There are two components to your driving test and both are distinctly different: the theory test and the practical test. To have any chance of passing, you need to practise, and there are multiple ways in which you can practise, some of which will work better for you than others depending on your unique situation. There was a theory that 10000 hours was the amount of time you need to practise something to achieve mastery. That was debunked, though, which is fortunate for you, because 10000 hours is like working a full-time job for 5 years.
You don’t have to achieve mastery at driving, just competency. The amount of practise you need to do depends on a number of factors:
- How directed your efforts are (practise while daydreaming is not good practise)
- Your personality
- Your age
- Your natural abilities
- The previous experience you have in doing similar tasks
- Your willingness to take advice and apply the lessons (i.e. stubbornness can be counterproductive)
- Your teacher – getting a good instructor and a supportive supervisor will help give you confidence and knowledge more quickly. Find out how to find the right instructor for you in this article.
The theory test is simply about memory and understanding of the road rules. You can practise all the theory questions using this website – simply click on car, motorbike or truck tests in the menu above. We covered off how to best practise for the theory test in this article (opens in a new window) – we explain how to use memory tricks to help you remember the facts around the theory test. You know that you have done enough practise when you consistently get 100% in the mock theory tests on this website.
Then you just need to overcome your nerves.
The practical test is more difficult to quantify in terms of the amount of practise you will need to do. While the theory test has a limited number of variables (i.e. you will go into a room and use a computer to choose answers from a limited set of questions), the practical test has an infinitely variable number of circumstances for you to deal with such as the weather, traffic volumes, and the route, plus random events that will vary every time such as how many pedestrians, the phasing of the traffic lights, and so on.
In order to be able to deal effectively with these situations you must reach a point at which you have built neural networks to automatically handle the core competencies in driving. You shouldn’t have to think about how to turn on the indicator, which gear you should be in (if you are driving a manual vehicle) and how often to check your mirror. You might still need to think about parallel parking, but that’s a skill that you won’t use frequently, and never in an emergency situation.
Therefore, the amount of practise you need for your practical test is to the point where your actions are automated and you can drive safely and competently while anticipating and reacting to developing dangers without panicking or reverting to driving styles that are dangerous. This means that your brain power is focused on what’s happening up ahead, scanning and observing for dangers, and using your skills to navigate and avoid other road users.
For some people that will be a hundred hours and for others it might be 10,000 hours, but each person will be different. The very act of steering a car can be immediately second nature to some people, but take others weeks until they are comfortable. Some drivers never become competent at parallel parking and spend their lives avoiding those types of parking opportunities.
When you feel you have reached this point, get your driving instructor to take you on a mock test and see how you do. In the real test you will need to be able to control your nerves, but the more preparation you have done, the easier it will be for you as the automated skills you have will still function rather than being affected by your nervousness.
There is a minimum number of hours you must complete while you are a learner driver (120, including 20 at night).