Passing your Driving Test (PDA)



Let’s be honest. It’s not easy to pass.  Ask around your groups of friends and classmates. How did they all go? The statistics don’t lie. How many other types of exam can you think of where you can do 99% of the exam really well and 1% really badly (break the law or do something dangerous) – and yet still fail the test?  If your ATARs were based on that method of assessment, there would be a lot more people repeating Year 12!  So, preparation and attention to detail are vitally important. More about that later.

If you see a Driving School advertising a “90% (or better) first time pass rate” don’t just accept it on face value.  It’s your money and you want to be sure about what you’re paying for – so do a bit of extra research.


Your chances of passing can depend on a number of factors.  How many hours of practice you’ve done, the quality of that practice, whether you’ve been taught correctly, how much driving experience you’ve had in the test route area, knowledge of speed limits (and sticking to them), awareness of the location of stop signs/lines, your attitude, your aptitude, whether you’ve studied and understood the road rules properly, your nerves on test day, your ability to concentrate for the full duration of the test, the behaviour of other drivers and pedestrians that you encounter during your test, your competence in all potential parking manoeuvres – the list goes on and on!!

Your driving instructor has a good idea of whether or not you’re “test ready”.  Experienced driving instructors can compare you against vast numbers of other learner drivers that they’ve taught over the years and would have a good idea of where you rank, and therefore whether your level of skill and knowledge as a driver makes you a reasonable prospect of passing. Parents often insist on pushing their child into the PDA because they believe their child is “a good driver”. That alone doesn’t constitute a valid reason to attempt the PDA if the instructor’s professional opinion is that the the learner isn’t “test ready”.  It costs a lot of money to sit the PDA. Driving Schools generally charge between $130 and $199 for a lesson and test combination package.  On top of this, every attempt at the PDA (after an unsuccessful first attempt) requires payment of an $93.40 fee to the Department of Transport before being able to re-book.  So each iteration of repeating the PDA after failing is going to cost you between $223 and $292 !!

So the moral of the story is that there are NO SHORT CUTS to getting your licence.  Your instructor will have an informed professional opinion on whether or not you are “test ready”.  You should take that advice on board because attempting the PDA too soon will be like throwing money down the drain – money that could have been used to fund a series of extra lessons before attempting the PDA at a more appropriate time.

But in order to PASS the test, you first need to START the test!  Here are a few reasons why the test might not go ahead:

  • Incorrect, unsigned or incomplete log book.  This occurs all the time so you need to pay attention to detail!
  • Hazard Perception Test not completed (not applicable for international licence conversions)
  • Unroadworthy car (usually brake lights, indicators or tyres)
  • Unlicenced car (usually overdue registration)
  • No car! No, the Department of Transport DOES NOT have cars on standby just waiting for you to do your test! But unfortunately some people turn up unprepared for their test completely unaware of this fact.
  • Being unable to start the car because the key won’t turn.  This can occur when you move the steering wheel and lock its movement after you’ve taken the key out (when parking the car before the PDA!) It’s an anti-theft feature and locks both the steering wheel and ignition key barrel.  If this situation occurs at the start of your PDA, you need to remove the tension from the steering wheel by turning the steering wheel firmly one way or the other (only a couple of millimetres or so) – while simultaneously turning the key.  This will release the steering lock and you’ll then be able to turn the key. You need to ask your instructor to show you this technique at least once during your lessons – and remember it!  If not, it could be a very costly exercise if you fail your PDA because you couldn’t turn the car on!

Having got past this stage, there are many reasons why a candidate might fail the PDA.

Three of these reasons are largely within the driver’s control:

  • SPEEDING! Most streets in Joondalup are 50 kilometres per hour (even the dual-carriageway Grand Boulevard!) and the ever-present roadworks are usually 40 kilometres per hour. Wait until you see the end of roadworks signs before speeding up again! If there seems to be a problem with the roadworks signage, discuss it with your assessor – as sometimes the signage can be incorrectly set out or incomplete.
  • Failing to COMPLETELY STOP at Stop Signs/Lines!  BEWARE: when attempting a U-turn at an intersection (also known as a hook turn) you need to pay close attention to the white painted markings (e.g. STOP LINES) on the road as you might not notice the STOP SIGNS which will be facing the other way and are often placed several metres away from the corner!  The side streets intersecting Regents Park Rd in Joondalup are prime examples (but there are many others)!
  •         Not being familiar with road rules or the test format. i.e. not properly reading (and re-reading) the Department of Transport’s “Drive Safe” and “Driving Techniques for Safer Drivers” online or hardcopy publications. Driving is a serious business and you should approach it with the correct ‘adult’ attitude. If you attempt the test without having studied the theory (in the Drive Safe book) as well as properly learning the practical side of driving, and asking lots of questions along the way, then you are almost certain to fail your PDA!  The Department of Transport assessors are only doing their job, and if you demonstrate in the PDA that you don’t know the road rules they simply can’t let you loose on the roads with a Driver’s Licence. You should also “binge watch” as many videos as possible to assist in gaining familiarity with the Joondalup test area. ILUKA Driving School’s YouTube channel offers a number of instructional videos related to driving in Joondalup and parking techniques.

There are many other reasons for failing. A few of them have been advised to us by other instructors and assessors anecdotally, but the vast majority have been experienced directly by our own driving test candidates over the years.

These other reasons include:

  •         NERVES!!!  Try to get a good night’s sleep and prepare as you would for any exam.  Bring a small bottle of water for refreshment during the test – but don’t drink too much in the 60 minutes before your pre-PDA lesson.  There are no customer toilets at the Department of Transport.
  •         Driving off with an object dangerously unsecured in the car – such as leaving the log book or other belongings on the dashboard
  •         Not closing the car door properly at the start of the test. Make sure you close it firmly.
  •         Driving off while the windscreen is fogged up – you need to know how to use the heater / AC / demister controls
  •         Removing footwear and leaving it on the floor near your feet or pushed under the driver’s seat.  This is a potential safety issue as the footwear could move and get lodged under one of the pedals
  •         Failing to look left (again) just before committing to go at T junctions (both on the road and in car parks) – a really common one!
  •         Failing to recover mentally from earlier error(s).  If you make an error, put it behind you and refocus on the tasks at hand
  •         Changing lanes or cutting across lanes (also known as “straight-lining”) in a two lane roundabout. Particularly outside Joondalup Hospital on Shenton Avenue.
  •         Turning from the wrong lane in a roundabout – again particularly outside Joondalup Hospital.
  • Changing lanes during a turn at traffic lights where there are two lanes marked for turning right or left.
  • Parking on the street across the entrance to a driveway or laneway, within a metre of a white painted fire hydrant ‘H’ marking or on yellow painted No Stopping (No Parking) lines
  • Stopping beyond the thick solid white line at traffic lights
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road without a valid reason!
  • Making a right hand turn across the path of an oncoming vehicle
  •         Getting too close to parked cars when driving along a street.  You should aim to be at least 1.5 metres from the cars if possible.
  • Failing to give way to a pedestrian in a situation where the pedestrian has ‘right of way’. If the pedestrian has ‘right of way’ and can safely step onto the road, you must attempt to make eye contact and wait for them to cross the road. If it’s a ‘stand-off’ situation where the pedestrian refuses to proceed despite being able to safely cross the road, you should advise the assessor that from your perspective you can’t proceed without breaking the law. Don’t ever take the law into your own hands or you will likely fail
  •         Waving a pedestrian onto the road! DON’T DO IT – EVER!  It must be completely the pedestrian’s own decision to step onto the road after making their own safety assessment.  Waving them onto the road could put the pedestrian into serious danger.
  • Turning right at traffic lights without a green arrow – but not waiting until completely safe to turn (i.e. 100% safe)
  •         Following another car into a traffic light intersection when turning right without a green arrow.  Only one car at a time is allowed out there. The first car waiting in the middle constitutes a “blocked intersection.”
  •         Failing to give way to an oncoming vehicle when attempting to pass a parked car.
  •         Failing to give way to an oncoming vehicle when commencing a reverse parallel park.  Because the front of your car will initially swing to the right, you must wait for oncoming traffic to pass if you would potentially impede the progress of an oncoming vehicle on a narrow street
  • Being unable to successfully complete a parking manoeuvre
  • Failing to give way when required at intersections and roundabouts
  • Getting too close to a parked car when parking, or when leaving a parking bay (parallel parking and reverse parking)
  • Changing lanes dangerously. You must check your Mirrors, Indicate and check the appropriate Blind spot before commencing a move into another lane. (Think MIB “Men in Black”, or MILO (the drink) – for Mirrors, Indicate, Look Over)
  •         Failure to give way to an emergency vehicle driving under “lights and sirens”.  There is a police station, ambulance depot and major hospital in Joondalup and there are often fire alarms going off in and around the city.  You need to know what to be mindful of (i.e. the  sound of sirens or the sight of flashing lights), and what to do in these circumstances.
  •         Taking BOTH hands off the wheel while the car is in motion (e.g. to adjust your hair, pull up your sleeves, or “talk with your hands”)
  • Being unable to unlock the car! Make sure that you are familiar with the buttons on the key and that the “lock” and “unlock” symbols aren’t faded
  •         Trying to start the engine when not in ‘Park’ (automatic only) and being unable to resolve the issue
  •         Attempting to drive away before starting the car! The car won’t go when you press the accelerator. But seriously, if you can’t resolve this issue quickly, are you really ready to sit the PDA?  But nerves can cause you to do silly things in the PDA – so you need to keep a clear head when trying to resolve unexpected issues. If you have such an issue, don’t panic and try to think it through clearly.  The assessor should give you a reasonable chance to work it out.
  •         Starting the car without being seated in the driver’s seat with your seat belt on (when doing pre-checks of indicators, brake lights, etc) or getting out of the car to speak to the assessor during the pre-checks while the engine is running.  If you can’t hear the assessor’s instructions while doing the pre-checks, put your window down or wait for the assessor to resolve the issue
  • Failing to use mirrors or indicators correctly, and not looking around properly before and during reversing
  • Holding up the test by waiting excessively when there are multiple opportunities to safely proceed (e.g. at intersections, etc). This is often due to uncertainty about “Right of Way” rules.
  •         Failing to successfully complete a parking exercise (e.g. a reverse parallel park), sometimes when a simpler option (e.g. a forward park) may have been a more sensible and easier choice
  •         Entering a blocked intersection or causing a blockage by following another vehicle into an intersection.  This can occur, for example, when travelling straight ahead at a green traffic light in very heavy traffic or when performing a ‘hook turn’ or a ‘U-Turn’ behind another vehicle that is attempting the same manoeuvre
  •         Interfering with the movement of other traffic while performing a U turn.
  •         Driving into an already occupied ‘refuge area’ between the two carriageways when attempting a right turn from a T-junction onto a dual carriageway.  Only one vehicle at a time is allowed in this area.
  •         Failure to give way to a bus when it’s indicating that it’s leaving a bus bay to rejoin traffic. You need to be observant because in some instances the bus bay is on the other side of the bike lane (e.g. Grand Boulevard) and the bus’s indicator might be just outside your normal field of vision if you’re creeping past the bus bay in heavy traffic.
  •         Crossing over a solid white central line to pass a temporary obstacle (e.g. a car in the process of parking or a queue of vehicles in the left lane waiting at traffic lights). In these cases the obstacles are only temporary and you need to wait for them to clear before you proceed without crossing the solid central line.  If the obstacle is permanent (e.g. a parked car, a truck unloading goods or a broken down vehicle), then you can legally cross the solid central line to complete the manoeuvre
  •         Driving up the kerb when running out of room when performing a u-turn.  If you think that you’re going to hit the kerb, you must stop short of the kerb and reverse back before maneouvring the car correctly to resolve the issue.
  •         Driving into a dead-end street and being unable to navigate back out again without assistance from the assessor
  •        Parking on the wrong side of the road (facing oncoming traffic),  It’s illegal in Australia!! … but everyone does it in the UK!!!
  •        Making a mistake when parking the car at the end of the test. e.g. failure to look correctly before entering the bay or failing to give way to an oncoming car.
  •        Repeatedly making the same mistakes across multiple sections of the driving test.  For example repeated failure to use mirrors when driving or a failure to look around when parking, repeatedly failing to signal (indicate) or repeatedly taking bad paths on corners or in low speed manoeuvres.
  • Parking the car in an illegal location, realising your error, and then moving the car without redoing Mirror, Indicate and Blind Spot checks.
  • Failing to recognise uncontrolled intersections (i.e. cross roads where there are no Stop or Give Way lines). In this case the “Give Way to the Right” rule applies. This situation exists within the Lakeside Joondalup Shopping Centre carpark – yet so many PDA candidates are unaware of the situation and how to negotiate it.
  • Using your car’s SatNav to determine speed limits!  DON’T DO IT !! We know of multiple cases of people speeding on Collier Pass, Joondalup because the SatNav in their private car told them that the limit was 70 instead of 50.  Instant fail – and totally avoidable!
  • Turning left from the slip lane off Shenton onto Grand Boulevard (heading north) when there are cars (or buses) feeding through the lights on Grand Boulevard. Even though there is only provision for a single lane of vehicles to pass straight ahead through the lights from the southern side, there are two lanes on the northern side of the intersection. Any vehicle passing through the intersection could choose either lane (with or without indicating).  If you proceed past your Give Way line and turn left onto Grand Boulevard while there are vehicles coming through the intersection from the southern side, YOU WILL FAIL! End of story! Yes, it might seem unfair to some people but that’s how it’s assessed.
  • Any other reason that causes the assessor to intervene to avoid a crisis or potential crisis

… and many more.  It’s a long list and it grows all the time as candidates continually find inventive ways to sabotage their PDA!!

How do we minimise the risk of making these mistakes? The answer is simple – PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE!!

… but not just any old practice that reinforces bad habits.  At the risk of being seen as trying to promote our industry, there is simply no better investment than getting lessons with a qualified instructor as early as possible in the learning process.  Whether you then choose to continue with more lessons, or go away and do most of your hours in the family car with Mum, Dad or other friends or family, you will more likely be reinforcing the correct habits.  Some people come to us just a couple of weeks (or sometimes days!) before their PDA “just to learn how to park”.  What we often find is that they may have been driving incorrectly from the start.  They may have serious issues with steering, observation, indicating or other safety issues, and they may be unfamiliar with the characteristics or peculiarities of the potential test routes.

We’ve even seen a parent-instructed learner who, just prior to their PDA, was driving an automatic car (accelerator and brake) with their left foot. How did it get to that stage? They had been driving for more than six months with multiple family driving supervisors, but nobody had noticed.  It was picked up immediately in the first few seconds of their first paid driving lesson – but only two weeks before their booked PDA.  Another parent-instructed learner had been braking with their left foot without being noticed!  The parent themselves had previously completed their own advanced driving course but still overlooked their child’s obvious technique error.

It can be virtually impossible in the limited available time to prepare an improperly trained learner driver to the required standard – often with a predictable result in the PDA.

Driving Lessons in Joondalup CBD and surrounds

So having established that you need professional lessons, you should always aim to polish your driving in between these lessons. Spend as much time driving as possible – and when you’re not driving make sure you observe the driver.

Here are a few video clips to help.  Simply click on the links to view or search for ILUKA Driving School on YouTube. They should be of benefit to both you and your supervisor.

Please bear in mind that these are only examples.  The actual content of the exercises, the location chosen and any instructions given by the assessor in the PDA can vary widely.  You need to get as much practice as you can so that you can successfully perform the manoeuvres anywhere, regardless of whether it’s a familiar location or not:

 … and many more. 

Click here to search for ILUKA Driving School on YouTube!!! … and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel to receive notification of new videos when they are published!

Training the Parent (a quick refresher lesson for supervisors!) DISCONTINUED!

UPDATE: Due to a lack of bookings from parents (zero bookings in recent years to be exact), we have discontinued the “Train the Parent” refresher course. Any parents looking to update their knowledge and gain exposure to the Joondalup testing area can contact us to discuss other options.

So often we are contacted by learners or their parents and asked to refine their parking skills just prior to a booked PDA.  Unfortunately, what we often find is that parents have been teaching their child incorrectly from the outset.  This often involves an inefficient steering technique based on the old urban myth of “never crossing your hands”. Parents are also often unaware of the correct sequence of actions for lane changes, merging, moving away, and a variety of other things.

So how do you get the best “bang for your buck” from driving lessons?  The answer is to train the parent properly in the first instance!

ILUKA Driving School offers 90 minute Train the Parent sessions to reacquaint parents with the way that they should have been driving for all those years and allow them to pass on correct driving advice to their children.  These sessions are basically a guided tour of the Joondalup test area highlighting areas of interest and tricks and traps for the unwary.  The parking exercises are also demonstrated, road rules emphasised and the format of the driving test explained.

Parents are not expected to drive but to merely come along as a passenger so that they can take in as much information as possible.

For a relatively small outlay of $90 for 90 minutes, parents can equip themselves with much of the required knowledge of how to teach their child properly and where exactly they should take them driving in Joondalup – potentially saving a bundle of money in the process.

So why do we offer this service if it potentially costs us business?  Because it means that you hand us over a better driver when you come back and ask us to polish your child’s driving prior to the PDA, but more importantly it means that your child will be a safer driver when they get through the PDA. We can refine their skills rather than going back to basics.

And we don’t care if you end up paying us less overall – you’re probably going to refer your friends to us if you’re happy with the overall experience.  That’s how the world works, isn’t it?

Remember that each time a candidate fails the PDA, the additional cost of resitting the test through a driving school along with the Department of Transport’s $93.40 re-sit fee will in most cases considerably exceed $200, and can be even as high as $292 with some of the more expensive driving schools!  Go through that process a few times and it will put a sizeable dent in your bank balance! Not to mention the potential long delays in getting another suitable PDA booking date/time!

Be proactive and book a Train the Parent session!


The toughest places to pass your driving test in Perth

Have a read of the following article.  Rather than scaring you with the low first time pass rates across the State, what the article highlights is that there is no substitute for good preparation. Remember the 5 P’s – PROPER PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE! – or words to that effect!

What about the advertised pass rates of 90% or even 100% ???

So how is it that some driving schools are able to advertise 90% or even 100% pass rates? That’s a very good question. While it’s obviously true that the quality of the teaching will influence overall pass rates, such rates are unsustainable over the long term given that the majority of candidates are teenagers with only 50 to 100 hours of of driving experience.  If driving schools suggest these types of pass rates, it would be worth asking them to clarify the basis of their statistics – as what they might actually be saying is that most, but definitely not all, of their students attempting the PDA do “eventually” pass.  This might be on one of many subsequent attempts after failing the first time and might not even be as a student of their driving school, with some learners moving from one driving school to another or attempting the test in a private vehicle.  For many, the journey is a case of preparing sufficiently well and being able to demonstrate driving to the required standard first time, but for others – and even some of the better learner drivers – the path to passing the PDA can be one that is hampered by minor errors along the way resulting in multiple unsuccessful attempts. So don’t just take advertised pass rates at face value – dig a bit deeper.  If it sounds too good to be true – do your own research! It’s your money!

At ILUKA Driving School we won’t kid you into thinking that passing the PDA is easy and we won’t try to baffle you with statistics.  We recognise that a multitude of factors can derail even the best of learner drivers under the pressure of test conditions.  But if you have the right attitude and don’t let your ambition get ahead of your ability, we can help to ensure that you tackle the PDA when you are good and ready.  There are no winners if you fail your PDA – there is disappointment all round for the learners, parents and instructors alike – along with the cost, inconvenience and stress of having to re-book and re-sit the test, so the right level of preparation is vital to set you up to give you the best possible chance of success.

Attempting the PDA in a country town ???

Many learner drivers relate to us the story of a friend who attempted the PDA in a country town.  Some pass, some fail. Almost always the learner is angling to get us to take them to a country town for the PDA because they’ve heard that it’s easier than at a suburban test centre.

Indeed, some instructors do take candidates to country towns, often loading up the car with more than one hopeful candidate for the long road trip.

Is it a good idea?  In our opinion it’s a resounding “NO”!  While it was once a viable option when waiting times for PDAs blew out to six months or more, attempting the PDA in a country town simply because of a candidate’s doubts about their ability to pass at a particular suburban location is a seriously bad idea.

You need to set off early, allowing extra travel time, factoring in roadworks and other potential delays, you then need to have a practice run in an unfamiliar town. Your pre-test nerves will be just the same as they are in the city – maybe even more because you are in an unfamiliar area and you’ll possibly be more tired than normal.  If you fail it’s a long trip home.  If you pass, did you really prove anything to yourself other than being able to drive in what was probably lighter than normal traffic in a less challenging road system?

From a parent’s perspective, do you really want your child out on the road by themselves with a licence if they haven’t proven to themselves or to anyone else that they are competent at driving in traffic locally and in the busy Perth metropolitan area?  Yes, suburban test centres can be be challenging – but isn’t that the whole point?

Indicator controls on the right or left?

If you’re learning to drive with your parents, it makes sense to engage an instructor whose car has its indicators on the same side of the steering wheel as your family car.

The vast majority of cars in Australia have their indicators operated with your right hand with those numbers boosted by high volume brands like Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia.  Most European cars, however, have the indicator control stalk on the left – meaning that the wiper and headlight controls are on the opposite side. This can be very confusing and difficult to deal with, particularly if you’re regularly swapping between cars with opposite indicator/wiper controls.

Remember that when turning, the direction that you move the indicator control stalk follows the direction of movement of the steering wheel. For instance, if turning right you push the stalk down with your right hand or up with your left hand, and vice versa.

As much as we’d like to teach everyone who asks, we strongly recommend that you have lessons in a driving school car where the indicator controls are on the same side as your family car(s) (even if it means that we miss out on your business). Doing otherwise makes for a very difficult driving experience – one which even the most experienced drivers can have trouble navigating.

RIGHT: Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Suzuki, Nissan, etc

LEFT: BMW, Mercedes, VW, Mini, Renault, Peugeot, etc

There are plenty of driving schools to choose from – most cars have their indicators on the right, but a few have them on the left.  Just make sure you choose a reputable business (preferably using word of mouth referrals) and factor in the most appropriate car for your situation.

Remember, in the PDA the odds are stacked against you.  You might do one hundred things really well and one thing really badly – and have the outcome go against you.  It’s the “one percenters” that you need to put in your favour to maximise your chances of success.  One of those factors is choosing the right car.