A Driving Instructor's Blog

Someone found the blog on precisely that search term! Passing the driving test is a skills-based event, so probability doesn’t really come into it – not in any way that could be manipulated or measured, anyway.Statistics - it doesn't have to be complicated

Every test centre, every driving instructor, and every learner has a pass rate. And all of them are different!

The test centre pass rate might be anywhere between less than 30% all the way up to over 80% depending on where you live. Mallaig, in Scotland, is a tiny place with maybe 10km of roads in total and between it, Inverary, Islay, and The Isle of Skye – so FOUR test centres – less than 200 tests are carried out every year. Pass rates among those centres are among the highest in the country. In contrast, Nottingham’s two large test centres conduct over 8,000 tests per year and the pass rate is near the national average of about 46% (this article was written in 2012 and the figures may change).

Bradford was recently highlighted as having the worst pass rate in the country at less than 30%. The problem in Bradford (and there are test centres in London and other large cities with the same issues and similarly low pass rates) is that many of those going to test are non-UK nationals. As unpalatable as it might be to the politically correct mob, non-UK learners have a tendency to want to go to test before they’re ready – and they’ll often do it in their own cars without ever having had any formal training in the UK. THAT’S one huge reason why the pass rates are lower in some places – the quality of those taking tests is simply very poor.

Test centre pass rates are not probabilities. They are measured facts. Results of things that have already happened. So although they might give an indication of what people going to test are like in general, it doesn’t say anything about specific individuals.Car with L plate

Of course, driving instructors have pass rates too. For example, mine is around 60% for the year so far (during the same period last year it was around 80%). It’s 25% for May, 50% for April, and 75% for March. So which one of those gives my current learners the best chance of passing their own test? None! They are measurements of the past, not predictions for the future.

My personal pass rate is higher than the local test centres’ rates. That’s the result of a combination of my teaching and the quality of my pupils. If you’re a cynical DVSA-hater, you could argue it’s also down to the examiners, but the effect the examiners have on pass rates is absolutely minimal. Overall, though, you can see how there is a complex relationship between instructor pass rates and both test centre and national pass rates, and it is different for every instructor and every pupil every time one of them takes a test.

On top of all that, learners’ pass rates can be anything from 100% (first time pass) downwards. If they’ve taken at least one test but haven’t passed yet, it’s 0%. My worst rate for the year to date (not including any of those who haven’t passed yet) was 20% for someone who did it on his fifth try! That pupil really pulled my overall average down all by himself, but it had no effect on anyone else – most of my other passes this year have been first-timers!

I hope this is beginning to sink in.

If you can drive well then you have a very high probability of passing your test and the more practice and training you get then the higher that probability will be. How many times other people fail has nothing to do with your chances, no matter what pass rate figures you manage to dig up. How many times you have already failed has no bearing on your future success unless you keep taking tests without realising that the problem is you (i.e. that you’re simply not ready).

One of the biggest causes of test failure is not being far enough up the learning curve and getting caught out on the actual test by something fairly mundane. People have good days and bad days when they’re learning, and the difference between a good day and a bad day can range from being good enough to pass the test all the way down to a guaranteed fail if your skills are still under development. However, once your skills reach a certain level, the difference is immaterial, and even a day where you’re below par is still probably good enough to get a pass. We all have these good days and bad days – all of us. Finally, there is an element of luck – or rather, bad luck – where you can drive well enough, but you make a silly mistake that costs you your test on the day. It’s vital that you don’t confuse bad luck with simply not being ready.

It must be remembered that the DVSA is not looking for perfect drivers who don’t make any mistakes, and nor should they be. The criterion they are using is that the test candidate should be safe enough to be allowed out unsupervised. Then, they can build on their experience. The test is, after all, just the first step on a lifelong learning curve, and many examiners emphasise that in the debrief when they pass someone.

To stand the best chances of passing your driving test first time you need to make sure you’re trained well enough that having a bad day doesn’t turn you into a dangerous driver. If a bad day means that your instructor has to use the dual controls or grab the wheel, and if this happens regularly, then you’re probably not ready for your test yet.

What are the chances of passing a driving test?

If you can’t drive, they’re approximately zero – you have no chance whatsoever. If you’re a good driver, though, your chances are very high. It’s that simple.

What are the chances of passing my driving test after failing the first time?

Assuming you can drive, your chances of passing have nothing to do with your previous attempts. If you can drive without your instructor intervening on lessons, you’ll probably pass easily. If you can’t, then you will have trouble. Too many people go for their test before they are ready – especially when they’re desperate for a UK drivers licence. They think they’re ready, but they’re not. Then they fail. But instead of realising that they weren’t ready and getting some more lessons to fix any faults, many of them just put in for another test and have another shot.

If you can’t get it into your head that you failed because you’re not up to standard – not because of “quotas”, “bad luck”, a “bad examiner”, and all the other feeble excuses – then your chances of success will remain severely limited. It’ll cost you far more in the long run than taking the proper number of lessons would.

Yes, but what are my chances of passing second time?

Exactly the same as they were the first time if you haven’t taken any further training to fix any problems.

I can drive, so why did I fail?

Assuming that you really can drive, it might just have been a bit of bad luck on the day – some other road user doing something you didn’t expect, or that you’d never had to deal with before. It happens.

However, a lot of learners mistakenly believe that they are better than they are. Many take their tests based on how many hours of lessons they have taken (in turn, based on how much they could afford). The risk of failing is much higher if you approach your test that way.

What is the best time of year to take your driving test?

There isn’t one, any more than there’s a “best time of day” to take it. If you can drive – and don’t make any serious mistakes – you will pass, whether it is at Christmas or in summer, morning or afternoon.

What are the statistics that somebody will pass their driving test 2nd time?

That term has been used to find this article. If you can’t drive properly, your “chances” are exactly the same as they were the first time. Passing the test is about ability, not chance.

What are the chances of passing the driving test third time?

That term has been used to find this article. The simple answer is that your chances of passing your test are the same every time you take it if you assume that your ability remains constant. If you get better at driving, your chances increase. The likelihood of passing your driving test is based on your ability, not probability. People who fail at their first attempt are usually better prepared for the second. However, some people are simply not prepared at all and are just gambling on scraping through every time.

If the probability of passing your test is 75%, what is the probability of passing in under four attempts?

Someone found the blog on that search term. I suspect it is a maths question rather than a driving one, but I will answer it as though it were the latter.

Passing your test is not based on probability. If you can’t drive, then you have no chance of passing, and the probability is effectively zero. As your driving ability improves, so does the probability that you will pass. However, it is impossible to put a number to driving ability such that the probability of passing can be calculated, and even if you could, you’d then have to factor in other equally unmeasurable numerical representations of any number of unpredictable events on the day of your test which could shift your chances of passing either up or down the scale.

Just for the record, and as I’ve just explained, the probability of passing your test is not 75% in the first place. And whatever the outcome of your first attempt, that has no measurable bearing on what happens on subsequent tests. It is quite possible to only just fail one test, then fail miserably on one or more of your following attempts.

Generally, most people do improve between tests, but so many other variables are involved that general improvement in the candidate’s ability might not show up as a reduction in driver faults. I’ve seen people fail with perhaps two faults – one of which is a serious – and then pass their next attempt with maybe 9 driver faults.

Does everyone have the same chance of passing their test?

Everyone has the same opportunity to pass – they’re all being tested to the same standard. However, everyone is different, with different abilities, and success in the test is governed by ability.

Since I’ve been doing this job I have encountered people who, quite frankly, should be prevented by Law from ever going near a car. Frighteningly, I know of at least three of them who have passed their tests – one of those has had numerous minor accidents related to emerging without looking properly, and another did so much damage to her car in the fortnight she owned it by keep reversing into her gate post (three times that I know of) that she has given up driving and got rid of the car.

Aren’t you at fault for teaching these people to drive?

Believe me, I think about that all the time. I wish that we were allowed to tell people that they should give up the idea of driving. I have my own way of dealing with it – but I know that they just go and find someone who will carry on teaching them, and they take test after test until they pass.

I had a guy a couple of years ago who failed five tests with me (he’d failed several before). He refused to do more than a single one hour lesson before each attempt because he’d already “spent enough”. He argued that he failed on something different every time, and so all he had to do was not make that same mistake again and he’d be all right. He wouldn’t accept my explanation that his “different” mistakes were due to the same underlying issue, which if dealt with would increase the likelihood of him passing. That was in January 2014, and it was the last I saw of him. Well, until November 2014, that is, when I saw him coming out of the test centre as I was going in with a huge grin on his face. While he was with me, he spent £230 on lessons and £310 on tests over three months – pro rata, he would have spent a further £500-£800 in tests by the time I saw him nine months later in November.

This is how these people are. You can’t tell them directly that they can’t drive. And even if you did, someone would still teach them.

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