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Gina always wanted to drive from before anyone can remember. She’s always imagined the independence and freedom to actually go where she wanted, by herself, in a car. She always admired her mom on the steering wheel. She would ask all the questions there were to ask as a child. What the signs on the dashboard were, why her mom stopped at a red light, how old she needed to get to begin driving, and everything between. Her loving mom answered all her questions, and she looked forward to a time when it could be her turn.

Technically speaking, it was her turn for more than six years before something changed and she got her break, if I may put it that way. She was 22 and still wasn’t driving. The driving test had been standing in her way. Or so she thought.

The thing about Gina's story is that: It is the same for so many people. Maybe it's your story too. No matter how hard you try, you just seem not to pass the driving test. To make matters worse, a lot of people around you have their licenses and make it look so easy you feel like something may be wrong with you. Even though you know someone who doesn’t drive, it feels like ‘everyone’ you know is driving – all your friends, family members, everyone but you.

After trying and failing a few times, some people come to believe deep within they won't be able to pass the test anymore, but just keep trying at the behest of a friend, lover, or family member. Some quit altogether. But you don't have to. Like Gina, you can still pass your test. And in this article, I want to show you how to pass the driving test.

What I share here on how to pass the DMV road test applies to everyone who needs to take the test, whether it’s your first time or not.

It may be true that the first time pass rate is only an average of 49%, but it’s not true that the tests (theory and practical) are so hard you really can’t make it. It may be a stressful process, but it’s not rocket science. While you may attribute too many errors, a critical error, a strict examiner, or some other reason to the failure of the 51%, the real reason (one that underlines most of the other reasons) is a lack of confidence. Too many people get on the road with doubts and fears. And that’s where the problem begins.

Remember Henry Ford? Well, he once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Why? Because your belief becomes your reality! You can’t get on the road doubting yourself all the way and not expect to make a mistake that will cost you. According to Suzzy Kassem, “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” Confidence was at the heart of what Gina had to work on to prepare herself (more on that, and some studies that show confidence can help you)!

So, when thinking of what to do to pass your DMV road test, think about working on your confidence levels. Any strategy you employ that does not include confidence is doomed to fail. Faith in your ability is that strategy you may want to try for your driving tests.

Studies show that confidence (not self-esteem) correlates with performance. Research proves it. One significant research is the 2005 – 2008 research by Professor Candice Shoemaker of the Kansas State University. While the study itself may be old, I refer to it because it's been pivotal to most of the others on the topic.  The conclusion of that research, which was done and published by the American Society for Horticulture Science, is simple: Student's confidence correlated with academic performance.

In her research, Professor Candice dug into an aspect of Confidence known as Self-efficacy, which has to do with your evaluation of your ability based on a specific matter. As it relates to what we're discussing, the particular thing here is your driving skills. The research found that the more students mastered their course content, the better their confidence, and with increased confidence came better performance.

The take-home here is to focus on using this knowledge as part of your strategy and to your advantage. What changed in Gina's case was the realization that if she focused on practicing until she was confident in her driving skills, her performance in the tests would significantly improve. And that's precisely what she did.

A similar study was conducted by Professor Roy F. Baumeister, professor of psychology at Cape Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. The only difference with the one cited above is that Professor Baumeister’s focused on self-esteem and not confidence. "Self-esteem", as opposed to faith in your ability to do a thing, "is how favorably a person regards himself," according to him. He studied it for many years and concluded that the impact of self-esteem on performance is unpredictable at best.

I cite this second study to help you understand that the focus of the strategy is not your self-esteem but building your confidence. It is essential for two reasons. I don't want anyone who doesn't have high self-esteem to think that their chances of passing the DMV test are slim. And I also don't want anyone with high self-esteem to believe that his chances are automatically higher.

I want to emphasize it again: You must build your confidence in your ability to drive if you're going to pass the test. We will demystify the steps you can take to build your confidence in your ability, but first, let's consider a few things.

We’ll begin by debunking a few myths.

  1. If you can plan the route ahead of time, you will pass your DMV road test.

Nothing can be further from the truth. And there are many reasons for that. One is that there are many routes examiners can take you on. Every examiner has his route. And alternate routes too. The final decision of what route to use falls to the examiner, not you. So except you have a way to sway the examiner to using your itinerary and ensure that that route has everything your examiner will want to check you out on, you better throw this out of the window as fast as you can.

Another reason this is bad is that it puts your confidence on the route, instead of on you and your driving skills. The test is not about what course you can drive versus the ones you cannot. It is about you. It is about your driving skills. It is about keeping everyone, and you, safe. So, instead of focusing on route-planning, concentrate on learning the rules of the road, and perfecting excellent driving skills.

  1. If you failed the test the first time, you'd surely pass it the second.

Again, this is false. This myth is mostly related to the theory test. It comes from a belief that the written tests you will retake will all be the same as the last one you took—no. Because the tests are drawn from a database of hundreds of questions, there is little chance you will get even a single repeat question. So, thinking that all you need to do is to focus on remembering the questions you were asked previously and just try to find the answers is an evil game plan for you. It will hurt you more than any chance of it helping you.

If you failed the written test, consider reading and actually learning the whole thing. Since it could save your life and someone else's, why not sit down and do it. Read through the manual, and if you have to take practice permit tests online, do so.

If this is your belief regarding the practice test, my advice: forget it. Focus on finding what the examiner didn't think you were good at and learn it, together with perfecting other driving skills. One reason this belief could hurt you in the practice test is that the examiner may simply have seen that you were not confident enough. And if you are not confident enough, it is only reasonable for the examiner not to pass you. You're asking why. The answer is simple. Would you get in a cab with a driver who wasn't confident he could drive?

  1. Examiners are allowed to pass only a set number of new drivers per day.

This is laughable. Do you really believe the system is this thwarted? To what purpose? To put it straight to you: The examiner is only concerned about one thing, and that's the reason for the test in the first place. The examiner is concerned about safety – the safety of every road user. Nobody wants you on the road if the only thing you are sure to do is causing problems for every other road user. You may say that that's harsh, but they are only sparing you the opportunity to kill or seriously injure yourself and others. For your information, according to the CDC, crash risks are highest within one year of most people getting their drivers’ license. This is part of what your examiner wants to prevent. So it doesn’t matter if you are the first or last person being examined that day. If you can demonstrate that you the roads are safe with you on them and you’re confident about it, you’ve passed.

This kind of thinking, coupled with the fear of the examiner, can even ruin your driving. First of all, if you happen to fall into one of those late numbers, a part of you would have already told you that "It's not your day. You just have to come back some other day." What do you think that would do to you? Couple that with the fear of an examiner who doesn't want to harm you (but you think he might want to) what do you expect?

  1. If you’re a good driver, you’ll pass the test on your first try.

Logically, that’s correct. But in reality, the results tend to differ, not because good drivers fail, but because most people have an over-inflated ego regarding their driving skills. After practicing for a while, most people wouldn't assess themselves as bad or mediocre. They’ll all say they are the best drivers. But rating you is the job of the examiner. So, instead of thinking you're a great driver, focus on learning how to drive and mastering what you'll be tested on.

You're probably going to tell me I've been talking about confidence, and now I'm saying it's not important. I'm not! There's a fine line between confidence and narcissism. You want to be confident and not egotistical. Also, your self-esteem won't work here. Confidence will! What's the difference?

Confidence does not come from how good you feel about yourself (that's self-esteem) but from how well you think of your skill or level of preparation. Self-esteem is your general evaluation of your personality and traits (all of you). Confidence, as it relates to what we're discussing here, is your evaluation of your ability to do something, and it grows as you master the thing in question. That's why you have to focus on building confidence by preparing.

There are many more myths to debunk, but we'll leave it at that. Now that we've put those three away let's also touch on why you may fail the DMV road test.

When it comes to the errors that may prevent you from passing the road test, we can classify them into two categories: Critical or dangerous errors, and too many mistakes.

Critical or dangerous errors include anything that makes the examiner take physical or verbal control of the vehicle. Once any of these happen, consider the test ended. Examples include driving into another car, making a dangerous lane change, running a red light, over speeding, or doing anything that results in being honked at by other drivers.

No one is expecting you to have a perfect score, so, yes, you can make a few mistakes and still pass your road test. But if you make too many mistakes, whether as a result of a lack of confidence in your abilities, ignorance, or you’re just not prepared, you’re rebooking the test.

Now that we have put all these things in place let's now focus on how you can build your confidence and pass your road test.

To pass your road test with confidence, you have to build faith in your ability. To do that, you must employ these two simple tricks. The first one: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

I know you’re going to begin screaming, “Haven’t I been practicing?” or something similar. You have, but you most likely have been focusing on passing the test. You must make one small change, one that Gina found to do magic. It is this: Practice until you are genuinely confident in your ability, not for the test, but your confidence.

This may not sound like much, so let me tell you why and how it's a game-changer. At some point, you will carry a passenger in your car. What if that passenger was dying and needed to you to rush her to the hospital. Are you going to freak out knowing you are not yet a good driver, or are you going to step up and get it done? Don’t over exaggerate your abilities, be as honest as you can.

If this sounds like putting too much pressure on yourself, what do you think is one of the biggest reasons people fail? They’re anxious and feel pressured by both the presence of examiner and the fact that he or she is jotting down something they don’t know.

I'm not saying to simulate the pressure. All I'm saying is practice till you know that you can handle that level of stress. As for the anxiety or nervousness (whichever your case is), you must find a way to handle it, or it will undermine your confidence.

As you practice, focus on making progress and mastering what you need to learn. Be the best driver you can be before going to test if you are good enough. When you're confident you can, you won't be making a mistake like making a wrong turn, under pressure, or something similar.

Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

Practicing is one part of the puzzle; the other part is preparing for the test. In order wards, take simulated tests. You can get someone to act as your examiner and give you honest feedback or something else. Whatever you do, prepare for the real test by testing yourself. For this to work, it has to be someone whose feedback you respect.

When Gina found that it wasn't the test holding her back but herself – her lack of confidence in her driving skills, she employed these two steps above and built her driving success portfolio. And you know how they say it, "Success breeds success" (the conclusion of another research). As she succeeded in her driving practice and simulated tests, the day came when she knew that she would also pass the road test with confidence. And that's precisely what happened. Gina is now a licensed driver.  




Crash risk is highest during the first year that drivers are licensed. (CDC, 2018)

Success breeds success

Correlation of confidence and performance

Self-esteem and confidence

  • https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/self-efficacy-and-learning/
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