New Driving Test: Will the Pass Rate Go Up or Down?

Practical test

Major changes to the UK practical driving test have been in the works for a number of years. We first heard of the potential changes back in November 2014; now, they are finally are a reality for a new generation of candidates.

It’s hard to argue with the DVSA’s rationale for the changes. The new test aims to reduce the number of deaths from road collisions, which is particularly high amongst young people. It also wants to ensure drivers are better prepared for real-life driving, by training them in sat nav use and giving them more independent driving experience. However, many learners will understandably worry that the new test will affect their chances of passing.

We’ve decided to delve into the stats and find out the truth: will the driving test changes make the pass rate go up or down?

What’s changing?

Here at the PassMeFast Blog, we’ve already compiled a comprehensive comparison of the old and new practical test. If you’re still a bit unsure, however, here’s a quick rundown:

  • More independent driving. Learners who spend more time driving independently find it easier to get on the road in real life. That’s why the independent driving section of the practical test has doubled in length from 10 to 20 minutes. The overall length of the practical, however, hasn’t changed.
  • Most tests now include sat navs. To reflect the fact that most drivers now use sat navs, driving tests include sat navs for the first time. 80% of candidates now have to follow sat nav directions during their independent driving section. One in five candidates, however, need to follow traffic signs instead.
  • Manoeuvre changes. Two of the four manoeuvres which previously featured on the practical test have been axed: the three-point turn and reversing around a corner. Bay parking and parallel parking are still part of the test, while there isone new manoeuvre: pulling up on the right.
  • “Show me, tell me” question while driving. Before the test changes, candidates had to answer two questions about vehicle safety and maintenance before driving. Since December 2017, one is now asked before the candidate starts driving, and the other is asked whilst they are behind the wheel. These questions are known as “show me, tell me” questions, as they usually start with one of these two phrases. Check out our guide to the new 2017 show me, tell me questions to brush up.


Smiling driver

With the driving test undergoing such major changes, it’s not surprising to see that many learners are worrying. However, there are plenty of reasons for even nervous drivers to take heart:

  • Between 2015 and 2016, the DVSA conducted a study to look into the impact of the new test. They found that there was no noticeable difference in pass rates between people taking the old test and those taking the new test.
  • Additionally, there was no significant difference in the number of faults that drivers made during their test.
  • Those who took the new version of the driving test in trials also reported that they were more confident in their driving ability than those taking the current test. They were also aware of which areas of driving they needed to improve. This bodes well for their driving future: both of these factors point towards lower collision rates.
  • People taking the new test, their supervising drivers, ADIs and the general public are all positive about the test changes. In a consultation, more than 70% of the public supported all four of the 2017 changes. Meanwhile, those taking the test believed it was more relevant to real-world driving.
  • The DVSA has provided instructors with plenty of information about the new test. As well as frequent online updates, a handbook has also been mailed out to all ADIs, and training days have been provided. This means that instructors are well-equipped to cope with the changes.


Driver with neutral expression

Whilst there are plenty of positives to the new test, there are always two sides to every story—much like the driving examiner strike. Here are a few of the potential negative impacts of the December 2017 driving test changes:

  • In the DVSA study, first-time pass rates were slightly higher amongst those taking the current test than for those taking the new test. However, it’s important to remember that this difference in pass rates is very small.
  • There’s no transition period between the two different types of test. This shouldn’t be a problem for most learners, who will know which type of test they’re taking. However, it could cause real issues for people who aren’t sure yet if they’ll be able to book their test before the deadline.
  • The new test could also cause real worries for learners who fail first time. Some learners who fail their first attempt before December 4th will have to learn how to pass a very different test later on. Though this isn’t a long-term issue, it could be a major concern for many candidates in the immediate period after the test changes.
  • Major changes to the driving test are quite infrequent in the UK. This means that driving instructors have likely adapted their teaching style to fit the demands of the current test. As such, it may take some time before instructors start teaching in a way that fits the new test.
  • Finally, the new test may simply be a worse fit for some candidates than the current test. However, this is, of course, a double-edged sword: some people may perform much better on the new test than they would have before.

Don’t worry!

Practical test

Although the driving test is, was, and always will be a challenge, it’s most definitely not impossible. As our pass photos can testify, we’ve already helped hundreds of learners to become fully qualified drivers. That’s because we only work with experienced, DVSA-approved, grade A or B driving instructors. They don’t just focus on helping you to pass a test—they help all their pupils to become safe and confident drivers for life. That means that when you book a course with us, you’ll gain all the skills you need to pass—fast. You can even have your instructor sit in on your test if you want a bit of extra reassurance. Want to know your chances of getting a weekend test? Check out our advice here.

We pride ourselves on offering a quick service without compromising on quality. Our wide range of courses include something for everyone, from a total beginner to someone looking for a quick refresher course. You can also choose between a manual or automatic car. So, no matter how much experience you have, how confident you’re feeling, or whether you’re taking the new or current test, book a course with us, and ditch the L plates in weeks.

By Andy Boardman

Andy has been part of the PassMeFast Blog team from the very beginning. He'll provide you with plenty of useful motoring advice, helping you to get the most out of every trip. When he's not writing here, you're most likely to find Andy on the way to his next destination.

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