Firstly remember, most people including established performers get nervous and nerves are not necessarily a bad thing.
For the theory and practical driving tests, a bit of nervousness can help your performance. Any actor or performer, or anyone in a high-stress job, will tell you that some amount of adrenaline helps them achieve good results.
Whereas being too laid-back or blasé could mean you may appear to be over-confident, and this will not impress the examiner.
Too much nervousness, however, will lead to the 'fright or flight' reaction, a known physiological reaction, a legacy that reminds us humans are also animals. This can lead to among other things, sweaty palms, increased heart-rate, loss of concentration, physical discomfort and a host of other symptoms. These are not helpful.
Why Do People Get So Nervous About Taking Their Driving Test?
There are many reasons for driving test anxiety, including;
Peer pressure - friends who have already passed or relatives who say unhelpful things like "I passed my driving test first time after only 5 lessons". Avoid comparing yourself to others as what other people did is completely irrelevant to YOU, you're an individual, never forget that fact! Everyone is different and learns to drive in their own way and in their own time.
Fear of failure - No one gets it right first time, every time. When they start to learn to walk, babies fall over, when toddlers learn to ride a bike, they fall off. There may be tears and hurt pride, but mistakes and failures are good sometimes because we learn from them, driving tests are no different. No-one is perfect
Self-doubts and lack of confidence in your driving ability - if you've taken driving lessons from a professional driving instructor, (and more to the point, if your driving instructor is letting you use their car to take your test in), then trust me, they wouldn't be letting you do that if they didn't know that you can drive independently to the standard required for the practical driving test. Your driving instructor believes in you, you should therefore trust their professional judgement and have faith in your own abilities as a competent driver.
Knowing in your heart of hearts that you're not really ready to take your driving test - this one is a bit different from the previous items in this list and it's one that you can easily do something about if it concerns you. There are very few people in this world who are "natural" drivers. Driving is a skill requiring many different simultaneous mental and physical processes, which don't necessarily come naturally and which require learning in the first place and then honing by means of consolidation and practice. If you have a test booked and you do not feel confident about every aspect of what you may be required to demonstrate, then our advice is do not take the test without further training.
Previous test fail/s - having failed a test previously adds a lot of extra pressure. It's important to remember that the overall national driving test pass rate is only around 43%, so more people fail the driving test than pass it. Furthermore, more often than not, its nerves themselves that plays a big part in most test fails rather than a lack of skill. It's a cliché, but "putting it down to experience" and learning from whatever you did wrong can turn a negative into a positive...dwelling on a fail results in demoralisation and can be the start of a vicious circle...
So how can you keep your nerves at a controllable level?
Be prepared: Make sure you are confident enough to take the test and have had enough lessons, don't rush. Your Karen's instructor will advise you of this. Arrange a mock driving test with one of our specially trained examiners before the actual test to determine what's expected. If your driving instructor has agreed to take you to the test, it's generally because they feel that you are ready. If you don't think you're ready, then don't take your driving test until you know you are fully prepared and confident about the thought of driving unaccompanied.
Cast your mind back: to other written exams, the ones you failed, the ones you passed. How did you control/fail to control your nerves on those occasions? If you haven't taken any written exams, think of other stressful situations and how you dealt with them.
Try deep breathing: Concentrating on the simple action of breathing in and out not only increases the oxygen to your brain, but also helps you think about something else other than the 'ordeal' ahead. Be careful not to hyperventilate! Incidentally, having a cigarette will only increase your heart rate - the 'calmness' that smokers claim they feel is more to do with the action of smoking, not the nicotine.
Make sure you know where the theory or practical test centres are and plan your route. You don't want to be stuck in traffic, on the wrong bus or dealing with engineering works, particularly if the test is at 9.00am. Make sure that you have checked and confirmed the date, time and location of the test with your driving instructor.
Visualise success: Some people find that imagining a successful result will make this a reality. Try not to let thought of failure slip in - even if you've had a nightmare. Thinking it so won't always make it so, but it goes a very long way.
Don't tell your friends the test date. If everyone knows you are going for the test, you create the additional stress of trying to live up to your friends expectations. It's OK to let your Mum and Dad know, we are sure they will give you all the support you need.
Avoid listening to 'horror stories': There are myths and rumours about failed tests. Some may be true but these stories don't necessarily relate to you or your driving. Just concentrate on your own performance.
Choose a test date which suits you: If you've booked a test date and something else more stressful crops up in your life, change it. Yes, learning to drive is important and a wonderful achievement, but if another part of your life has gone topsy-turvy, the chances are you won't be able to concentrate.
Wear comfortable clothes: Look smart and neat, but do wear something comfortable. You don't want to be distracted by shoes that pinch or a jacket with tight underarms. If you are going to sweat, try wearing cooler clothes for the time of year - and not too much make-up!
Don't be put off by an examiner that doesn't talk: An examiner will allow you to concentrate on the job in hand. Not responding to your attempts at conversation is not unfriendliness, its professionalism. Adopt a similar professional attitude and you'll get on fine. Examiners are human, doing their job; they are not your driving instructor whom has developed a rapport with you during a course of lessons.
Try not to be put off by a mistake: You do not need to be perfect. Many people have made a minor error in the stress of the moment. If the driving examiner can see this for what it is, and you correct it immediately, it doesn't necessarily mean you've failed. Take a breath and continue with your driving without focussing on the examiners job, remember, you have not been trained to do that.
Medication and other drugs:
Overcoming Nerves With Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is an excellent treatment to use for overcoming nerves. The reasons why you feel the way you do may be out of your conscious awareness. Even if you do know the contributory reasons, you may have lost touch with the feelings around those events or not have had the opportunity to resolve them. Hypnotherapy can work with those things that are out of our conscious awareness. This is because when you are in a hypnotic state, you have access to this unconscious material.
Alcohol: We all know the drink-driving rules but, if you are a drinker, don't be tempted to have a few to help you sleep the night before. Not only could you still be over the limit, but if the driving examiner smells the slightest whiff of alcohol on your breath (or from your pores), the chances are you won't be allowed to sit the test. If you have even a slight hangover, you're hardly going to perform at your best, and it's probably better to cancel the test anyway.
Cannabis: Because of the relaxation of the laws surrounding cannabis use, it is commonly misunderstood that this is not as illegal or dangerous a drug as alcohol to take before driving. Don't even think about it.
Prescription medication: If you take medication prescribed by a doctor, it might be an idea to check with the DVLA that it is permissible to drive with this. As above, herbal or other remedies are not a good idea if you've never used them before, and the 'natural' way is best. You don't want to have to take something to calm your nerves every time you drive!
Sleep: Get a good nights sleep by avoiding thinking about the tests before you actually go to bed as you can guarantee nightmares through the night.
And remember, you can always talk to us at Karen's School of Motoring - we are very experienced and have lots of understanding!