you’re doing, it’s called commentary driving and I highly recommend it. I have always encouraged learners to do this as it really helps to focus the mind. Some people feel too self-conscious to do this, but if you’re fine with it, absolutely go for it. Do it on the test too.

    In terms of making the examiner aware of your mistakes, personally I think that if you make a mistake which the examiner could construed as being quite serious, it’s far better that the examiner knows you’re aware of the error you made, rather than you being totally oblivious to it. The examiner is going to know you made the error anyway, so if you let them know that you’re aware of it and that you’ll not being making the same mistake, I think that can only go in your favour.

    Personally, I would stay exactly as you are, do the commentary driving and be vocal about the mistakes if that makes you feel more comfortable. Good luck on your test. Let us know how you get on.

  40. Hi
    I will face first practical test on 25th October this year . Can you give me some guidance about the roundabout and overall test ? Thanks

  41. Hi Farhana,
    Examiners are used to test candidates being very nervous and they’re really not expecting a perfect drive. The main thing is that if you make a mistake, put it behind you and don’t let it worry you. Examiners do vary, but if possible, strike up a little conversation as this often helps you to relax. Roundabouts are often challenging for inexperienced drivers, but it’s better to be a little hesitant than hazardous. Examiners will expect you to be a little more hesitant than experienced drivers.

    If you haven’t done so already, it’s often a good idea to have a mock test. It’s also best to do it with a instructor that you’re unfamiliar with as this will simulate a real test more accurately. Your test is quite soon, so you might struggle to find a instructor to book a mock test in, but worth it if you can.

    Manoeuvres are where you have the most control during a test. During a manoeuvre, take your time and if it starts to go wrong, don’t feel afraid to correct yourself. If a manoeuvre goes totally wrong, don’t leave it like that and ask if you can have another attempt.

    Good luck on your test.

  42. Toni

    I personally prefer to not speak at all during my driving test, infact the first time I failed with one serious fault and three minors my examiner was silent unless she needed to speak. The second time my examiner spoke the whole way through asking me questions about my life and job which was very distracting and I failed with three serious faults and ten minors. I wouldn’t like to think I will be judged on how much conversation I make with my examiner and I certainly wouldn’t like to think that this would sway the outcome of my result whether I am friendly to the examiner or not, my purpose is to show how safely I can drive not how friendly I am to the person examining me. I also wouldn’t like to think the way I am dressed would sway the decision of my result either like this article suggests. Very unprofessional if so.

  43. Hi Toni,
    It is of course entirely up to you whether you decide to engage in ‘chat’ during the driving test or not and if not, it’s for the examiner to ‘read the room’ and hold back on the idle chat if they feel that you’re uncomfortable with it. As you say, some examiners prefer not to do this anyway.

    But you do need to understand that this article is coming from a place of experience. Some test candidates act inappropriately and unfortunately, the odd examiner doesn’t always conduct a driving test quite as you may expect.

  44. I failed my third test today and I’m livid. I had the same witchy examiner I had last time (4 months ago) I have driven most of my life overseas with no problems and 1 1/2 years in the UK on a foreign license and L plates with no problems. I don’t want to go through this nightmare again, its probably took years off my life and I’m now on prescription drugs for panic attacks because of it. I couldn’t breath my rib cage felt so heavy pressing on my lungs especially when I saw her calling my name again. And more tests are not available till next Spring.

  45. Hi Marian.
    That’s unfortunate regarding the outcome of your driving test. Could you consider an alternative test centre?

  46. “if you make a terrible mistake, such as mounting a kerb or ending up in the middle of the road, ask if you can give it another try. You’ve nothing to lose and if there’s enough time, the examiner may well let you have another go at it.”

    I’m sorry but that is just not correct. If someone makes a ‘terrible mistake’ and has seriously lost control of something the only thing that will happen is the marking of a serious fault. Test candidates can correct a minor loss of control but they cannot ‘have another go’ once they have made a complete mess of it.

  47. Hi Don,
    I can categorically tell you that is correct as I have seen it first hand and on more than one occasion. If a serious mistake were to occur at a junction for example, there’s no going back on that. But some examiners might allow leniency on a manoeuvre. I think you might be under the assumption that all examiners are the same.

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