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Main Reasons For Driving Test Fail


Passing your driving test isn't a totally clear cut issue as there are times when you can wrongly assume a minor mistake as a major one, making you incorrectly think you have received a driving test fail.

There are many occasions when you can still rescue victory from the jaws of defeat after making a mistake during your driving test.

The key thing to understand is what makes your examiner view a mistake as a fail?

To help you understand what to avoid on your test, we look at what makes a fail and how mistakes can be identified as a major fault.

How many minors can I get and still pass?

In your driving test you can receive 15 minors and still pass, only a major or three of the same minor will result in a fail.

What is classed as a major fault?

Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a major or a minor fault.

When you make a mistake an examiner will class it as one of the following: 

  • A dangerous fault - this involves actual danger to you, the examiner, the public or property

  • A serious fault - something potentially dangerous

  • A driving fault - this isn’t potentially dangerous, but if you keep making the same fault, it could become a serious fault

Both dangerous and serious faults come under what people would normally refer to as a 'major' and just one of either of these faults will result in an instant fail - although you will be expected to continue the test and will only find out the examiner's decision at the end.


DVSA Examiner Driving Test Reports


Common practical driving test faults

Some common faults and whether or not they will constitute a fail, some are more clear cut than other -it's up to the examiner's discretion to decide if a mistake constitutes a major fault.

Not checking mirrors enough

Not making the necessary observations before moving off or performing a manoeuvre may only warrant a minor, so don’t fret if you feel your observations weren’t clear enough.

Like most minor vs major decisions, it depends on the situation. Again, the examiner will determine whether the lack of observation made completing the manoeuvre potentially dangerous to you, other drivers or pedestrians.

Failing to make the necessary observations at junctions is the most common cause of failing a test outright.

Stalling the car manual only

One of most common driving test mistakes, stalling your vehicle will leave you feeling like you’ve instantly ruined your chances of passing. But in itself, it’s just a minor fault.

If it happens while you’re attempting to start the engine from parked, regain composure, place your handbrake back on and calmly start the car again after checking it is safe to do so.

Make sure to look ahead for pedestrians and other roads users, put the car in first gear, find your biting point and check your mirrors again - moving away when the road is clear.

Stalling is highly unlikely to warrant a major fault – providing it didn’t happen in a potentially dangerous situation.

So be aware that while stalling from parked at the side of a road will usually receive a mere minor, doing so at a busy junction or on a roundabout is more likely to result in a fail.

Touching-Mounting the kerb

Many learners assume that hitting the kerb while performing a manoeuvre will result in an instant fail, but again it’s not entirely true.

While mounting the kerb – or crashing into it hard – will be marked down as a major, a simple touch or clip during a manoeuvre (like turning in the road) is only classed as a minor.

Do though, be extra wary of pedestrians on the pavement.If you hit the kerb with people nearby you’ll likely sweep up that dreaded major.

Hesitation _ Slow to move off

If you’re unsure when to pull out of a junction, or at a roundabout, you won’t fail for not going at the first viable opportunity. Try to keep your cool and pull out the next time it’s safe to do so.

You won’t get a minor for holding up the flow of traffic if you miss the chance once, or even twice. But be aware if you miss three opportunities to safely pull out then you will likely be issued with a major.

You will also get a major if you pull out when it is deemed not safe to do so.

Handbrake incorrectly used

As the safest thing to do, candidates often feel they’ll be penalised for not using the handbrake at every opportunity during their test. This isn’t always the case.

While the handbrake should always be applied while parked – and putting the handbrake on in most situations will make the car more secure when stopped – you won’t fail for leaving it off, providing it doesn’t affect the vehicle and cause it to roll backwards or forwards.

Crossing hands over on the steering wheel

Contrary to popular belief, crossing your hands on the wheel won’t result in your failure.

Examiners look for you to be in control of the vehicle and steering wheel, but this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically fail if you move your hands from the recommended position of around ‘3 and 9 o clock’.

Be aware, it’s no longer recommended to drive with hands in the ‘10 and 2 o clock’ positions – as previously advised by driving instructors. It’s now known that this can result in injury if the car’s airbags are deployed.

Driving too slowly for traffic conditions

Naturally, examiners are looking for you to abide by the speed limit.

While many candidates drive slower than needed in a bid to convince the examiner of their safety credentials, going unnecessarily slowly can result in a minor or even a major if it endangers you or other drivers, or causes significant delays.

Driving too slowly also signals to the examiner that you aren’t aware of the speed limit, which could lead to a fail, so speed up if you’re lagging, but never exceed the speed limit.

Failing the sight test- at start

Before you even step foot in the car you’ll be asked to read out a registration plate from 20 metres.

Some candidates wrongly think being unable to read the plate first time is an instant fail. If you can’t read the first plate, the examiner will ask you to read a second – and you won’t actually flunk your test unless you fail to read three plates in a row.

Remember, if you do fail the sight part of the test, you won’t even continue into the driving section. If you did have difficulties first time, shake it off and try not to let it affect you once you get out on the road



When you take your practical driving test, unless you drive perfectly, your examiner will award you a series of faults. It’s normal to rack up a few faults during your drive. The key is to ensure you don’t do anything really silly, which means notching up only minor mistakes; the examiner is also looking out for serious and dangerous faults. Regardless of how well you drive otherwise, just one serious or dangerous fault means you will fail.

What faults can I get in my test?

Minor: Not potentially dangerous, but if you make the same fault throughout your test it could become a serious fault. You can notch up 15 minors and still pass, but more than this means automatic failure.

Serious: Something that could potentially be dangerous, which means a definite test failure.

Dangerous: Something that puts yourself, the examiner, another person or property into a dangerous position. Unsurprisingly, if you rack up one of these, you’ll fail your test.


The most common driving test minors

Starting the engine: If the car is in gear and you don’t press the clutch, it’s going to go horribly wrong – the same goes for not applying the handbrake properly so the car rolls forward or back.

Moving away: Not making proper checks before moving off is a minor fault which could become a serious one if you move away when it‘s unsafe to do so.

Emergency stop: You need to stop quickly while retaining control. Using both the clutch and footbrake is a common mistake – so don’t make it.

Reverse parking: You shouldn’t be too far from the kerb or parked at an angle to it after your reverse park. Also look out of the rear window while reversing and watch for pedestrians when performing this manoeuvre.

Controls: You’ll need to activate the wipers if it’s raining and the lights if it’s dark. If visibility is reduced (such as in heavy rain), you should also switch the lights on so you can be seen.

Awareness: Your examiner is expecting to see evidence that you’re aware of what’s going on around you at all times. That means knowing about other road users nearby, reacting to the signals of other drivers, correctly interpreting road markings and signs and using your indicators inappropriately


In order to understand the format of the driving test, you need to know how the driving test faults work. We’re not all perfect, so it’s  likely that you’ll make a few mistakes!

The key to passing the driving test is to avoid the dangerous faults. We’ve explained everything you need to know about driving faults to clear this up.

What’s a driving test fault?

A driving test fault is simply an error you make during your driving test. They can be either a minor fault or a major fault.

A minor fault (also known as a driving fault): is anything that causes an inconvenience to other road users but is unlikely to cause an accident.

A major fault: These are errors that could cause an accident. Major faults can be dangerous or serious. A dangerous fault is making an error whilst driving that another road user must actively act to avoid it. A serious fault is an error which could have caused an accident if someone was there.

Here’s an example to demonstrate the differences between these faults:

Scenario 1: You forget to check your mirrors before turning however you indicate with plenty of time and make the turn safely. This would result in a minor fault.

Scenario 2: You’re changing lanes on a dual carriageway, forget to check your mirrors and change lanes anyway. This is a serious major fault, because even though nobody is there, you could have caused an accident by not checking if they were.

Scenario 3: You’re changing lanes, and this time there a car is behind you in the other lane. You change lanes without checking and it causes the other car to immediately slow down to avoid collision. This is a dangerous major fault and would result in an immediate fail.

How many driving faults can I get without failing?

When it comes to minor faults, you can make up to 15 without failing. However, with major faults (dangerous or serious) it just takes one to fail you.

As intimidating as that sounds, it makes sense to fail anyone who pose a dangerous threat to other road users.

The easiest thing to do, is to make sure you’re making enough observations to avoid any mistakes that could be classed as a major fault. Utilise those mirrors and if you’re not sure about something, check them again!


The most common driving test faults

To give you an idea of what to avoid, here are the most common major faults committed on driving tests.

  • Junctions – Observations

  • Mirrors – Change direction

  • Junctions – turning right

  • Control – steering

  • Move off – safely

  • Response to signs & lights

  • Positioning – normal driving

  • Control – manoeuvres

It’s also important not to get hung up on driving test faults. If you find yourself thinking you’ve made a huge mistake on your driving test, the best thing to do is carry on.

There have been countless occasions in which learners were pleasantly surprised with a pass after being convinced they had failed.



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