Less than half of learner drivers pass tougher theory test

Women fare better than men

PASS RATES for driving theory tests have fallen by a quarter in just over a decade, after the exam was made harder.

Statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal theory test pass rates have been on a steady decline over the last 10 years, from a 68% success rate in the 2008/ 2009 financial year to 47.4% of the 1.34m in 2018/2019.

Women are more likely to pass than men — of the 649,418 theory tests taken by female learners over the last 12 months, 319,828 (49.2%) went on to pass compared with 317,892 (45.2%) of the 695,077 males.

A series of reforms designed to make the theory test trickier have been introduced over the years, such as increasing the number of multiple choice questions and ended their publication in advance online, which allowed candidates to memorise the answers.

In addition, “hazard perception” questions now test knowledge of a range of driving conditions, including the effects of severe weather conditions such as snow.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “Some people assume you can pass the theory test with a few lessons and a bit of common sense but you can’t. Some of the questions are actually quite obscure. The test is obviously very necessary but perhaps part of it could be a bit more mainstream and relevant to the reality of driving.”

Questions include, “Following a collision, someone has suffered a burn. The burn needs to be cooled. What’s the shortest time it should be cooled for?” (10 minutes).

While theory test pass rates have dropped by a big margin, practical test pass rates have remained fairly consistent, with a pass rate of 45.7% for 2018/2019 compared with 44.7% in 2007/2008. This is broadly in line with the 46.3% average over the last 12 years.

Mark Winn, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s chief driving examiner, said: “DVSA’s priority is to help everyone through a lifetime of safe driving. Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world but all road users must make sure their skills and knowledge are up to date. The highway code is essential reading for all road users, not just those who are learning.”

Top 10 ways to avoid stress on your driving test

20 years of Clarkson: when Jeremy re-took his driving test