By the time you take the driving test, you will already have a lot of driving experience recorded and you will most likely be quite capable of demonstrating all of the necessary skills and knowledge required. However it can still be a nerve wracking experience, and if your nerves get the better of you then it’s more likely that you will make a mistake. It’s important to know how to calm your nerves before a driving test, and how to remain cool under pressure.
Driving isn’t just just a physical activity, it’s also a mental activity. You have to be alert at all times and you need to maintain full awareness of your car, your surroundings, and any potential hazards or threats. Knowing how to keep calm before your driving test will help you keep your focus and attention, and can prevent panicky behaviour which could result in failing the test or endangering yourself and other road users.
So if you’re worried about your performance on the day and want to know how to keep cool, let’s look at a few ways you can prepare that will help to calm your nerves before the driving test, so your experience will go smoothly and safely.
Get plenty of rest
It might seem like sleep is a bit of clichéd advice, but sleep is shown to be very strongly tied to mood, performance, and mental wellbeing. When preparing for your driving test you need to gain every advantage you get, and a good night of sleep should be one of your top priorities.
Stress and anxiety can be made worse by sleep deprivation, and the amount of sleep you get can directly influence your mood and cognitive ability (including hazard perception and split-second decision making). So it’s important to make sure you sleep early and have enough sleep the night before driving test. You will feel more mentally alert and will perform better if your mind and body are fully rested.
Eat something healthy
You should ensure you have enough energy to maintain your performance and get through the driving test without difficulty. Be sure to eat a nutritious meal or snack at least an hour before the driving test so your body has sufficient time to turn the food into energy, and provide any other physical benefits.
Harvard University says that a healthy diet that includes beans, fruits, berries, nuts, and vegetables can help to reduce anxiety by providing the body with antioxidants. However, even if you don’t have anything healthy to eat, you should still be sure to eat something - you don’t want to be distracted by feelings of hunger during the test.
Drink plenty of water
Our bodies use a lot of water when performing strenuous activities, and while driving is physically demanding itself, a test is also a strenuous activity for the brain which needs hydration just like other parts of the body. Make sure to hydrate with plenty of water before taking your driving test so you’re mentally and physically able to perform at full efficiency during the driving test. You may also consider taking a water bottle with you, however you will not be able to drink while you are actively driving.
Students who drink enough water before attempting a test and remain sufficiently hydrated throughout though test have also been reported to perform more effectively, achieving better results by as much as 5 - 10% compared to students who don’t drink water before a test.
Prepare with a warmup driving lesson
A warmup driving lesson can help you prepare yourself mentally, will give you time to get used to the movements and rhythms of driving so you’re prepared for the driving test, and can give your body time to shake off any lingering nerves that you may feel.
Because the driving test is simply a demonstration of your skills and knowledge, a warmup driving lesson is a great way to prove to yourself that you are ready and capable of passing. You can also use this as an opportunity to get pre-test feedback and support from your driving instructor for added peace of mind.
Identify why you feel nervous
The driving test, like any test, can feel scary for different reasons. It can be difficult to figure out how to calm your nerves before a driving test if you don’t actually know what’s causing you to feel nervous.
Whether it’s uncertainty about performing one particular advanced skill, the ability to remember particular road rules or do something smoothly under test conditions, or even the time or location, there are a variety of things that can create a feeling of unease.
If you are feeling nervous in the days before your test, figure out what it is that makes you nervous and try to understand why it makes you feel that way. Create a checklist of all the things that you know about the driving test and what is expected of you, and then go through them and see how they make you feel.
Eventually you will narrow down the factors that are causing you to feel that way, and then you can work on improving whatever it is (practice a driving skill, revise your knowledge, or practice driving in rain, etc) so you feel confident about it.
If it’s a fear of the unknown that is making you feel uneasy, then you should...
Know the test and manoeuvres
Do you know what’s covered in your local driving test?
Knowing what to expect will give you a mental advantage. Knowing what’s expected and what you are capable of can quickly help you see the driving test for what it is - a checklist of things you’ve been mastering over the course of your learning period.
However, if there are things you are likely to be tested on that either don’t know, or you aren’t confident about performing, then knowing what is expected ahead of time will let you learn and practice any missing skills or knowledge.
Think about your driving successes so far
You need to know how to calm your nerves before a driving test because confidence is an important part of driving, and you won’t always have the assurance of a driving instructor in the future. You need to be confident in your abilities and decision making to drive safely on the road without supervision - this is also something you will be assessed on during the driving test.
Don’t just focus on any weak areas you may have while preparing for the driving test, be sure to remember the things you’ve gotten right so far! Being able to drive is a great accomplishment, and over the course of learning to drive you will have picked up and mastered a wide variety of skills that might not be immediately obvious - because you use them without problem.
With enough time and practice and dedication to improvement, you will be able to master all of the necessary driving skills.
Focus on YOUR driving test - not others
When preparing for the driving test, most learner drivers will be looking for general driving test tips to help them pass on their first attempt rather than learning things specific to their circumstance.
Even though almost every new learner driver is required to go through the same processes, the driving test can vary quite a lot by state. The driving test may also vary by city, testing location, weather conditions, traffic conditions, or other factors.
No two learner drivers are the same either - and what works for another learner driver may not necessarily work for you. Remember, when learning how to keep calm before your driving test, you should avoid comparing yourself to anyone else.
The driving test isn’t a competition and there is no high score leaderboard. It’s an ability and knowledge assessment to make sure you are able to drive safely and confidently enough as a solo driver to progress to your provisional licence, and it should be treated as such.
Take a mock test
Booking a regular driving lesson to use as a mock driving test with your driving instructor can help you get a feel for what to expect during the actual driving test, and you will be able to get feedback on areas you need to improve.
A mock driving test also gives you the opportunity to overcome mental barriers of fear and uncertainty by easing into going through the motions of a driving test, and help you become more comfortable with the idea of completing it.
If you’ve done it once, you can do it again, and successfully completing the mock driving test can help you keep calm nerves before the driving test itself.
Wear comfortable clothing
Wear comfortable clothing that is appropriate for driving and allows you to move freely without any restriction. Your choice in clothing can influence not just your physical motion (which directly impacts on your driving ability) but also your mental performance.
The last thing you want is to get frustrated with your clothes feeling awkward or uncomfortable, and any nerves or anxiety may be exacerbated and made worse by the distractions of physical discomfort. Prepare your clothes the night before driving test to make sure you’re all set for the next day.
Exercise or meditate
Exercise releases endorphins which help the body to feel good with a boost to mood and energy levels immediately afterward that lasts for a couple of hours, as well as providing an ongoing positive buzz that can last for up to 24 hours. This means you can fit in a good workout the night before driving test and still experience the benefits the next day.
You don’t need to hit the gym to get the benefits, however. Light exercise such as a walk, jog, or short workout should be sufficient, and spending some time outdoors in fresh air can further help.
If you don’t have the time to exercise, or are unable to, then meditation or yoga can offer a good alternative that helps you alleviate stress and improve your mental clarity without working up a sweat.
Only tell a few people about your test
While it might be tempting to tell all your friends and family about your upcoming test, it can potentially add extra pressure to succeed which is counterproductive. You’re less likely to keep calm nerves before the driving test if everyone around you is excited and adding pressure.
If you’re prone to anxiety or stress when preparing for a test, then you should only tell those closest to and only when necessary, so you can focus on the driving test and on your own personal expectations of it.
Accept that you may make mistakes
Making mistakes is a part of learning, and you will make plenty of mistakes while learning to drive. By the time you’re attempting the driving test you should not be making basic mistakes, and the driving test serves a demonstration of your ability to drive to a certain level.
However, it is still possible that you will make mistakes, and you won’t necessarily fail the test immediately if you do make a mistake while driving. Errors and mistakes are classified into different levels based on the severity of the accident and the amount of risk it creates, and there are only a few items that will cause you to fail immediately.
No matter what happens during the test, keep positive and do not assume that you have failed.
*If you do make a mistake, do not argue or plead with the testing officer about your score for the driving test.
Book your test during an off-peak period
Booking your driving test during a quieter period of the day when there is less traffic on the road can be a good solution for how to keep calm before your driving test. Knowing there is less traffic on the road will give you peace of mind, and you will have a much smoother experience while driving.
Peak periods are generally 8 to 9AM in the morning, in the afternoon around 2.30 to 3.30PM, and then 5PM to around 6PM. The exact times when traffic is busiest may vary by city and location of the individual testing centre.
Practice (a LOT)
Just get out there and practice regular driving! Not just advanced skills but general driving in all weather conditions, traffic conditions, environments, and at daytime and nighttime.
The more you do something the more it becomes second nature, and becoming experienced and familiar with a larger variety of conditions while driving prepares you more for the unexpected. The purpose of requiring learner drivers to gain up to 120 hours of driving experience is to ensure they have enough experience and confidence that the necessary driving behaviours become an automatic response, but it’s always good to practice more than the legally required minimum if you can.
Whether you’re a learner attempting the NSW driving test in an automatic, or an experienced driver using a manual for the VicRoads drive test to upgrade your licence, hopefully you’ve discovered something useful from this list of tips to help you maintain calm nerves before the driving test.
To book a warmup driving lesson and the use of your instructor’s car for the driving test, check out our driving test packages. If you want to book a regular driving lesson or check out the range of driving instructors available through EzLicence, simply enter your postcode into the instructor finder form below.