I am a Chinese. After failing five times, I finally passed the exams and got the driving license a few days ago. From my experiences, there are some things you should notice and be very careful about. I'd like to share them with all of you. In the following, Course A will be mentioned as an example.
Firstly, there are two routes available for examiners to select, Course A and Course B. I think it will be helpful for your success if you are familiar with the details of the routes.
Before you get in the car:
Go to the front of the car, bend down to check the two front wheels.
Go to the middle of the car, bend down to make sure there are no "sleepy beggars, abandoned babies, or things that can puncture your wheels like triangle nails".
Go to the rear of the car to check the two rear wheels.
Then go to the middle of the car, check the left and right side of the car, and finally enter into the car.
Inside the car:
(You'd better do it in this order, otherwise they will fail you.)
Lock the car doors.
Adjust the seat, even if it is suitable for you. You must let the examiner know you are checking.
Check the mirrors, including both inside and outside of car.
Fasten your safety belt.
Turn on the power.
Make sure whether the parking brake is applied, and learn how to use it. It seems a lot of persons do not how to use it.
Turn on right-side turn signal, check the right mirror, check the outside of the car again, then start to move.
Pause before entering into the course, turn on left-side turning signal, check the right-rear of the car again, and then drive into the course.
Once You are on the Course:
Speed up to 40 km/h as soon as possible, and slow down to less than 10 km/h. Remember: it must be less than 10 km/h, because there is "slow down" signal. I forgot it during one examination.
You will see an obstacle after a turning point. Turn on the right-side light as soon as possible. Check the inside rear mirror, outside rear mirror, outside of window (usually omitted by people), and move into the right lane. Go around the obstacle and turn on the left-side turning signal immediately, still checking three times (inside rear, outside rear and outside of window), and move back to the original lane (left lane) as soon as possible. I made a mistake during this process. The examiner told me to turn on the right-side turning signal earlier before the obstacle, which is an indicator for the car behind mine.
On the next swerve route, the speed could be below 20 km/h.
Get ready for a right turn. Turn on right-side turning signal 30m ahead, and do the three kinds of checking. Drive along the right side of the lane before entering into the intersection. Make sure to check the front and right-rear of car, slowly turn into the intersection.
After passing the intersection, turn the left-side turning signal immediately, even if the examiner may not give you the order to turn at that time. I made this mistake because the examiner thought I turned on the signal too late.
Check the left-rear window of the car 10m ahead to see if there are passengers or bicycles, and drive your car into the left of lane and turn left. During one exam I was told to make a big left-turn.
Go up the hill (or slope), pause at the middle of the hill. Hold down the parking brake using your left foot, then check the left-rear, right-rear of the car, release the parking brake and continue to go up. At same time, two honks should be done here because there is a "honk" signal. If you are not familiar with the parking brake, there will be "a big fuss" here. At the top of hill, some people will change gears to L or 2L, but I did not because the hill is not so steep.
Then drive into right lane, because you will soon turn right. Turn on the right-side turn signal, turn right, slow down across the intersection and hug the left side of the lane.
Turn on the left-side turn signal, and don't be late. Enter into the elbow curve. If the car wheels are out of lane or bump the pole, examiner will make you go back to the starting point of the course, and you will fail this time. I made such mistakes twice. Before you get out of the elbow curve, turn your steering wheel to the straight position. Pause and check the left and the right. There is no any signal here and many people made mistakes here.
Then go into the S curve. Put the left-side turning signal on before going out of the S curve because you want to turn left. Make sure to check the left and right of your car before going out of the S curve, and also drive closely along left side of the lane. I was told to make a big turns.
Then turn left into the next intersection (No. 2). Before turning left, be sure to check the left-rear window of your car because there may be pedestrians or bicycles behind you. Many examinees omitted this point.
Go straight after turning left, turn on the right-side turning signal 30m ahead, do the three kinds of checks and merge into the right lane.
Stop your car at the intersection. You must make left and right check before your passing by even if it is green. Then turn right.
Go straight and turn on the right-side turn signal 30m ahead, do the three kinds of checks and merge into the right lane.
Pause at the intersection, check the left and right side, slowly passing by the intersection then turn right.
Go straight after turning right. After seeing the "slow down" signal, slow down to 10km/hour or less to pass by the round road.
Go straight without pausing and drive to the starting point.
Stop, pull the bar level to P position, apply the parking brake, turn off the power, release the safety belt, check the outside of window then open the door (you'd better do it in this order).
Course B is almost same as Course A, with longer distance.
During the whole test, you can't drive too fast, nor too slow. You should make the examiner feel comfortable and you should drive smoothly and confidently. Don't forget to be very respectful to the examiner. In general, even if you did all of this successfully, you probably won't pass the exam the first time. But maybe you could get the driving license on the second or third time instead of on the sixth time as I did.
The above suggestions are from my own experiences. However, even now I am not sure exactly what kinds of criterion the examiners applied. For me, the exam seemed like diving or art-gym games, which need strict, stiff, and even perfect performances. During these processes, you should have enough patience, willpower, time, and money.
What is purpose of the examination? You will say that it is for getting the driving license. All foreigners who take this examination already have driving licenses from their own countries, and are skillful for driving. Many of them have been driving for a long time. I think the purpose of examination is to make you understand the differences in the rules between Japan and your own country. You should notice some particular items related to the left-side driving in Japan. You should also know the basic conditions of road, transportation, traffic laws and so on. Through this examination, you should learn something most important for yourself and others, which gives you the eligibility to drive.
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