21 Ways to Help You Calm your Nerves Before a Driving Test

Written by Omid Karimi

Taking a driving test can be nerve-wracking. For a lot of people, it's a stressful time thinking that they're not prepared to take the test. And learning only from a relative rather than a qualified driving instructor can be a reason. This adds to more anxiety and nervousness.

So are the students who have been through a driving school relaxed on the test day? Not really! Everyone gets nervous when it comes to any kind of tests. I've never heard from any of my students that 'they are chilled' on the test day!

When we know that we are being watched and judged by someone else, we get nervous. It's the natural reaction of our body to an outside threat. But most of the time this threat is not real but a perceived threat.

Being nervous to some extent is not too bad as it makes us more focused. And guess what? Focus is what you need when you go for your driving test.

Here are a few tips to help you calm your nerves before your driving test:

1. Get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods.

It is essential for your body to be in excellent condition before you take your test. Try to avoid caffeine on your test day. Caffeine increases heart rate causing feelings of nervousness and anxiety. I've seen many students having a cup of coffee in their hands and waiting for their driving tests. BIG NO-NO!

2. Try to do some exercise the day before your test

Exercising has enormous health benefits. It will boost your mood and get your mind ready to go, sharpen your memory, and give you a positive self-image. It also helps you to have a better sleep at night. Having a good night's sleep means having a fresh body and memory to tackle the test challenge! It helps with your anxiety and stress by relaxing the muscles and relieving tension in your body too. 

3. Arrange a warm-up driving lesson.

Driving a car is not something you can learn in a snap of a finger. You need countless lessons and hours of practice. 

Passing a driving test (Road Test) bears a huge responsibility for your safety and that of others. So, having an hour or so of driving lessons before your test can help you refresh your driving skills.

You can also get a few tips from your instructor. Driving schools usually offer a test package. That consists of one hour lesson before your test and hiring their car for the test. Many students find this lesson very helpful. 

Your instructor usually points out the key points you need to keep in mind for your test. They also help you to calm your nerves. 

4. Plan ahead for your driving test day. 

It's no secret that you need to have your full attention during your test. So make sure you're not rushing to or from another appointment on that day. Make sure to leave plenty of time before your scheduled test, whether it's in the morning or in the afternoon. Try to arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand so you can get yourself settled. You can also go to the testing centre and familiarize yourself with the environment if you plan to use your car. Every test centre has a designated parking area for driving tests. Go to the test centre earlier to see the environment. Also, find out where the designated parking areas are so you know where to park your car on your test day.

5. Wear comfortable clothing. 

Remember, this is not a job interview. Surely, the last thing you want to have on your mind is being anxious about your clothes. Try to wear modest and comfortable clothing. This will allow you to move without a problem while having your test, thus having one less thing to worry about. 

6. Keep your test a secret.

Well, this doesn't mean you shouldn't tell anyone about it but try to keep your plans within a small circle. If you choose to disclose the news, you can share it with someone you are close with. 

You can also talk to a family member who can provide needed support to boost your confidence. Having a lot of people know about your upcoming test can put a lot of pressure on you. 

It's best to let the news out when you've passed the test. 

7. Book your test on off-peak hours, if you are anxious around too many cars!

It will be one less thing to worry about when coming across heavy traffic or children crossing the road. Sometimes because other drivers are in hurry, they might tailgate you and put pressure on you. And that might cause you to do something you are not supposed to do.

8. Talk to your examiner before the test.

You may have thought of your examiner as someone who's there to criticize your every move. Well, it's not completely false but think of them as one who's looking out for your well-being. They are not there to pick on you but to help you get your licence. The examiners are very fair. 

They don't care how you look, where you are from, or what you do for a living! All you need to do is to make them feel safe and show them you are a courteous driver and you know the rules. 

Try to engage in small talks before your test and if you are nervous, you can tell them about this. They usually assure you that everything is going to be okay. 

9. Avoid chatting with your examiner during the driving test.

A lot of the new students get distracted when they do two things at once. So if you are one of those people who are not able to chat and focus on driving at the same time, don't start a conversation. Examiners usually don't start a conversation with students, unless the students start themselves. If they start chatting with you, but you don't want to, you can give short answers and they will stop talking to you.

10. Do commentary driving during your test.

Commentary driving is a technique of commenting on your driving. You need to actively see the traffic signs and situations and say it quietly or out loud and also mention what you're going to do about it. For example, ‘I see a 60 sign here, so I make sure my speed doesn't go over 60. The traffic light is red, so I go for the brake to stop smoothly at the lights’. The effectiveness of this technique varies from person to person. Some people find it distracting to drive and talk. However, the majority of students like this technique as it helps them to stay focused. Give it a go next time you drive and see if it works for you.

11. Do a breathing exercise.

You can do a breathing exercise when you're starting to feel overwhelmed before your test. This will help you calm down and reduce your anxiety. Avoid negative thoughts about you messing up and failing your test. Your mind is powerful. So if you start thinking you'll pass the test, then you'll start feeling you can do it. Quite a lot of students have mentioned they did a meditation on the day of their tests and that it helped them A LOT.

12. Accept making mistakes.

You've made every preparation you could before your test. Now, you just want to face your fears and ace the test. But before you can do that, you have to accept the fact that mistakes happen. What you can do is not let it get to you. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you make a mistake in your reverse parallel parking, don't panic. Don't dwell on your mistakes. Stop thinking about them and focus on the rest of the test. 

13. Don't panic if you see examiners scribble something on the test report sheet! 

That doesn't mean you have made a mistake. 

Examiners have some checkboxes to tick and they are just marking those off their lists. For example, when they take you to a roundabout, they tick the roundabout box on your paper. 

14. If you take your own car for the test, make sure your car is in a good condition.

The examiners are going to check your car tyres, indicators, brake lights, and horn to see if it's suitable for a driving test. They won't check EVERYTHING though. For example, they might not check your wipers and they might not ask you about them. But if your wipers are not working and it rains during your test, your test will be terminated straight away by the examiner. Knowing that your car is in good working condition and your car controls work properly, gives you peace of mind and hence you can focus on your test. 

15. Have some herbal tea or eat a banana!

You can substitute your coffee with tea, but make sure it says "decaffeinated." 

A few proven herbal teas can help calm anxiety and can help settle your stomach. You can choose between chamomile and peppermint teas, whichever suits your taste. 

Banana is a well-known driving test superfood among driving instructors. It is full of B vitamins, which help calm the nerves. So go ahead and try one! 

16. Don't listen to driving test horrors.

Your friends or relatives might have shared their horrible experiences. Avoid listening to such stories. Or the next thing you'll know, you're having second thoughts about yourself. You need to take a step back from these kinds of conversations. You are not them. If they messed up their tests, it doesn't mean that you are going to mess it up too! 

17. Go at your own pace.

Let's make this clear. You're not in a car race. So this is not a competition of who can do the fastest parallel parking and finish the test in a short period of time. Take your time when doing parallel parking or other manoeuvres. You are not in hurry to go anywhere with the examiner. 

18. Know and learn about the test procedure. 

The fear of unknown is a real thing in psychology. When we don’t know what we are going to face, we come up with making scary stories in our head and that makes us panic. Watch this footage of a real driving test so you get an idea of how the test is going to be. Watch it and see if the test is a big deal!

19. Think of it as a driving lesson. 

Working with a skilled instructor helped you learn everything you need in driving. They've also provided you with countless driving tips and techniques. In the long run, you gained some confidence in your driving skills. But now, you're hesitating if you're good enough for the test. What you can do is to imagine the moment in your driving lessons where you did well. Then go and put it into action on your driving test! 

20. Use the bathroom before your test.

I can attest that more than 50% of students feel the need to use the bathroom right before the driving test. This, again, is the natural reaction of our bodies to a perceived threat. When we get anxious our muscles get very tense. The tension puts pressure on our bladder which makes us feel like we need to urinate more than we would. Use the bathroom so you know you are 100% ready to tackle the test. 

21. Think of the worst case scenario.

What's the worst case scenario that can happen? That's right; you don't pass the test! We don't want to even think of that. But if for any reason this happens, it's not the end of the world. Back in 2015 I went to this 3 days seminar by T Harv Eker (affiliate link), which changed my mindset COMPLETELY about the word 'Fail'. He said " You don't fail, but learn a lesson". If you think that way, you wouldn't feel a lot of pressure on you and you face any tests head on with a sense of calm. 

Try whatever that resonates with you from the list above and hopefully you don't feel as nervous for your driving test. 

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