Failed Driving Test

Failing a driving test can be a tough experience, and it can knock your confidence, especially if you’ve failed a number of times. The key to passing your test is to practice as much as you can, read up on the common driving test mistakes and try your best not to give up or get discouraged.

In this guide, we’ll be explaining the different types of driving tests faults you could make. We’ll also provide you with a list of the top 10 reasons people fail their driving test and examples of minor and major faults, so you know what to look out for.

We’ve also included some statistics on failed tests, advice on how to get over failing a driving test and answered some of the common questions we’ve received from learner drivers on this subject.

Types of Driving Test Faults

We recommend anyone preparing for their driving test read up on some of the common driving test mistakes. Equipping yourself with this knowledge will help you avoid the kind of errors that are frequently made on the driving test.

There are three types of driving test fault you could potentially make;

  • Driver Faults
  • Serious Faults
  • Dangerous Faults

Driver faults

Driver faults or minor faults as they were previously known are faults that do not have the potential to become dangerous. Driver faults have no significant impact on you, your vehicle, the examiner, other road users or property.

How many minor faults does it take to fail the driving test?

If you make 16 or more minor faults, you will fail the driving test. You can also fail the driving test if you repeatedly make the same minor fault. Making the same minor fault over and over again demonstrates to the examiner that you have not mastered that particular skill. It also means the issue could become a serious or dangerous fault under different road conditions.

Example of a driver fault

Your driving examiner has asked you to pull up on the left-hand side in a safe, convenient and legal position. You check your centre and left-wing mirror, and you notice there are no following vehicles or road users. You look ahead and notice there’s an oncoming vehicle. You decide not to signal, and you pull up on the left-hand side.

This would be an example of a driver fault. Applying a signal would have helped the oncoming vehicle, however, no other road users were hampered or inconvenienced by your actions.

Serious faults

Serious faults, also known as major faults, are potentially dangerous errors. For a fault to be considered serious, it must have the potential to endanger your vehicle, other road users or property. A fault is recorded as serious when it has the potential to endanger any of the above, without actually causing any danger. You will fail your driving test if you make a single serious fault.

Example of a serious fault

Your driving examiner has asked you to take the next left. On the approach you check your centre and left mirror, apply a signal and brake just before you reach your point of turn. There’s a following vehicle roughly 5 or 6 car lengths behind you.

This is an example of a serious fault. Examiners are asked to observe the speed learners drivers travel at on the approach to a junction. Braking late when there are following vehicles is potentially dangerous, so this would be classified as a major fault and lead to a failed test.

Dangerous faults

Dangerous faults, also known as major faults, are errors that endanger your vehicle, other road users or property. These faults are made when someone or something is in danger and they normally require the intervention of the driving examiner if an accident is to be avoided. You will fail your driving test if you make a single dangerous fault.

If your driving examiner considers the standard of your driving to be particularly poor and they’re concerned for their safety and the safety of other road users, your test could be stopped before it’s completed. If you make a number of dangerous faults, your examiner could decide to end the test to protect themselves and the general public.

Example of a dangerous fault

You’re travelling in the left-hand lane of a dual carriageway, and you want to move over to the right-hand lane. You check your centre mirror, right mirror, signal right and attempt to move over without checking your blind spot. At this point, the examiner grabs the steering wheel, keeping you in the left-hand lane, and a vehicle emerges from your blind spot.

This would be an example of a dangerous fault. Changing lanes without checking your blind spot when a vehicle is nearby will endanger your vehicle and other road users around you. You would fail your driving test because of this.

Example 2. You’re travelling in slow-moving traffic at around 5mph. The examiner asks you to take the next left. You check your centre mirror, indicate left and start to turn. You’ve forgotten to check your left-wing mirror. As you begin turning, the examiner slams on the brakes and within a couple of seconds, you see a cyclist pass on your left-hand side.

This would be an example of a dangerous fault. Turning left without checking your left-wing mirror has endangered the oncoming cyclist, and your test would be over as a result.

The most common driving test fails

You can reduce your chances of failing the driving test by avoiding some of the common mistakes learner drivers make. The list below contains the top 10 reasons for failed tests in 2018/19.

  1. Observation at junctions
  2. Use of mirrors when changing direction
  3. Lack of control when steering
  4. Turning right at a junction
  5. Moving off unsafely
  6. Incorrect response to traffic lights
  7. Lack of control when moving off
  8. Incorrect positioning during normal driving
  9. Incorrect response to road markings
  10. Lack of control when reverse parking

What happens when you fail a driving test?

The national pass rate for the driving test in 2018/19 was 45.8%. This means statistically, you were more likely to fail your test, as opposed to passing it at the first time of asking. Anyone preparing for their driving test is, of course, hoping they pass, but with the chances of failure so high, lots of learners are interested in finding out what happens when you fail a driving test. For anyone who is curious, here’s what happens at the end of a failed test.

Once you have returned to the test centre, brought the vehicle to a stop, secured it with the handbrake and switched off the engine, your driving examiner will give you the results of your test. Along with your results, they’ll also provide you with feedback on any faults they recorded.

If your driving instructor is in the vehicle at this point, or if they walk over to your vehicle, the driving examiner will ask you if you would like them to be present when they give you your results and feedback. At this point, you could ask your instructor to leave, if you’d prefer them not to be present.

If you have failed the test, your driving examiner will talk you through the faults they recorded and give you a brief explanation of how these faults could have been avoided. This is known as the de-brief. Examiners are required to give you feedback on all serious and dangerous faults they observed. If they recorded both serious and dangerous faults (major faults), as well as driver faults (minor faults), they only need to give you feedback on the major faults and a selection of the repeated minor faults.

If you failed your test because you accumulated 16 or more minor or driver faults, your examiner must give you feedback on each driver fault they recorded. If they don’t provide you with feedback on each fault, it could be grounds to appeal the driving test.

It’s worth bearing in mind that you won’t be able to discuss your driving test in detail with your driving examiner. The de-brief tends to last only a couple of minutes and once it’s complete, you will be handed a copy of your driving test report before and the examiner will leave the vehicle.

How to get over a failed driving test

Whether you’ve failed your driving test for the 1st time, 3rd time or you’ve lost count of what attempt you are on, here are some tips to help you get over the disappointment of failing.

Consider the pass rate

If you have just failed your test, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’re not the only learner struggling to pass the driving test. In 2018/19, the overall pass rate for car practical tests was 45.8%. Depending on which test centre you take your test at, the pass rate could be even lower. With over half of all tests resulting in a fail and over 1.6m tests taken in the period, failing the driving test is not as uncommon as you might think.

Work on areas that need improvement

At the end of your driving test, your driving examiner will explain the faults you made and hand you a driving test report. The report will contain a list of each fault they recorded and some examiners will even give you a brief explanation on how the fault could have been avoided.

One tip to help you get over a failed driving test is to sit down with your instructor and discuss each of the errors listed in the report.

We’d recommend booking additional driving lessons with your instructor and using the sessions to work on each of the faults you made during your test. Doing so should improve the chances of passing at the next attempt.

Don’t leave it too long between tests

We know that failing a driving test feels horrible, but one tip you can use to get over this feeling is to book another test as soon as you are ready to do so. Once your instructor feels you are ready to pass, it’s a good idea to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. If you leave it too long between tests, you could forget some of the things you have learnt and you could begin to doubt your ability to get your driver’s license.

Statistics on failed driving tests

We’ve analysed the data from all driving tests taken in 2018/19 and we think it’s fair to say, passing the driving test is no easy feat.

In 2018/19, 1,664,219 car driving tests were taken in the UK and only 45.8% of these were passed. In terms of the number of attempts needed to pass, here’s how the data breaks down.

  • 341,393 of learners – 20.51% – passed on their 1st attempt
  • 192,636 of learners -11.58% – passed on their 2nd attempt
  • 103,464 of learners – 6.22% – passed on their 3rd attempt
  • 55,369 of learners – 3.33% – passed on their 4th attempt
  • 29,795 of learners – 1.79% – passed on their 5th attempt
  • 39,314 of learners  – 2.36% – needed 6 or more attempts

As you can see from the data above, roughly 4 out of 5 learner drivers taking their driving test for the first time in 2018/19 failed. If you happened to fail your first test don’t be discouraged, the first time pass rate isn’t that high and lots of other learner drivers are in the same boat.

If you have failed your driving test twice already, roughly 14% of all learner drivers passed in 2018/19 after 3 or more attempts.

Even if you’ve failed your driving test for the 4th or 5th time, it’s worth remembering that roughly 40,000 learner drivers needed 6 or more attempts to pass!

We hope that anyone who has failed a driving test in the past will use the statistics above as motivation to keep going.

When can you book a driving test after failing?

You must wait up to 10 working days before booking a driving test after failing. The two-week wait is designed to help you cool off and give you time to work on the areas of your driving that need improving. If you feel you are ready to take another test right away, then our driving test cancellation checker can help you find a short notice test within a couple of days. If your driving instructor feels you need more practice before taking another test, listen to their advice. Trust your driving instructor’s opinion as they won’t recommend you book a test if you’re not ready to pass.

Can you fail your driving test on the questions?

It’s possible to fail your driving test because of the ‘show me tell me’ questions. At the start of your test, before you begin to drive, you will be asked one ‘tell me’ safety question. The examiner will ask you one question from a possible list of 14 and if you answer incorrectly, it’ll be recorded as a single minor fault or a driver fault. You can’t fail your driving test for answering a ‘tell me’ question incorrectly.

Once you have started driving, your driving examiner will ask you one of the ‘show me’ questions. These questions require you operate one of the vehicle’s controls while driving. You should only answer this question when it is safe to do so. You can fail your driving test when answering this question if you endanger another road user, the occupants of your vehicle or public and private property.

When answering the ‘show me’ questions, try to keep your eyes on the road, keep the steering wheel straight and if you are unsure what to do, let the examiner know. If you answer incorrectly, without endangering yourself or other road users, it will only be recorded as a single minor fault. It’s only a major fault if your driving becomes dangerous or potentially dangerous to yourself or other road users.

Can you appeal a failed driving test?

Candidates can appeal their driving test, however, unfortunately, the result of the test can’t be changed. You have grounds to appeal your test if you think your driving examiner failed to follow the rules and regulations set out by the DVSA.

If you live in England or Wales, you need to contact your local magistrate court within 6 months of taking your test to lodge an official appeal. Any candidates living in Scotland who wish to appeal their driving test should contact their local sheriff’s court, within 21 days of their test date.

If your appeal is successful you could be issued a refund or a free test, but as mentioned, your original test result cannot be changed.

Can you fail the driving test for speeding?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can fail your driving test for speeding if you go over the speed limit of the road you are driving on. If you’re a mile or 2 per hour over the speed limit and you correct the mistake immediately, you might not fail, although this is down to the discretion of your driving examiner. You will certainly fail your driving test if you are consistently over the speed limit, or if you fail to react to a new speed limit sign.

You can also fail your test for speeding if you are under the speed limit, but you’re unable to stop within the distance you see to be clear. If your driving examiner has to brake for you because you are travelling too fast or you’re unable to stop safely, it will also lead to a failed driving test.

Can you fail your driving test for stalling?

You can fail your driving test for stalling, whether or not that actually happens, depends on the situation in question and how you react to it.

If you stall the vehicle when there are no other road users around you and you correct the issue safely and quickly, you are unlikely to fail your test because of it. In most cases, it would be recorded as a single minor fault. An example of this would be stalling right at the start of your driving test before you leave the test centre car park.

There are, however, some situations when stalling can cause you to fail your driving test. Stalling your vehicle in a situation that inconveniences or creates danger for other road users, is generally seen as a serious or dangerous fault. One serious or dangerous fault will lead to a failed test. An example of this would be stalling several times at a set of green traffic lights when there are vehicles behind you.

Check out this guide full of tips to help you stop your vehicle from stalling.

How many times can you fail your driving test?

There is no limit to the number of times you can take or fail a driving test. As long as you wait the mandatory 10 working days between tests, there’s nothing stopping you from trying again if you were unsuccessful in your previous attempt.

Do driving test examiners have to fail a certain number of candidates?

Driving examiners do not have quotas to fill, as that would incentivize the wrong behaviour. You won’t fail your driving test just because an examiner has previously passed a certain number of candidates that day.