Test Nerves – How can I help?

Below is a brief description about my own Driving Test fiasco when I was 17!

This is copied from a Facebook forum I wrote in earlier today. It got me thinking about nerves and what can be done about them…


“I was stupendously nervous! Knees kept giving way walking towards the car so I looked like a berk even before I got in – so you can imagine what my clutch ‘control’ was like [or NOT] !

I eventually got out of test centre – noticed examiner ‘shaking his head from side to side’….. panicked even MORE! Oh My god he is so ANGRY at me!!! THEN I noticed he was even tutting at me – rhythmically!

By now I have been over kerbs and maybe even the odd human – who knows!! Get back to Test Centre with no dents to the car -just my self esteem!

The lovely Driving Examiner kindly explains that I have been unsuccessful on this occasion ……… hahahahahahahahahaha! Duhhh!

As he walks off…… and it is only in that moment I realise that he had slight Parkinson’s disease and that caused him to permanently shake his head (a tremor) AND he had also finished sucking his sweet!!!! – so not even tutting as I assumed he had been because I was “so bad”!! It just goes to show what ‘intense emotional states’ do to Students attending tests 🙂 “


So after this experience that I remember so vividly, you would think that I could recall my test pass 11 days later with the same clarity? No! Not at all! I remember nothing of the pass – just him saying I had and the elation that followed!



I think we are all pre-set to remember our mistakes (probably an evolutionary safety mechanism) and not to recall our triumphs so readily. A sad fact that it is useful for me to rectify during driving lessons. It is part of my lesson structure to ask Students to list what went well and not only to ‘re-live’ their errors! Even the small point of re-framing a question to a ‘future possible solution’ makes a massive difference! For example, even a simple version of “What could you do differently next time you are in that situation?” offers a positive and changeable solution that Student respond really well to – rather than “what did you do wrong there then?”!!


The thing I noticed most about my first test was that I was out of control! I had no idea how I could manage my nerves. As an ADI I have noticed that this is yet one more occasion where no two people are the same – so what works to calm and appease one Student will not often work for another; that people may have faith in a technique – even if considered to be a placebo, it will still work.


Since Coaching I have found that the only ones who really know what ‘could’ work is the Student themselves…. and another key factor is their conviction of my faith in them!


I, like most, ADIs have an extensive armoury of ways to combat nerves. The Student helps us find a solution. Often random things like a Mind-map will clarify things and highlight an action plan! Sometimes the mind-map itself has been the answer!


The other massive benefit that the Students gain from the Coaching process is that they constantly analyse and reflect upon their driving. They are confident in their ability to adapt one situation to fit another, and to readily plan and adapt it when necessary. This has been the process throughout their lessons. I enjoy watching ‘decisions’ being made when something happens out of context during their test – rather than stagnating and making odd decisions because ‘it isn’t meant to happen that way’. This also seems to have a direct effect upon dealing with nerves in the run up to test. There can be much discussion if nerves are considered to be a personal issue.


Research suggests that self evaluation techniques developed during the learning process significantly helps new drivers to stay safer. I can see a difference in my past students compared to my current ones – this of course, is my own opinion.



Of course some Students still suffer as I did with nerves…. but most ADIs seem to have the same reaction when their Standards Check letter arrives in the post!

Have a good day, all!


Fiona Taylor

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