How to make the most of your driving lessons.. (to pass first time)
Developing a good working relationship with your driving instructor is important. You should feel comfortable and confident during your lessons and be able to ask questions and request feedback.
Your instructor should also set clear goals at the beginning of each lesson and an evaluation at the end so that you know how well you are progressing and what you need to continue working on between lessons.
Making the most of your lessons
As a driving instructor for over a decade, I’m sharing some tips to help you get the most out of your lessons and pass your test first time.
1.Set clear learning objectives – At the beginning of every lesson, go over the lesson objectives with your instructor. Bear in mind the lesson objectives may change as the lessons go on, for instance your instructor may notice that you’ve dropped your mirrors because you’re so focused on roundabouts. Then they might pause the lesson briefly to remind you of good practice. Then, once you are back in a rhythm, they’ll resume with the original objective.
TOP TIP: If you are simultaneously studying for your theory test whilst taking practical lessons, you could use the lesson objective as a focus for your theory study. This means you’re mentally prepared for next week’s lesson and understand the theory behind what you’re going to be learning in the car. If you’ve already passed your theory, use the opportunity to brush up on your knowledge and apply it to your practical learning.
2.Request feedback – At the end of each lesson, ask your instructor to provide feedback to give you clarity on the progress you’ve made. Be sure to ask if you’re unclear on what needs to be done to improve further. They will also tell you what your next steps are and give you objectives for the next lesson.
TOP TIP: Many instructors will take notes throughout or at the end of your lesson. Be prepared to ask if there is anything on there that you need to be aware of or ask for a copy of the notes.
3.Arrive prepared – Before hopping in the car with your instructor, consider what materials you may need to bring along to be prepared, which may include a pen and notebook for taking notes. Some learners prefer taking their own notes at the end of the lesson, so they have something to review before the next lesson. This is a good way of keeping track of the things you’ve learnt, particularly if you’ve achieved a number of goals in one session. It also helps you to remember advice your instructor gives you and sequences of things that you’re finding hard to recall while on the move. Make the most of your time with your instructor by reviewing the notes from previous lessons before you get behind the wheel. It’s always easier to go over information while you’re stationary.
TOP TIP: In my experience, the best learners are proactive with their learning; asking questions and doing some revision or research between lessons. These people progress faster and have a more secure understanding of what is going on during the practical sessions. Think of your instructor more as a coach than a teacher. Doing some homework between lessons could save you time and money.
4.Ask questions – One of the best ways to make the most of your lessons is by asking questions! If you are unsure about any instructions or coaching points, be sure to ask. Good instructors appreciate the feedback and the teaching opportunities that arise from a pupil asking plenty of questions. Make a note of any questions that come up in between lessons, to ask during your next session.
TOP TIP: If you’re able to practise driving outside of your lessons, ask your instructor what you need to be working on during your private practice. Your instructor should be able to give you some clear goals for you to work towards. Make sure you communicate with your accompanying driver, so they can keep an eye on your technique and help you meet those goals.
Getting test ready
Once your instructor feels that you are close to being ready to drive independently, they may run some mock tests with you in preparation for test day.
To begin with, these may be slightly more informal as you learn the structure of the test. But as you gain confidence, your instructor should make them more realistic to allow you to practise your driving skills under test conditions.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t pass your mock tests; instead take it as an opportunity to improve your driving and set new goals for the coming weeks. Learners who make serious mistakes on their mock tests tend not to repeat them on test day, as they go away and practise the areas that need work.
Be guided by your instructor as to whether you are ready for your test and treat the mocks as a learning opportunity. It is also worth looking online to get as much information as you can about how the practical test is structured and how you will be marked so that you are well prepared. Note down any questions you have to discuss with your instructor at your next lesson.
Booking your test
When you’re ready to sit the test, your instructor might book the theory and practical tests for you, as this enables them to swap or move the test if you aren’t quite ready or if you are ready earlier than expected.
If you choose to book the test yourself, then your instructor won’t have access to it and you will have to make any changes yourself.
TOP TIP: Consult your instructor before you book the test, as you will need their car to sit the practical driving test. Confirming the preferred date and time with your instructor before booking means you can avoid the disappointing situation of your instructor being unavailable at the time of your test and unable to facilitate your lesson.
If you get closer to test day and your instructor feels you aren’t ready, they will have that difficult conversation with you to let you know. Trust me, none of us enjoy that, but we want you to succeed on test day. Especially now there is an extensive backlog of learners waiting to sit their tests following the pandemic, should you fail and need to retake the test, you may have to wait weeks to months, depending on where you live. If your instructor tells you that you’re not ready for the test it is because they genuinely believe that you won’t pass or you are not yet safe to be driving independently.
The big day
On test day, your instructor will pick you up an hour or so before your allocated test time. This allows plenty of time for you to get to the test centre, practise manoeuvres, and go over your ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
Be assured, we all have our own driving kryptonite, be it roundabouts or parallel parking. On the day of your test, if you’re feeling anxious, remember that your instructor is there to help, should you need to go over it one last time to set your mind at ease.
The money you pay for your driving test goes directly to the DVSA. You will also need to pay your instructor for the use of their car during the test.
Of course, you can choose to take the test in your own car. Ensure your vehicle meets the requirements outlined by the DVSA because if you turn up in a car with no passenger mirror or a vehicle that is not MOT worthy, your examiner can refuse to take you out. If you would like your instructor to accompany you in your own car, you will still need to pay for their time.
Here a helpful video we’ve put together to help you visualise what it’s like getting in some extra practice when you’re driving instructor isn’t in the car with you!
Driving without an instructor
In between practising with your brilliant instructors there’s a great way to get some extra practice in, Veygo offer learner driver insurance which allows you to get on the road with a friend or family member. What a better way to practice, with someone you’re comfortable with!