Tips for Taking Your Driving Test

Published on 4 November 2020

Getting your driving license is an important milestone for many young people. However, before you get behind the wheel of a car, there are several steps you will need to complete. In Ireland, you must first pass your driver theory test. Once you have completed the required lessons with one of the Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) Approved Driving Instructors (ADI) and have practiced enough with a driving tutor, you can take the road test.

The driving test is designed to verify that the driver knows the rules of the road, has the knowledge and skills required to drive in accordance with those rules, and to ensure that he or she drives in a responsible and respectful way that doesn’t endanger other road users.

Five recommendations for passing the driving test

1. Visualise the test 
Knowing exactly what the driving test consists of and visualising how it will play out will help you feel calmer and improve your chances of success. A study carried out at the University of California found that we obtain better results when we visualise the necessary steps to reach our goal than when we focus only on the final result we want to achieve.

In this regard, the RSA provides some clues. The driving test lasts between 30 and 40 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. Initially, the examiner will ask you some questions about traffic rules and he or she may also ask you to identify some road signs. You may be asked about some of the car’s functions, as well as to identify the different parts under the hood, or to explain how to check fluid levels. Then, you will be required to drive for about five miles on different roads with different traffic conditions. You will be required to demonstrate hand signals, reverse around a corner, perform a turnabout and do a hill start.

2. Do your checks
It’s important to avoid starting off the test on the wrong foot. When the examiner gets in the car, you should greet him or her and perform the basic checks. Adjust the seat and mirrors to have a perfect view of the road. Buckle up and release the handbrake – a detail many beginner drivers forget due to nervousness. At this point, you’ll be ready to start the car. However, if you need to take the exam on a day with poor visibility, turn on the windshield wipers or the anti-fog to clear the windows (the examiner will be assessing your use of the car’s secondary controls).

3. Take care with Stop and Yield signs
During the driving test, compliance with traffic signs is assessed, so you should pay special attention to Stop and Yield signs, which often cause problems for beginner drivers. When you come to a stop, if you have no visibility, you should lean your head and torso forward and stop as soon as you gain some visibility, making sure the front of the car doesn’t stick out into the road too much so as not to interfere with the movement of other vehicles.  

Remember that the Yield sign is a dynamic Stop sign, so when you see it you will need to reduce your speed to a minimum. You don’t need to come to a complete stop unless other vehicles are approaching. Don’t forget to respect pedestrian crossings: if a pedestrian doesn’t want to cross, they must let you know, but you’ll still need to stop anyway. 

4. Signal your manoeuvres 
During the driving test, you’ll need to do a series of manoeuvres. The general rule is: look in the rear-view mirror, signal, and then do the manoeuvre. You must signal when you merge, before starting an overtake manoeuvre that requires a lateral movement, when you are going to change directions and when you stop and park. Signal ahead of time, but not too far in advance that other drivers could misinterpret your signals. Also remember to turn on your low beams when entering tunnels or long underpasses.

5. Drive smoothly 
Misuse of the vehicle’s controls (accelerator, clutch, gears, brakes and steering) is one of the main reasons why people fail their driving test, according to the RSA. Make an effort to drive smoothly, avoiding accelerating abruptly or stalling. Anticipating obstacles on the road and maintaining the proper safe distance will allow you to brake smoothly and shifts down the gears progressively.

It’s also important that you keep an eye on the speed limits. One of the most common mistakes of beginner drivers is going too slow, to the point of interfering with traffic. It’s important that the examiner can see you are in control of the vehicle and that you know how to drive on different types of roads, while staying within the appropriate speed limits.