The big test - tips from testing officers

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There’s nothing like the driving test to get your knees rattling and palms sweaty.

But why is it so excruciating? The pressure to perform can be intense, particularly when your friends and family know you're going for your Ps. There's also the stress of being assessed by someone you don't know – the testing officer.

To help you calm those nerves and prepare, Geared speaks to actual testing officers and we can tell you that they're human, they're reasonable and they don't hold any prejudices (despite the myths!). They just want you to relax, focus and drive as you would with your parents or your driving instructor.

Testing officers see hundreds of learners come and go every year and they've been kind enough to give us some excellent advice about eliminating mistakes, calming those nerves and getting some perspective on the dreaded reverse park, so that you’re fully prepared on the day.

The Test

If you've had your Ls for 12 months, logged 120 hours at the wheel (including 20 hours of night driving) and turned 17 then you’re ready to go for your P1 licence. But in order to get your P plates, you’ll need to pass the Driving Test. Your log book and the Guide to the Driving Test (PDF, 753Kb) will tell you everything you need to know about the test and how to prepare for it.

For more info about the driving test go to Getting your P1 licence.

The common mistakes

The officers agree that the big mistakes are the small but important things like signalling – either forgetting to indicate or not doing it for long enough and observation – failing to check your mirrors or blind spots. Stop signs can also be troublesome, particularly when it comes to stopping before the line.


Don’t just flick your indicator and drive off, you must signal for at a least 5 seconds before leaving a parking space or moving from a kerb. It is also important to signal at the right time because signalling too early, too late or leaving your indicator on can confuse other road users.

Blind spots

Not checking blind spots is another common error. You need to check your blind spots and mirrors when merging, changing lanes and during your manoeuvres. Drivers often forget to check their left hand side blind spot when turning left off wide roads. Think of it this way, if you could fit a car between the kerb and your car, a head check in your blind spot is required before turning left. You never know when something will be travelling up that part of the road. And don't forget that an observation check is also required to confirm that it is safe to continue before moving off after being stopped at traffic lights.

Stop signs

A common mistake is not stopping at stop signs and just slowly rolling through. You have to stop the whole car behind the line at a stop sign and traffic lights. Stopping behind the line at traffic lights and then creeping forward does not count – you have to stay behind the line. You can move forward at stop signs when the view may be obscured, but only after you've come to a complete stop.


Another problem is not selecting safe gaps in traffic. It's a matter of judgement and experience. Sometimes learners will pull out and misjudge the speed of the car coming towards them or, if it's a truck, you need to take into account that the truck takes longer to stop than a car.

Right turns

Be decisive, learners trying to turn right at lights can take too long to turn – there may be plenty of room but if you hesitate you can get into trouble.


Paper work

Be sure to read the Guide to the Driving Test (PDF, 753Kb), make sure all forms and sections of your log book are completed correctly and signed. If you're not sure on something in the guide or are confused over something that someone else has told you about the driving test, you can always drop into your local motor registry and ask to speak to a testing officer to clear up any questions you may have.

Be punctual

It’s important to arrive early to give yourself plenty of time to get to know the location. If you're late then the test can't go ahead. You don't want to be rushed when you're doing your test – it just doesn't help.

Have your car in the right spot

Make sure the car you’ll be doing your driving test in is in the test rank to commence the test (unless this is not possible due to unauthorised cars parking there). Registries and service centres have allocated spaces or a designated rank where the test is to start. Don’t park across the road in the supermarket car park, this just adds to your anxiety if you park in the wrong spot and have to go get the car.

Calming the nerves

Take a deep breath, talk to the testing officer or whatever works for you and remember to take your time. Try treating the test like any other driving lesson and not think of it as a test. 

Nerves affect everyone differently; we are all human including testing officers. Testing officers are not there to put you under any more pressure than you already feel. Remember the old saying "You cannot change the past" therefore if you make a mistake don't dwell on it. We know it's easier said than done, but some learners make additional mistakes because they are worrying about a minor error they made, instead of concentrating on the remainder of the test. Students who pass are confident and relaxed – or at least they appear to be confident and relaxed! If you obey the road rules and drive safely often everything else will fall into place.

Parking manoeuvres - tips for success

One word – practise! They all get easier with practice. Practise in different locations - don't always reverse park in the same street and on the big day don't over-think the manoeuvres.

Read the Guide to the Driving Test to familiarise yourself with all the different manoeuvres required.

Remember they are a small part of the overall driving test. For some reason people place major importance on the reverse park and there seems to be a perception that if they don't get it right then they've failed the test (especially if they bump the kerb). But unless it's significant enough to be a fail item, then it is usually just a negative tick on the score sheet.

You're ready – what about your car?

Roads and Maritime Services does not provide cars for licence tests – you need to organise your own. Whether it's your driving instructor's car, a family car or maybe a mate's, you need to make sure it's ready for the test as well. If something is wrong with your car, you might not be able to take the test. Follow this check list and you shouldn't have any trouble.

Car check list

  • Is my rego current?
  • Are my windows clean and undamaged?
  • Are the tyres inflated correctly?
  • Do my indicators and brake lights work?
  • Have I adjusted the mirrors, seat and seatbelt to suit me?
  • Do I have enough petrol?