TV Review: Secrets of the Driving Test


Amelia Davidson discusses her views on the ITV documentary and its somewhat unexpected entertainment value.

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Image by ITV 1

By Amelia Davidson

Don’t worry, the show is more entertaining than its title!

Learning to drive gives you a newfound freedom. The day you receive your licence heralds the end to waiting in the rain for a bus, or begging mum for a lift. Hours of lessons, frustrations and near-death experiences, but in the end, it is most definitely worth it.

The new ITV show Secrets of the Driving Test is a great portrayal of this gruelling learning task. Whilst the title of the show resembles the wording on some sort of DVLA leaflet, I can assure you the show itself is far more interesting.

During your driving test it is not uncommon to feel slightly let loose. Sat at the wheel, with a complete stranger by your side; the task of keeping them safe all by yourself is unnerving. But haven’t you ever wondered what it’s like to be sat in on someone else’s test? Maybe you’re flummoxed as to why your friend failed? Or want the thrill of going solo with a rookie driver?

It is this perspective which the show creates. Filming takes place inside the car during someone’s driving test. You find yourself becoming a quasi-driving examiner, sat on the edge of your seat, scrutinising the driver’s movements. Watching too are the families and friends of the candidate, and you share in their reactions. Whilst one might cringe as a learner driver nearly knocks over a cyclist, the show is more than an exercise of one’s concentration on the road.

Whilst you might struggle not to grip your fists when awful mistakes are made, it is impossible not to relate to the ordinary people taking their test. For drivers, learning drivers and non-drivers alike we have all experienced times of determination in the face of failure and can sympathise with those experiencing those same feelings.

I failed my test first time round, and upon watching the show found myself rooting for every candidate to pass their test. This was especially so when watching Shauna, who was taking her test for the 13th time! It is amazing to see individuals persist through their struggle.

Alan Carr (whose name is so obviously appropriate) wittily inserts quips to create a comedic side to the show. It is surreal that watching someone taking an exam can be infused with so much humour. Whilst Carr most definitely adds to the production, the candidates and the families of candidates create a lot of the laughter. You can’t help but smile when watching someone shamelessly flirt with their examiner or ignorantly claim they know exactly what they are doing just before ploughing towards a pedestrian. Disclaimer: no one was hurt in the production of this show.

One of the loveliest elements of the episode however, is when it comes to the end. Don’t worry, this is not because you are glad the show is over, but rather because you share in a candidate’s relief and joy when they pass their test. Their hard work pays off and you can’t help but be a little proud of them, knowing the licence will change their life.

Contextually, the show has a new found relevance. The backlog of tests created due to the coronavirus led the State of Georgia to give automatic driving licences to learning drivers without them having taken their test.  There are three stages to obtaining a full licence in Georgia and this decision automatically bumped candidates up to stage 2. Watching British learners make awful judgements on the road really made clear to me how Georgia’s decision was unsafe. It is not surprising that on the 12th May the decision was reconsidered and now candidates are required to take a modified road test.
Six episodes of this show are available on ITV hub and a new one is screened at 20:30pm every Thursday. Each episode is half an hour long, so perfect if you just want some light, uplifting watching. It is a show appropriate for all the family, especially for the renowned backseat drivers in your household.

I think watching the show might in itself be a little secret to passing your driving test. It gives a good run through of the test format in an indirect and entertaining way. If you are due to take your test, this might just do the trick to settle some of those nerves, just make sure you copy the good driving of passing candidates and not the mistakes of those who fail!

Secrets of the Driving Test is available to stream on ITV Hub