Driving tests

How to improve your intelligence and problem solving ability before your driving test

Your brain is like a muscle and you can improve certain skills with a bit of practice. To make it easier for you to practice and remember information for your learner licence test your fluid intelligence and crystallised intelligence needs to increase. Fluid intelligence is your capacity to use your initiative to solve a problem or learn a new skill, while crystallised intelligence is your ability to use things you’ve learned, i.e. facts.

When you take your learner’s test you can use a mixture of the two:

  • Crystallised intelligence means that you can read a question and you know the answer because you have memorised the facts. Crystallised intelligence tends to increase with age and experience because it’s about learning new things.
  • Fluid intelligence means that you can read a question and logically deduce whether one answer is correct (or more correct than the other answers). You use this when your crystallised intelligence didn’t work.

The good thing is that according to this study, you can improve your intelligence and memory, and that makes it easier to learn the road rules.

How to improve your intelligence and memory

Do things the hard way

Your brain is constantly looking for ways to make things easier for itself. Giving your brain an easy time all the time stops it developing. Doing it the hard way means your brain has to work harder and improves development. For example, you could take the free tests over and over on this website and you’ll eventually know the Road Code. But what about if you also tried some of the tourist quizzes in another language and try to work out what they mean? You’ll get a different perspective on your Road Code learning if you try it in Spanish (which is the easiest foreign language to understand for an English speaker).

Be creative

As you go through the tests, draw scenarios on a notepad which explain the answers. How do you signal at a roundabout? Draw it! What does this sign mean? Sketch it! What would happen if this car didn’t give way in this intersection? Doodle it! This engages your mind in different ways. Write your own Road Code in your language with your pictures.

Being creative is not ‘being right-brained’; creativity comes from both sides of your brain because as you draw you’ll make associations between ideas, you’ll switch between different ways of thinking and you will develop other types of memory (e.g. triggers and muscle memories) that will help you in your test.

Another option is to create a story of a drive which encompasses a number of the road rules that you want to remember. For example, you get in your car (what type of car? what type of day is it? where is your car? where are you going and why?), you leave your house (how? driveway? from the kerb? how do you signal?) and you drive a short distance until you come across a pedestrian crossing (how will you know you’re approaching a crossing? does it have an island in the middle? who/what is on the crossing), and so on. Developing a scenario like this can help you remember the more complicated give way and roundabout rules.

Do different things

Doing one thing over and over again to train your brain doesn’t make you much smarter, it just makes you good at that one thing. Doing a variety of things improves your overall ability. You can try tests such as the dual n-back which will help improve your working memory, and you can apply the same principles to learning the Road Code:

  • Do the quizzes on this website – this gives you a good foundation of Road Code knowledge.
  • Take a bike and bike around your local village, town or city and note all the places where you’ll have to use the Road Code. As an exercise in future thinking, plan in your head your next two or three manouevres and what you will have to think about in terms of the Road Code.
  • Take a bus or a ride with another driver and watch what the driver does
  • Walk around the streets and notice all the signs. As a memory test (and this works better in a town or city), start at the first road sign you see and name it. Then remember the next sign, and the next. How many signs (in order) can you memorise? If you want to make it more difficult and more like the dual n-back test, remember the road sign and the street name. Or, remember if you’ve already seen that sign before in your list.
  • Try drawing some intersections you know from your memory. Put the signs and road markings in the right place.

Sleep and nutrition

Your brain is a machine and it’s important that it gets rest (lack of sleep impacts on learning) and that it gets the right nutrition and hydration.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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