20 Top Test Tips for Driving Instructors!

test tips for driving instructorsA newly-qualified instructor recently asked me what they need to do on test day, so I decided to put down some helpful test tips for driving instructors so others can benefit from them too. If you’ve been teaching a while and have any other tips to share, please add them in the comments box at the bottom of this post!

Getting ready for driving test day starts well before the day itself. As an instructor, you want to make sure that everything is in place ready for your pupil’s practical test. Here are some tips so that test day goes as smoothly as can be for both of you.

Helpful Test Tips for Driving Instructors

As soon as the test booking has been made…

TOP TIP 1:  If your pupil has booked the test themselves, ask them to print off and bring confirmation of booking (email or letter) to their next lesson. Double-check that the date, time and test centre they have booked are correct.

2-3 weeks before test day…

TOP TIP 2:  Ask the pupil to bring along both parts of their driving licence to a lesson for you to check. This will make sure they know exactly where they are and won’t be rushing around trying to find them on test day! You might even want to ask them where they will put them and make a note of their ‘safe place’. It’s amazing how many say ‘I put them in safe place… I just can’t remember where!’

15582403_sTOP TIP 3:  Check the pupil’s eyesight – it may have deteriorated since the initial check you did with them on their first lesson.  If in doubt, refer them to an optician.

TOP TIP 4:  Run through the safety check questions, making sure they can open and close the bonnet without your assistance.

TOP TIP 5:  Let the pupil know that you can sit in on their test. You can be there to see exactly what happens on their test and give extra feedback at the end as they probably won’t listen to the examiner properly after hearing they’ve passed! Letting them know about this before test day will allow them to decide if they would like you there or not rather than being put on the spot in the test centre on the day. Also let them know that a supervising examiner will need to sit in on tests from time to time. Reassure them that the supervising examiner will be there to assess the examiner conducting the test only, and they won’t actually be ‘tested’ by two examiners! It may be an idea to practice carrying a passenger on a lesson or two so they get used to having an extra person in the car.

The day before test day…

More test tips for driving instructors.

TOP TIP 6:  Advise the pupil to get an early night, have something to eat on the day of the test, and make sure they’re drinking enough (non-alcoholic!) fluids to keep properly hydrated.

TOP TIP 7:  Check your car over. I know most of this goes without saying, but check all the lights are working, check the tyres have sufficient tread depth, are correctly inflated and free from cuts/bulges, check fluid levels, washers and wipers and make sure you have a valid tax disc displayed. Make sure your car is clean and tidy. Finally, make sure the L-plates are on! Obvious I know, but if you take off your roof sign whilst cleaning the car, it’s easy to forget to put it back on, especially if it’s out of sight! Carry a spare set of L-plates in case one goes AWOL and a spare set of bulbs in case you need to make a last-minute bulb change (assuming your car doesn’t need almost complete dismantling to do so, like some do!).


TOP TIP 8:  Make sure your pupil has:

  • Either both parts of their driving licence (check the issue numbers match), or their old-style paper licence and valid passport;
  • Any recent change of address filled in at the bottom of the counterpart;
  • Theory test pass letter;
  • Booking confirmation (again check test centre, date and time);
  • Glasses or contact lenses, if required;
  • Drink/food (bananas are a great natural energy booster). Dehydration leads to poor levels of focus and concentration, so it’s worthwhile you having a fresh bottle of water to hand in case they’ve not had much to drink that day;
  • Anything that may help them keep calm, e.g. music, childhood teddy, herbal calming remedies, bottle of vodka (only joking!)

TOP TIP 9:  Aside from the necessary paperwork, put all valuables, handbags/man bags/rucksacks in the boot out of sight. You don’t want to be doing this at the test centre in full view of any ‘rogues’! It’s a good idea to encourage pupils to leave their valuables in the boot throughout the test rather than leave them on view on the back seat. Thieves are great opportunists and the car will be stationary several times on test.

TOP TIP 10:  Use the pre-test time wisely. This will depend on the needs and desires of your pupil. Some won’t want a full 1 hour lesson before test as they may get tired. Others may like the full hour as a warm-up and to go over any last-minute concerns. Some may benefit from you giving a demo-drive with commentary, others will benefit from a tea or coffee. Make the decision between you as to what will work best for them.

woman-biting-wheel2TOP TIP 11:  If you do opt for a regular pre-test lesson, keep it simple – mistakes may occur due to pre-test nerves and lacking 100% focus on the driving task. This is absolutely normal, so let your pupil know beforehand that it’s normal too.  It can be a good idea to avoid doing any manoeuvres at this point – if one (or more) goes wrong, the pupil may go into meltdown!  Stay close to the test centre area prior to the test, particularly if it’s not your regular test centre and aren’t familiar with the area or there are lots of road works.

TOP TIP 12:  Be positive with your language. Prepare your pupil’s mindset for success rather than failure. Encourage the pupil to be positive, focussing on WHEN they pass rather than IF they pass. Reassure them that if they make a mistake it doesn’t mean they have failed, so they should forget the mistake and carry on so they can minimise any further errors. Let the pupil know that the examiner will write on the test sheet throughout the test – this doesn’t necessarily mean the pupil is making mistakes – the examiner just needs to mark off what has been covered throughout the test to make sure he has assessed everything required.

toiletTOP TIP 13:  If your test centre doesn’t have toilet facilities, ask the pupil in plenty of time if they need a toilet break so you have time to call at a supermarket or fast-food restaurant. Let the pupil know that the test centre doesn’t have toilet facilities so that they realise the importance of letting you know in advance.  Nervousness can cause all sorts of ‘toilet trouble’, so be sensitive to the fact your pupil may need more than one visit!  Another one of the important test tips for driving instructors.

TOP TIP 14:  Arrive at the test centre 5-10 minutes before the test appointment to make sure you can find somewhere to park in plenty of time, allowing time for other learners’ to bay park if your test centre has a car park. Many test centres request that test candidates arrive no earlier than 10 minutes prior to test to avoid congestion in the car park, so do take note of any notices in the waiting room to such effect.

TOP TIP 15:  Check if your pupil wants you present on test, if not, ask if you can be present at the end to listen to the examiner’s debrief.

TOP TIP 16:  In the test centre, make sure your pupil has both parts of their driving licence ready for the examiner to inspect (remove it from any plastic wallet or envelope).

TOP TIP 17:  If you are sitting in on test, sit behind the driver or behind the examiner – whichever you prefer (each have their benefits). You must make no attempt to communicate or signal to your pupil and keep movements to a minimum. If the examiner suspects you are trying to help the pupil, the test will be terminated. So no coughing every time a mirror check is needed!

TOP TIP 18:  If you have not sat in on the test, be nearby when your pupil returns. Make sure you’re in view of the examiner. Wait until the examiner signals to you to come over to listen to the debrief – due to data protection laws, they need to first check with your pupil that they would like you present for the debrief.

beccaTOP TIP 19:  The majority of the time, an instructor will drive their pupil home after the test to allow them time to relax after passing (or sob after being unsuccessful). This can also be a time for them to phone friends and relatives to let them know of the result. Bear in mind that it’s a good idea for you to remove your roof sign and/or L-plates if your pupil will be on the phone – it’s amazing how many members of the public will incorrectly assume that “the instructor in that car gives lessons whilst on the phone”.

TOP TIP 20:  Some instructors allow their pupil to drive home after test – this is a great opportunity for newly-qualified drivers to experience driving with extreme emotion, whether that be elation, giddiness, happiness, frustration, anger or sadness. In a safe environment, you can help the pupil become aware of how their emotions affect their driving, what the consequences might be and discuss what they can do to keep safe on the roads when feeling emotional. It might just help them make the right decision about getting behind the wheel when emotionally-charged at some point in the future when you’re not there with them. There should be no insurance issues if the drive home after test is used for driver development – many driving school insurance policies will prohibit under 25’s from driving for social, domestic or pleasure purposes, so make sure the time is used for the correct purpose.

Our test day faux pas!

Read this and use the test tips for driving instructors to avoid costly problems like these below on testing day.

Turning up a day late for a test after trusting the date and time my pupil had told me.  Lesson learned: always ask to see their written confirmation!

Unbeknown to me and my PDI, whilst checking her driving licence on the walk over to my car, the card part fell out of the plastic wallet and it was left in the car park.  Lesson learned: always ask them to show you their licence and let them keep hold of it. An expensive £111 lesson for me!

Finding out that a brake light on the PDI’s car is not working 10 minutes before a Part 2 test.  Lesson learned: Regardless of how new or old a car is, or who owns it, ALWAYS carry out a thorough vehicle check. Also know where the nearest garage is!

Driving off from the car wash without my L-plates!  Lesson learned: always carry a spare pair!

Booking a test at a test centre I have never used before and then wandering too far away from the test centre and getting lost!  Lesson learned: stay close to the test centre area and/or have the address already programmed into the sat nav.

down arrowCONFESSIONS OF A DRIVING INSTRUCTOR! What driving test day blunders have you made or witnessed? Please share so others can learn from them (and perhaps have a chuckle at the same time!)

Finally, if you liked this article and know someone else that could benefit from it, please hit one of the social media sharing buttons!


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  • Great reading for me as newly qualified, thanks.

    • Claire Wilmot

      You’re welcome Tony and well done on qualifying! We hope you enjoy a long and happy career as a driving instructor! 🙂

  • Tom Gerrard

    Getting told of by the Ex because I got the pupil to drive into the bay before the test so he had to reverse out of the bay at the start of the test.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Oops! One more manoeuvre for your pupil! I hope they passed. 🙂

  • Remind pupil that it is ok to tell the EX that they would like to pull over for a moment to regain composure if they begin to feel overwhelmed, pull up in a safe place, open the window a little and take a few deep breaths through the nose, and exhale through the mouth slowly, and when calm drive on, not forgetting blind spot checks ETC.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Good advice Ken! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Remind them to only start the ignition for smtm not the engine. I too have been caught out trusting the information about times etc :/

    • Pete Deal

      What about the Power Steering Question, Surely you need to start the engine ?

      • Claire Wilmot

        Good point Pete! If they were asked to ‘Show me’ then they would need to start the engine, however, the question states ‘Show me, or explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.’ Which means that the candidate has the option of showing OR explaining. So just by explaining, they are answering the question sufficiently without the need to switch on the engine. I hope that makes sense! 🙂

  • I always check that students have both parts of their licence before leaving their house. However, on one occasion we were in the test centre and I reminded my student to get his licence out and he didn’t have his card. I went back out to the car to look for it and couldn’t find it in any of the obvious places. Moved the seats, got underneath, still couldn’t find it. Now beginning to panic. Looked under the mats, in the glovebox (knew it wasn’t there but still looked), everywhere. In a real panic now. Gave up, got out of the car and turned round to see the card under the bush next to the car He must have dropped it as he got out…… Make sure you not only check they have both parts but then keep them somewhere safe!

    • Claire Wilmot

      Phew! That was lucky Sue! 😮

  • Great tips… Would not have thought of removing L Plates when driving pupil home. Will do now though. Thanks 🙂

    • Claire Wilmot

      You’re welcome Debbie. 🙂

  • I always carrie a spare set of car keys after a pupil accidently locked the keys in the car.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Oh no! 😮 Great advice Roger! I know I have ‘nearly’ dropped my keys down a drain before too!

  • Paul

    I asked my student if he had both parts of his licence before setting off for the test centre he assured me he had. driving round before test time he insisted in driving up to the last min. getting out of the car he told me he had lost the plastic card (he knew about this some weeks before the test. I now ask to see both parts before they book the test and before setting off to the test centre.

    • Claire Wilmot

      That was an expensive lesson for him! It’s always good to check everything yourself. Thanks for sharing Paul! 🙂

  • Nick Watson

    Great list, thanks. Could you clarify the following: On a recent successful test i jumped into the back seat for the debrief. I didn’t wait for the examiner to signal for me to do so because it was agreed BEFORE the test, by all parties, that i was to be there. The examiner was less than pleased with this and made that sarcastically clear in front of the pupil. Was i wrong to do this? Do i really need permission to enter my own car, with my own pupil who i knew wanted me there for debrief?

    • graham may

      Yes Nick. Protocol is for DE to re-ask pupil whether they want you at the debrief. Pupil could have changed their mind. Crazy but true.

      • Claire Wilmot

        Yes Graham is right Nick. Seems mad when we know our pupil so well! What shouldn’t happen though is the examiner conducting himself the way you describe. They should remain professional and explain the protocol rather than being sarcastic!

        • Nick

          Thanks Claire, i guess every day’s a school day for the newly qualified! A very helpful list.

  • Liz Camp

    Excellent, especially for us Newbies. My first test was almost a total disaster. Checked my MOT certificate couple of days before because I thought my MOT was due and saw it was the following month. For some reason on the morning of the test I got my MOT cert out again and realised I was looking at my husbands, we both have Peugeots. My MOT had run out a couple of days before. I had to go to a main dealer to get it MOT before test.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Glad it’s of help to you Liz. That was a close one with your MOT! Good on you for getting it sorted before the test! I once forgot to display my new tax disc too, but fortunately it was in the door pocket, I just hadn’t put it in the windscreen! 😮

  • Phillip sutcliff

    Remember at debrief, even when examiner is looking at you, he’s telling the pupil what has gone wrong, not you, so don’t speak, i did once and got ticked off, had to apologise to t/c manager and examiner, grovel grovel.

    • Claire Wilmot

      I hope he didn’t tick you off in front of the pupil Phillip?! We seem to be hearing of this sort of behaviour from examiners more and more. The examiner should have been professional and if he had a problem, explain this to you discreetly away from your pupil.

      I think it also depends on the examiner, I often get involved in debriefs on Part 2 and 3’s and have never been ticked off yet. 🙂

  • Melanie Smith

    Brilliant tips and a fair few new ones! Worst blunder I had was pupil carried her paper counterpart into the car and showed me that she had them. After a two hour pre test lesson – her request – the examiner checked her licence and said – “So you’re Mr …..” – AAaaargh, she had picked up her husband’s counterpart by mistake – my tip therefore is to check the licence fully!

    • Claire Wilmot

      Noooooooo! Brilliant point Melanie! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Some very useful tips there. I don’t let my pupils drive home after the test but if anyone does, make sure the L plates are removed or covered since they are no longer provisional licence holders.

    • Ged Wilmot

      Hi Zubair – fair point, and I guess having the pupil remove the L-plates would make them feel great – they finally did it! It wouldn’t actually be illegal to leave them on though, just thought I best mention that in case any new ADIs fear they’d be breaking the law by doing so 🙂

  • Remember to remove child locks from back passenger doors. Nothing worse than trying to open the door after opening the window when the test has finished.

    • Ged Wilmot

      Thanks for sharing that great point Aaisha! It could also be quite embarrassing having to ask your pupil let you out of the back of your own car! 😀

  • David Britton

    Thanks guys, very useful tips cheers.

    • Ged Wilmot

      You’re very welcome David – glad you found it useful!

  • Make sure that the issue numbers on the card and paper counterpart match. I’ve had students lose one part of a licence, get a replacement and mix them up. The issue will be a number and on the counterpart it will be the same number with a letter A after it.

    I always get the licence off the student as soon as they get in, check them then put the card just in front of the gearstick and the counterpart hangs out of the glovebox so they are both in sight at all times.

    Make sure if the student goes to the loo that they hand you the licence. At our test centre, the ladies doubles as the disabled loo and one student threw her licence on the washbasin and set the automatic tap off. One dripping wet licence and one amused Ex.

    Still took us out but a bit unnerving for the student.