Lower Gornal: A Testing Place to Drive

Display of Emotion

On Lake Street in Lower Gornal, just behind Nemo’s fish and chip shop, there’s a small gated car park with space for about 10 cars.  It’s an area of land that has been a stage upon which dreams have both come true and been dashed, where the extremes of human emotion from ecstasy to anger to depression have been played out. It’s the Lower Gornal driving test centre.

I first became an ADI (approved driving instructor) as a hobby, teaching family and friends at weekends.  I’ll never forget that moment when my daughter came back from her driving test, I watched as she pulled into the car park, neatly placing the car in one of the spaces.  Moments later as I’m approaching the car I see her beaming at me through the drivers window - first time pass! 

Right First Time

It doesn't always end that way, although I’m pleased to say I have more successes than failures.  In fact the national average for first time pass is just 48%, think about that for a moment, 52 out of every 100 will fail their test on first attempt.  I’ve been keeping records for the last few years which show my pupils first time pass rate is around 70%.

Being an driving instructor means you’re personally and emotionally invested in the pupils you’ve spent time training, and it would take a hard nosed person not to be affected by their results.  I really have seen it all, over the years, tears of joy, tears of sadness. I've seen nerves manifest as uncontrollable shaking, I've seen confident people knocked for six and I've seen timid people rise to confidence levels they never imagined possible. The driving test is a great leveller, and it is certainly no respecter of persons.

Driving Test Memories

People love to talk about their driving lessons and about when they took their driving test, even somebody of advanced years remembers the emotions that they experienced all those years ago. It really is a right of passage and I feel fantastically privileged to be alongside my pupils during their training journey.

Testing Test Routes

I've always been very happy with the Lower Gornal test centre, although there are many who find its location and layout very awkward for taking the driving test. My view is that the area produces a far better prepared new driver for the roads, as they have to be confident in handling everything from the complexity of emerging out of the little carpark whilst negotiating the parked vehicles and traffic on Lake Street to the generally hilly terrain of Dudley.  If that’s not enough they have to handle the bypass running from Russells Hall Hospital to Dudley Zoo, complete with large and complex roundabouts such as Scotts Green and Castlegate.  

In fact there are 18 different routes within the test area which are regularly used by examiners.  Imagine a map and draw an outline starting in the bottom right hand corner with Kingswinford Cross, over to Wombourne, up to Sedgley, Gornal, Dudley and back to Kingswinford.


In my experience I’ve found the examiners to be a pleasant bunch of ladies and gentlemen and they do their best to put the pupil at ease.  My mantra to pupils is to be aware that they’re not there to fail you, however, if you make a serious error they have no choice and to concentrate on giving the examiner an easy, relaxed drive.

The Right Time

Selecting the right time of day for taking the test can make a huge difference.  I suggest avoiding the 8:10 morning and 2:32 afternoon slots as this generally means getting mixed up in the rush to and from work /school.  My personal favourite is the 11:11 slot, however, with test waiting times running at around 10 weeks, sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

To Sum Up

In summary, Lower Gornal is a great place to take your driving test, but don't expect to pass if you’re not fully prepared, the area will show up those who either have poor control of the car or don’t have the confidence required to plan well ahead.

Both of my children passed first time at Lower Gornal (7 and 8 years ago) which gave me the confidence that they’d be competent and safe on the roads when driving on their own.  So far it’s proved to be the case.