What do we do about Part Three test nerves?

A question on my weekly coaching call this week raised the question about what to do about part three test nerves. Well equally so for the Standard test, many instructors do get nervous. The question has come up many times over my now 23 years as a leading trainer for Driving Instructors and here is my advice below.

A lot has been written about pupils and what to do about nerves for the learner test. What about what to do about part three test nerves? Surely driving instructors do not suffer from nerves, well yes, they do and for good reason. One of which and not least is their livelihood can depend on it. A driving instructor is only allowed three attempts at these tests. With each fail, the pressure gets greater and the nerves increase. The strain can be particularly high if the driving instructor is on a trainee licence and has given up a previous job to do this. Oh! What a bleak picture I am setting.

Why are there part three test nerves?

Well look at what we have, as mentioned earlier, the driving instructors livelihood depends on it but its more than that. We have a learner in the car, who despite all their best intentions to help you, probably know your livelihood depends on it, they too are nervous and this energy, reflects on us. We feel it too. This is why on every part three test and Standard test the learner always regresses back a few lessons. Suddenly there is some strange person it the car known as an examiner, of how we all dread them, and the nerves pile up. On top of that, we (no you)go on FB or some other social media for advice and well that’s just wrong. You don’t know it because you’re the one asking but it sounds good so it must be true. We then prepare a lesson like we never do normally and try to teach in a way that we never do. Sound familiar. One of my instructors of nearly 18 years with me, use to get nervous. The examiner asked her why and told her ‘look, I know how fantastic your pass rate is, I know how your pupils love you, now show me how on earth you do it’ and this is so true. When I assess someone, I tell them I want to see their normal lesson, not something different. Do what you normally do, and we will fix what’s broken if anything. Put on a false lesson and I must fix so much more normally.

Recognise the above and when your pupil goes wrong, and they will, think brilliant, now my time to shine. Change the plan, deal with the fault (risk) fully. Drill it right down with the ‘what should of happened, what were the risk, what else, what else and is there anything else’. Then if time, go back to the original plan. Don’t be thinking you need to do what you stated you were going to do at any cost, that’s just wrong. Do what the pupil NEEDS in that moment.

The truth about statistics and the part three pass.

First, understand the figures. The picture looks worse than it is and this won’t help with part three test nerves. Very few people fail all three tests and particularly if you follow the advice coming. Let’s look at some figures. For example, Plymouth has an overall pass rate (2021-2022)* of 36% for the part three test. At first glance you might think, OMG only 1 in 3 pass. Look deeper, 42 tests were conducted and 15 passed. Now remember many of those will have come round again so if you failed your first test, the pass rate is 0%, if you pass the second test, the pass rate 50% and if you pass on your third test, 33%. So, averages suggest most people do pass. But some pass on the first attempt and figures are just that. Just don’t be hoodwinked into thinking you have a 1 in 3 chance of passing, it’s much higher.

Many areas are much different, I see Newton Abbot, just down the road from Exeter as 55% pass with 29 test taken and 16 passes. St Albans with a stunning 80% but Bodmin has just 7%. Now some might be looking at blaming the test centers but there are three main factors. Yes, the test centre but the trainee and the trainer are two more. Certainly, we as a driving school have success in Bodmin as we do many other areas so who is failing? Well this article is not about that, this article is about what to do about part three test nerves.

Are you poorly prepared for part three test?

In what ever town or city you are in, it is vitally important that you are well trained and well prepared. Much of my career has been spent rescuing trainees who have failed multiple tests and to be honest, with the standard they presented, I too would be nervous. If you don’t understand what the 17 competencies are about and how each one relates to teaching, you are going to be very under prepared. If all you do is role play driving lessons with your trainer, you are not going to be prepared for the actions of a real learner. No matter how good the trainers role play. My role play has been quoted by examiners as brilliant but even I would say, role play has little value beyond the first few lessons. Like with all learning, you need to first understand what it is you’re required to do. To quote my educational background ‘understand the empirical evidence’. Then learn to apply them in practice. This is the reflection in practice model I talked about in my Masters thesis. Donald Schön’s writes a lot about this in his book, ‘The Reflective Practitioner’. But hey, don’t run off, whilst I am well known for facts and not fiction, I am also know for making this simple. Understand the competencies, then learn how to apply them is all it takes. Most of it is simple coaching and just good teaching and a good trainer can soon show you how. A bad one will skip over them as nonsense and just give you role play training, then throw you in the deep end.

Ask your trainer to explain the 17 competencies, do they know. There are lots of free videos and articles on my website https://dte-elite.co.uk and I promise they ARE FREE. All my trainees and instructors get free classroom training sessions too, with free lunch and weekly free coaching calls. I am now offering those calls out free to my Facebook group DTE-Elite also.

Planning is the key

Well not exactly plan for nerves but planning is the key. Do you prepare lesson plans as part of your training or lessons? No, well how do you expect to pass! Every lesson should have at least a basic written, yes written plan. Your trainer should give you some or at least suggest where to get some from if you don’t want to do what I did and wrote my own. There is of course my own plans you will find on the website link earlier but see what you can do first. But a lesson plan will keep you on track, keep you focused and help you. Yes, you can use them in the car while teaching. I am a fully qualified adult education teacher. I must do FENTO standards like OFSTEAD. If I did not have a written lesson plan, no matter how good my lesson, I fail. So, get you plans in place.

Plan your route. Now I know everyone sort of does this for the lesson but what about when the lesson goes wrong? Remember I told you it will go wrong, hey now my time to shine. If you are doing a lesson on roundabouts, what’s on the way there? Traffic lights? Meeting traffic? A hill? Plan for what you will do if/when your pupil goes wrong. Where will you divert to sort that problem, how will you increase the task demands if the pupil is doing well and equally reduce if the pupil is not doing so well.
If you do nothing else take this secret away with you.

The secret in passing and not having part three test nerves is ‘Planning, Planning, and Planning and then be impulsive’.


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