Hopefully everything you need to know about the pitfalls of taking your motorcycle testStep-by-Step Guide to getting a Motorcycle Licence

The right paperwork!

Too many people go to their test without the right paperwork and lose their test fee before they have even started. You will need:

  • A current in date correctly filled out Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) certificate.
  • Your UK driving licence (full or provisional) - make sure it is current (photos only last 10 years) and you have completed any section for address changes.
  • If you have an old paper licence you must have photo ID (passport).
  • Your current in date Motorcycle (category A) Theory Test pass certificate.
  • Glasses or contact lenses to read a number plate over 20.5m.
  • For Module 2 you must bring your current in date (lasts as long as your Theory Test certificate is valid for) Module 1 pass certificate.
  • A motorcycle/scooter that is road legal displaying a current tax, full sized L-plates front and rear, fitted with mirrors and is suitable for the test you wish to take.
  • You must turn up at the right time - if you're late it's too bad.

Motorcycle Test - Module 1

The two things the examiner tells you at the start off the test are firstly not to hit any cones and secondly do the relevant safety checks (i.e. observations). You can have up to 5 minor faults, but generally won't let you have more than 3 missed observations. The speed for the emergency stop and swerve can be passed at 48 & 49kph but this will result in a minor fault, ideally they want to be done as close to 50kph as possible. Going too fast is not a fault but makes things a bit trickier.

how to fail your motorcycle test

Pushing and Parking - You start the Motorcycle Test - Module 1 by riding you motorcycle into a coned "box" and then parking it on the stand. As with all thing preparation pays dividends; so parking at an awkward angle will make it difficult to push the motorcycle out backwards. People fail for parking the motorcycle when they rush it: take your time, make it easy by using the side stand if one is fitted and make sure you hold the front brake. When you push the motorcycle there is no right or wrong way as such, however, it is very, very important to look where you are going to help you turn the handlebars and not lose balance. Again take your time - you are not up against a clock. A common fault here is forgetting to do the lifesaver/observation checks.

Slalom and Figure of Eight - You should have practised this dozens of times during your training, but like all slow control manoeuvres you need to have good control of the clutch. Make sure there is adequate revs so the motorcycle doesn't stall, then use the clutch lever to adjust your speed. If you find that you have a little too much speed then dip the clutch and apply the rear brake. If you feel that you are losing your balance then speed up by letting the clutch out. The movement of the clutch is essential for control but it needs to be very subtle. Remember look where you want to go, and try not to make the turns in and out of the cones too exaggerated. The figure of eight can be done as wide as you like within reason, so make it easy by making a wide turn (this is done around two blue cones, you can go back round the final yellow cone but this runs the risk of hitting it). Try to pass as close as possible to the furthest blue cone each time you pass between them. Don't use the front brake ever in this situation or during any slow control exercise.

The Slow Ride - Frankly what the point of this exercise is it hard to imagine especially as this is the third of four slow control exercises. It is not difficult but does need you to look up and be relaxed on the handlebars. You need to ride at walking pace - the examiner will follow behind you. Be ready with the rear brake to lose excess speed. Be prepared for the fact that the steering may try to "wander" while moving slowly so don't hold on too tight. If you hold on too tight you will steer into the wobbles and lose balance more easily, so grip the petrol tank with your knees and rest your hands lightly on the controls.

The U-Turn - Well hurrah - this utterly pointless nonsense is now at least a good deal easier than it was. For a start it is the same at every test centre, reasonably generous, and secondly it is flat and without kerbs. So the days of the moron who thought the U-turn in Leighton Buzzard (stupidly tight on a hill) was a good idea are gone. We have asked about the white lines and had mixed replies (what a surprise from the DSA), so our take on it is don't ride on the white lines. Now that it is so much easier it is easy to forget that the examiner will still want you to look out for imaginary cars before you start to turn. If you like a reasonable run up before turning (and most people do) then start well back to give yourself room and don't forget the final check before you turn. The actual turn is using exactly the same slow control as was used for the figure of eight. If you feel like you are losing your balance - LET THE CLUTCH OUT. Look where you want to go and as you turn start looking up the "road" to help give you perspective. This is now so much easier, but miss the final check and it will have all been in vain.

The Bend and Controlled Stop - Go into the bend slowly (2nd gear) and look through the corner where you want to go. If you gently accelerate the bike will feel stable and easily controlled. You don't need to do this fast, just smoothly. The controlled stop can be done at any speed; therefore don't make it difficult by going too fast. The idea is to get an understanding of the layout prior to doing the faster manoeuvres. Astonishingly a number of people have failed for not stopping in the box of four blue cones. This takes a special talent as this is the easiest manoeuvre.

The Bend and Emergency Stop - The Module 1 is only 15 minutes long and most of that is taken up by the examiner trying to make sense of the sea of cones. It will really help if you get a good look at the cones before the test and if your instructor shows you on a board how each manoeuvre is laid out. For this exercise all the details explained earlier for the bend still apply, except that on the exit of the bend you need to start seriously accelerating (stay in 2nd gear). Again this is much easier than the old test as there is no element of surprise. As soon as you are through the timing beam start braking. The examiner will tell you not to start braking until she/he puts a hand up. The reality is that they will need to do it straight away if you are to avoid ploughing into the fence at the end of the area. As with all emergency stops firstly close the throttle, then apply the front brake (to allow the weight to transfer forwards and squash the tyre into the tarmac), then apply the rear brake but not too hard as the rear of the motorcycle will have started to lift, then progressively squeeze the front brake by rolling your hand forward over the lever (this stops you pulling the throttle open), as you come to a halt left foot down and clutch lever in. Most people fail the emergency stop by stamping on the rear brake; this is a very bad habit and very dangerous in a real situation. If you are not fast enough through the timing beam you will be given a second chance, although 48 & 49kph are okay. If you fail this part you will stop the test there and then. This exercise is the one with the most number of accidents and the reason is fairly simple. Students tend to have a fairly fixed idea about where they would like to stop, but this does not take account of their speed and/or weather conditions. It is important that that you apply the front brake throughout and "feel" for the grip. If you are going fast in the wet (say 60kph) it will take a long time to stop - this does not mean you have failed.

The Bend, Swerve and Stopping between the cones - Entry into the bend is not nearly as important as the exit. In fact you can make it quite difficult by going too fast into the bend. Approach the bend in second gear at about 15 mph. Keep the motorcycle in the same gear and look through the bend. For a 125cc motorcycle as you begin to leave the bend start to accelerate hard. Resist the temptation to change gear - just leave it in 2nd gear. It sounds utterly hideous, however, if you leave the motorcycle in second gear you will go through the timing gear at about 32 - 33mph (52 - 54kph) which is ideal. For a 500cc motorcycle it is again best to leave it in 2nd gear through the bend, start to accelerate on the exit and then hook 3rd gear at the final two red guide cones. Keep accelerating reasonably hard. Problems lie in both accelerating far too hard and then being freaked out by the swerve and slowing down, or being a little too slow because you hooked 3rd gear too early. Remember that the swerve is really not that severe - we have been through at 80kph on a Harley Davidson; not a bike known for its fast changes of direction! You will be allowed two goes so do not panic; during practise we found most people got it fairly easily on the second go - again 48 7 49kph are ok. As for the swerve, again look where you want to go. Most of the swerving is actually done after you have cleared the blue avoidance cone. Once you have cleared the timing gear throttle off, clear the blue cone, swerve and only then apply the brakes when you are in a straight line. This can mean the two cones where you need to stop can come up a bit quick; however, progressive use of both brakes makes this fairly straight forward. In practise we have not found many students have issues with this manoeuvre. The object of this exercise is to separate the steering from braking - you can't do both at the same time or it will end in tears.

(See diagram at the bottom of this page for test layout).

Motorcycle Test - Module 2

On the fail sheet, given out by DSA, the examiner can check 47 different boxes as a fault - for the Module 2 test.

You can fail on 1 serious fault, 1 dangerous fault or a combination of driving faults of which you are allowed up to 10 (11 is a fail). However, four driving faults in the same box will generally result in a serious fault, and therefore a fail. It is worth bearing in mind that, with some exceptions, the examiner likes to give two serious faults when they fail a candidate (as this takes the result beyond dispute). So if you make a mistake then try very hard not to make another and you may get away with it. Very few examiners will fail a candidate on 11 driver faults alone – but some do.

A serious fault is the most common fail and below is a list of the various ways this can be done…

1a Eyesight - you must be able to read a car number plate over a distance of 20.5 metres (with glasses if you need to wear them). This is easy to avoid by regularly checking your eyesight.

1b Highway Code/Safety - this is where you demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Highway Code (and related safety issues). For example, if on a dual carriageway there is a sign showing that the lane you are in is closing and you fail to react until prompted by the examiner then this box may be used. However, it is unusual for this box to be used as it is covered by other boxes further down.

2a & b Controlled Stop - this is no longer part of the Motorcycle Test - Module 2. See how to fail the Motorcycle Test - Module 1.

3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a and 5b - happily, these all relate to reversing and therefore do not affect motorcycles.

6a & b Turn In Road - hurrah! hurrah! This pointless exercise is no longer part of the Motorcycle Test - Module 2. See how to fail the Motorcycle Test - Module 1.

7 Vehicle Checks - this box is rarely used as the faults are often put in other boxes. However, at the start of the test you will be required to “show and tell” a variety of answers to questions about the maintenance and routine checking of your vehicle. It is not possible to get a serious fault for answering these incorrectly, but you will be given a driving fault. You may regret this later if you get 10 other driving faults.

8 Taxi Manoeuvre, 9 Taxi Wheelchair, 10 Uncouple/Recouple - no thanks…

11 Precautions - this is used to mark faults resulting from things like forgetting to lift up the side stand, starting the motorcycle in gear or leaving the lights set to high beam. Typically, the side stand and gear faults occur after the U-turn and emergency stop exercises. Also forgetting to do up your safety helmet at the start of the test.

12 Control

a Accelerator - this is an unusual fault, but a driving fault can be picked up for blipping the accelerator unnecessarily (a bad habit that older riders tend to bring to their training).

b Clutch - again unusual that this will be picked up as it is not easy to for the examiner to see if the clutch is being operated badly during gear changes. However, good clutch control is fundamental to being able to ride a motorcycle safely. Poor clutch control often causes poor road positioning (where people attempt to swing widely in and out of junctions to avoid using slow control), and the fault tends to be marked under steering. Likewise stalling is often marked under moving off under control. 

c Gears - this fault is marked typically when people attempt to pull away in a gear other than first. Normally this will accrue a driving fault. The examiner will tend to look more deeply into this if he/she feels that this is a problem for you. Therefore, if you find yourself being asked to pull over and stop several times chances are that the examiner is concerned that you are failing to change down gear properly. Stalls at junctions are often caused by trying to pull away in the wrong gear. This will be frequently considered a serious fault as invariably you will have moved out into the road a short distance. Try to get down into slow control (and 1st gear) on the approach.

d Foot brake - the most likely fault here will be leaving your foot on the brake lever resulting in the brake light staying on. This would normally be a driving fault, but if you are inclined to do this then it is easy to rack up four of these faults during the course of the test. Poor posture on the motorcycle or inadequate footwear frequently are the root causes of this problem.

e Parking Brake/MC Front Brake - not too much worry in the parking brake department, the front brake, on the other hand, is the subject of lots of scrutiny during the test. Basically, it must be applied before the rear brake during normal braking and should be used with more bias than the rear brake. People who do not use the front brake at all or rarely can expect to receive a serious fault. Don't use the front brake during slow control or when turning.

f Steering - this is a very common fault and is generally caused by having poor machine control. Most steering faults are the result of turning into or out of junctions too wide (swan necking). Depending on severity, this can be a serious fault or driving fault, but is also the sort of fault that will make an examiner look very hard at your ability to control a motorcycle. The more closely you are examined the more likely faults will be spotted.

h Balance M/C - different examiners have different opinions as to how relevant this fault is. It is fairly safe to say that unless you drop the motorcycle then this fault in itself will not be a serious fault. However, driver faults here quickly go towards totting up for the final score.

i LGV/PCV Gear Exercise and j PCV Door Exercise - no chance of faults here.

13 Move Off - this needs to be done safely and under control. Safely means doing adequate shoulder checks and not pulling out into oncoming traffic. Under control means using the correct gear and not stalling or swerving excessively. The control normal leads to driving faults, whereas forgetting to look before you pull out or cause another vehicle to swerve or slow-down is definitely a serious fault.

14 Use Of Mirrors - M/C Rear Obs - there are really only five times that you will need to do an observation. These are, speeding up (including pulling away), slowing down, moving or turning to the left, moving or turning to the right and when there is the potential to slow down (such as approaching traffic lights). Forget anyone of these and you will get at least a driver fault; but changing lanes, for example, without doing an observation and this will often be considered a serious fault.

15 Signals - these need to be done when necessary, correctly and at the right time. This is a very common area to fail your test because this is where forgetting to cancel the indicator will be recorded. How likely you will get a serious or driving fault will depend largely on whether or not you actually affected another road user at the time. Roundabouts are frequently the cause of confusion with signals, as you will often need to use both left and right indicator while you negotiate the roundabout. It is important to understand the impact that your indicators make on other road users. If you drive a car, practise cancelling the indicator when you are driving rather than letting the car do it automatically.

16 Clearance/Obstructions - this is very rarely used as the position during normal driving largely covers this. It is not impossible that if you drive too close to parked vehicles that you will get a fault here.

17 Response To Signs/Signals

a Traffic Signs - this is missing speed limit signs (and other Highway Code issues). Normally if you miss a speed limit you are in trouble but if you are fortunate enough to spot a repeater sign and act promptly then the fault is more likely to be a driving fault. Other traffic signs that are often misunderstood are traffic priority signs and stop signs. Failing to spot signs is symptomatic of someone focusing too close to the front wheel of the bike and not looking ahead (i.e. forward planning).

b Road Markings - this also tends to be a Highway Code issue, but can also be as a result of poor forward planning (looking ahead). The main road markings that will affect you are stop lines and designated lanes (i.e. with arrows). Typically, this is a serious fault.

c Traffic Lights - a common place to fail your test. The number of different ways of making a mistake here is almost too long to list. Principally jumping lights, trying to stop for an amber light when you really should have carried on, and not proceeding after you have crossed the line but the lights have changed from green are the main ones. Nearly always a fault here is serious. A basic lack of knowledge of the Highway Code is often the root of the problem.

d Traffic Controllers - unusual for faults here as most people respond to the “human touch”.

e Other Road Users - another common area for people to fail their test. This is meeting oncoming traffic where there are parked cars, or not accepting a free gap when someone waves you forward. This is a very large area and the type of fault can cover the whole range. It is probably one of the most important areas during your training. How you deal and respond to other road users will have a very big impact on how safe you are on the road. Even if other people drive badly or make mistakes you can still be failed if you react in an inflexible manner. Remember; there is no such thing as "right of way".

18 Use Of Speed - people who ride too quickly during their training often fail for going too slowly in their test. The reverse is true for those that ride too slowly during training. Typically, there are two main areas, firstly not getting up to speed in national speed limits and dual carriageways, and secondly, riding too quickly in busy built up areas. If the rest of your riding is very good this may well be a driving fault, but if the examiner is looking for an excuse to fail you as your riding has lacked confidence etc. then this is where he/she will find it.

19 Following Distance - “only a fool breaks the 2 second rule, and when it pours make it 4”. If you are dithering about overtaking the vehicle in front then this is often the time that you will get too close to them. In addition, people who find themselves travelling at higher speeds having been in town for some time often misjudge how close they are to the vehicle in front. Normally this is a serious fault.

20 Progress - divided into appropriate speed and undue hesitation. Undue hesitation is the most common one, bear in mind though that this is normally a driver fault, whereas if you pull out when cars are coming that would be a serious fault. Therefore, if you need to err in one direction or the other then being slightly cautious is the better route. Progress faults tend to tot up quickly, as people who struggle to make progress do so everywhere. Look earlier on the approach to junctions to see if it is clear and safe for you to go.

21 Junctions - this is an area where more fails occur than almost anywhere else. Junctions include major roads to minor roads, minor roads to major roads, mini roundabouts, roundabouts and box junctions. Being able to understand how to deal with a junction is fundamental to being safe on the road. The examiner will divide faults into the following categories:

a Approach Speed - this can be divided into two faults; too fast and too slow. People who approach junctions too slowly are generally having issues with using the brakes correctly, i.e. too much emphasis on the rear brake. People who approach junctions too fast are having problems with forward planning. A good approach speed should not impede the flow of traffic while at the same time afford the opportunity to make adequate observation. Generally, this is an area for driving faults, but as with other problems if your riding generally lacks forward planning you will very quickly pick up enough driving faults for it to become serious.

b Observation - again this can be divided into two main areas: missing lifesavers and failing to spot things. During the process of negotiating a junction you are required to do various observation (which can include a lifesaver and looking right-left-right). If you miss one of these out then you will normally get a driving fault. If there was something to see (a vehicle) and you didn't look then this will be a serious fault. The other area where this can be marked is emerging from a junction and either failing to spot another road user or misjudging its speed; either way if you cause another vehicle to swerve or slow down then you will have failed your test. Typically, an approach speed that is too fast will contribute to this.

c Turning Right - this box is not used much as approach, observation and cutting corners pretty much cover all the usual faults. However, if you turn from a major road into a minor road from the middle of your lane then it is possible the fault will be marked here.

d Turning Left - much the same as turning right.

e Cutting Corners - as described earlier cutting corners is a bad habit bought on normally by either poor slow control (slipping the clutch) or trying to take the turn too fast. It is a dangerous habit and consequently will result in a fail.

22 Judgement - judgement decisions are very rarely classed as driving faults. This is a very contentious area as it covers an area where you thought something was okay and the examiner did not. What makes it particularly difficult is that no two examiners have exactly the same idea of what is okay and what isn't; so, for example, some examiners are quite aggressive in their driving and expect you to overtake, whereas others are more cautious and would not even give the time of day to filtering. If you demonstrate positive body language and positive and deliberate manoeuvring then the examiner is more likely to respect your judgement, than he/she is if you dither or show poor machine controls. In any event, it is important that you find out from your instructor what the examiner likes.

a Overtaking - it is not a requirement of the test that you do actually overtake someone, but if the situation presents itself the examiner will expect you to overtake, particularly on dual carriageways. Should you feel that it is necessary you must ask yourself if it is safe and is it legal? Examiners will look very closely at overtaking moves and if there is any hint that it was unsafe they won't tolerate it and you will fail. Good judgement here is often impaired by people spending more time thinking about what the examiner is thinking rather than worrying about whether they are riding safely or not. Filtering, as described by the Highway Code, is passing lanes of stationary or slow moving traffic. It is highly unlikely that you will be expected to do this during the test.

b Meeting - this is extremely difficult. Essentially this is generally a situation where parked vehicles have narrowed road to one lane and there is oncoming traffic, or where there is a priority sign, width restriction or any situation where there is a fifty-fifty decision when you deal with other traffic. What makes things so difficult is that you have to second-guess what other road users are going to do. Good forward planning will help make better judgements as you have longer to think and reach a good decision. You must not wave to, flash at or gesticulate to other road users as this contravenes the Highway Code.

c Crossing - crossing traffic with or without the aid of traffic lights or road markings has massive safety issues. Due to motorcyclists vulnerability the junction/manoeuvre must be clear and all directions must be looked at before you proceed. Any area not catered for or a wrong choice of speed or gear will be marked as serious.

23 Positioning - this is split into two areas, but essentially there is no absolute rule on this as the examiner will look for what is safe, legal and if your choice made sense within the context of the surroundings.

a Normal Driving - during normal driving you should ride in a dominant position (i.e. more or less in the middle of your lane) allowing for the road surface, parked vehicles and oncoming traffic. Riding too far to the left or right when conditions are clear will get you a driver fault. However, being inflexible when dealing with, particularly, oncoming traffic (in other words not moving to the left allowing more room for the oncoming vehicle) will be viewed more seriously.

b Lane Discipline - examiners love this area as nine times out of ten it is so black and white. You must choose the correct lane for the manoeuvre you are trying to attempt. So, for example, if you go straight ahead from a lane marked for turning left you have blown it, likewise indicating right while in a straight ahead lane will also ruin the test. Clearly the most obvious area where this will occur is at roundabouts. Generally if you pick the wrong lane it is a serious fault. However, this box can be used to mark your behaviour on dual carriageways. You must keep to the left unless you are overtaking; once you have overtaken a vehicle you must move back into the left lane. The examiner will expect you to overtake slower vehicles where conditions allow. If you have done nothing else wrong the examiner might let it go with a minor fault but normally as with other areas of lane discipline they tend to mark this as a serious fault.

24 Pedestrian Crossing - although there are several types of pedestrian crossing (Pelican, Puffin, Toucan etc.) there are two basic types; those with lights and those without. Those with lights need to be obeyed in the normal way, the only variation being the flashing amber lights. Examiners take pedestrian crossings very seriously and any indications that you might be keen to mow down pedestrian will be greeted with a hearty fail. Zebra crossings, being a give way, are slightly different as you are required to give way not only to those on the crossing but also those that show intention of crossing. A common fault here is failing to plan ahead and therefore not seeing the crossing until too late. Overall faults in this box tend to be serious.

25 Position/Normal Stops - on several occasions during the test the examiner will ask you to pull up on the side of the road. You will need to take into account road markings and surrounding hazards. Generally this is one of those things that you either get right or you don't. So pulling up within 10 metres of a junction or on zigzag lines, the brow of a hill or on a sharp bend will result in a serious fault and therefore a fail. The examiner does not mind you stopping on single or double yellow lines (as you are stopping not parking) unless there is a better alternative.

26 Awareness/Planning - as you are riding your will be accessed on your awareness of various hazards, such as the road surface, moving vehicles, stationary vehicles and pedestrians. This is a very common area for serious faults and is generally a consequence of poor forward planning. Poor forward planning is often the result of lack of confidence with machine controls so that attention is focused more on the motorcycle than the road ahead. Alternatively just a general tendency to focus only a few metres ahead will tend to make a rider reactive rather than proactive. To avoid faults in this area it is essential to look almost as far ahead as you can see, and to be actively making a plan as well as trying to anticipate the actions of other road users.

27 Ancillary Controls - an unusual area to be marked on a motorcycle test. If you did not know or did not demonstrate that you were fully aware of all your controls (horn, indicators, lights etc.) and non-essential controls of your motorcycle then you may receive a minor fault. An example would be leaving the lights on high beam or leaving a fog light (if fitted) on.

28 Eco Riding - use the throttle to aggressively or over rev the engine and you can get minor/driving faults here. No one has failed on this yet but as we worry more and more about our environment this one will be a grower.

Assuming that you have managed to avoid all these pitfalls you will have passed your test! Remember all you need to do is ride safely, nothing else matters.


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Module 1 Motorcycle Test Layout

module 1 motorcycle test layout left circuitmodule 1 motorcycle test layout right circuit


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