Minor and major faults on your driving test

When you take your practical driving test, unless you drive perfectly, your examiner will award you a series of faults. Because pretty much nobody drives perfectly, it’s normal to rack up a few faults during your drive.

The key is to ensure you don’t do anything really daft, which means notching up only minor faults; there’s also the potential to accrue serious and dangerous faults, both of which mean automatic failure of the test, regardless of how well you drive otherwise.

If other road users are affected, a minor driving fault can turn into a serious one; you’ll be given a dangerous driving fault only if the examiner or another road user has been forced to take evasive action. 

The three types of fault:

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 appropriately.