We take you through the top 5 reasons why learner drivers fail their driving tests


Let’s face it – nobody goes into a driving test wanting to fail.

But, sometimes anxiety sets in, or you make silly decisions which end up costing you the chance of getting that little pink driving licence card.

That’s where we can help – by teaching you the most common reasons for people failing their driving test. We hope this can show you what to avoid, what skills to work on before the big day, and how you can progress going forward.


What does the driving test look like?

So, as you’re probably aware, the driving test is the final hurdle to becoming a fully-fledged licence holder. The light at the end of the tunnel. The beacon of hope for learner drivers.

However you want to phrase it – it’ll feel like a big deal to you at the time. But, it’s really not as scary as you may think.

Usually, you’ll arrive with your driving instructor, sign in, and wait around until it’s your turn at the wheel. Then a quick eyesight test and safety questions, before jumping in the car for a drive lasting around 40 minutes.

During the test, the examiner will want to put your skills to the test, by asking you to undertake some manoeuvres. These are things that should be covered in your lessons, so don’t worry too much – simply follow their instructions, and remember what you’ve been taught.

You will be told where to drive for the most part, but you will most likely be asked to independently drive in certain sections too. Once you’ve finished, and return to the test centre, the examiner will tell you the results, and whether you’ve passed or failed – then will also give you some feedback to let you know how many faults you have received in your test.

But, how many of these faults are you allowed to get, to pass your driving test?


What are the different types of faults?

In your driving test, there are 3 types of faults that you can receive:

  • Driving Fault
  • Serious Fault
  • Dangerous Fault

But what do they mean?

When you are taking your test, you are likely to make a couple of small mistakes – perhaps you stall, or fail to indicate early enough when you approach a junction.

These will usually be counted as a driving fault, because in these scenarios, they haven’t caused any potential danger to other road users, but if you keep repeating the same fault throughout your test (3 or more times), it will usually be upgraded to a serious fault.

You will only receive a serious fault if you make an error that could potentially be dangerous (For instance, driving through a red light on an empty junction). If you make a mistake, and actively endanger yourself, the public, property, or the examiner, you will receive a dangerous fault (i.e. Driving on the wrong side of the road).


How many faults are you allowed on your driving test before you fail?

As a general rule of thumb – try to avoid serious or dangerous faults (often referred to as majors), as they will see you fail immediately. If you hope to pass your driving test, you cannot commit any major faults.

But, what about less severe (driving) faults?

You are allowed to receive up to 15 driving faults (known as minors), while taking your driving test. These don’t endanger other drivers, hence the higher tolerance – but it’s worth noting that if you keep repeating the same driving fault over and over again, this may turn into a major fault, as already mentioned.

Click here to familiarise yourself with an example of a driving test report


What are the most common reasons for failing the driving test?

Now, we turn our heads towards the reason you clicked on this guide. So, let’s start with the most common reasons, as provided by the DVSA:


  1. Not making effective observations at junctions

This can cover anything from making sure it’s safe to proceed, to making observations before you turn into a junction.

Did you know? 39% of accidents are caused by drivers failing to look properly, according to Compare the Market.

Any mistake like this will be classified under Junctions – Observations on your examiner’s marking, but what are examples of this fault?

  • Looking too late.
  • Failing to judge the speed of an approaching vehicle.
  • Making no observations when joining a carriageway using a slip road.

Just like all other faults, the classification of minors or majors will often be determined by the severity of the fault. So, make sure you check your mirrors properly look before making any sort of manoeuvre in your car.


  1. Not using mirrors correctly when changing direction

It’s something that sounds very simple – look in your mirrors before changing direction, but it’s amongst the most common reasons for learner drivers failing their tests.

Effectively checking your mirrors will help to protect yourself and other users – remember the ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ expression before any action – whether that’s changing direction or simply increasing your speed.

All mistakes like this will be classified as Mirrors – Change Direction on the marking criteria, and can include any of the following:

  • Not using mirrors when exiting a roundabout.
  • Trying to change lane on a roundabout when a vehicle is directly alongside.
  • Causing a vehicle to slow when changing lanes on a dual carriageway.


  1. Inadequate control of the steering wheel

Think back to your first lesson – you probably were told to keep your hands at the ’10 and 2’ position. Right?

We’ll assume you said yes. Although that’s just part of the reason people fail for this mishap.

According to RAC Foundation, errors and reactions account for up to 62% of fatalities in reported road-accidents, which includes poorly turning or manoeuvring.

So, what should you look out for, to make sure you don’t follow the same mistakes – listed under Control – Steering in the criteria for marking:

  • Repeatedly not steering enough.
  • Steering late, when turning into a minor road.
  • Repeatedly mounting pavement, when pulling over to the left.


  1. Incorrect positioning when turning right at junctions

Since 2010 – 11 this has been amongst the top 4 biggest reasons for people failing their test, since 2010/11[1].

Essentially, it’s all about drivers positioning their car as close to the centre of the road, as is safe, without moving onto the other side of the road, and will be marked down as Junctions – turning right on the examiner’s sheet.

But, it’s not all about getting over to turn right – there’s also other mishaps that fall under this category:

  • Positioning in the left-hand lane when turning right at a roundabout
  • When you want to turn right at the end of the road, you incorrectly position to the left.

It may not seem like a big deal at the time, but other road users will look at your positioning as an indication of where you plan to go, which can be very dangerous if you aren’t making it crystal clear.


  1. Not moving off safely

Finally – moving off safely, but what does this mean? Simply put, you will need to make the correct observations, when you pull off, after being static.

Whether it’s from the side of a road, on a gradient, or when parked behind a vehicle, you need to make sure you remember what you were taught in your driving lessons, and bring these learnings into action – otherwise, you will be given a fault under Moving off – Safely on the marking criteria.

So, as a learner driver, how can you make sure you avoid this in your driving test? Well, take a look at some of the mistakes around this, to help strong-arm you in your bid to pass:

  • Repeatedly moving off from the side of the road with no blind spot checks.
  • Not making any rear observations when moving off following an emergency stop.
  • Moving off from behind a parked vehicle into the path of an approaching vehicle.



Whether you’ve looking to book your driving test, or have already taken one – take these common mistakes, and use them to help address any problems that trip up so many during driving tests.

There’s a lot more to driving than looking in the right mirrors, or a smooth driving style, but displaying these skills will help to show your examiner that you’re not only a safe driver, but also a competent one.

Above all else, take it at your pace, take the pressure off yourself, and make sure you go into your test prepared.

Quite often, we see learner drivers want to practice outside of lessons, and that’s where we can help – as a learner driver you can take out a telematics insurance policy with, and receive insightful data, which may help you improve your driving style.