From the city to the country, the mountains to the coast, and from north to south, where we live shapes us. This is certainly true when it comes to motoring. We’ve seen countless times how learners face contrasting journeys to passing when they live just a few miles apart. Relying on anecdotes, though, wasn’t enough. That’s why we created a pass rates map, allowing us to visualise these differences easily.
Keep reading to see how pass rates looked in your county, and find out which areas had the best (and worst!) chances of passing. We’ll also take a look into some of the reasons why pass rates vary so much by location, to try to uncover the reasons behind the variation.
Pass rates map: county by county
Finding pass rates for each practical test centre is a fairly simple task—just head to gov.uk and hey presto: they’re there to download. Unfortunately, while this allows us to compare individual centres, it makes it difficult to compare larger areas to one another.
That’s why, when putting together our pass rates map, we decided to group test centres by county*. This helps to remove the effect of any outliers, while still being at a small enough scale that the impact of geographical variation remains clear. You can see the pass rates map below and see how things looked in your area. You can also open this map in a new window.
* Test centres grouped by English ceremonial county, Northern Irish county, Scottish council area and Welsh principal area.
Which are the top and bottom counties?
Exploring our pass rates map is certainly helpful to see how each county’s learners fare in the practical test. However, it can be hard to keep track of which areas did best (or worst) of all. That’s why we’ve decided to spare you the hard work and create a handy table showing the top and bottom ten counties in terms of pass rates. Check them out!
|Top ten counties||Bottom ten counties|
|1. Orkney Islands — 71.3%||1. West Midlands — 39.9%|
|2. Shetland Islands — 66.5%||2. Greater London — 41.5%|
|3. Scottish Borders — 63.1%||3. Glasgow City — 42.2%|
|4. Western Isles — 62.7%||4. Wrexham — 43.2%|
|5. Powys — 62.5%||5. West Yorkshire — 43.3%|
|6. Angus — 62.1%||6. Bedfordshire — 43.6%|
|7. Argyll and Bute — 61.5%||7. Essex — 43.7%|
|8. Dorset — 58.1%||8. Renfrewshire — 43.8%|
|9. Highland — 58.1%||9. Stirling — 43.9%|
|10. Cumbria — 58.1%||10. Merseyside — 44.2%|
Why do pass rates vary so much by county?
So, we’ve got plenty of stats detailing what the differences are between each county. What our pass rates map can’t explain alone, though, is why these differences occur. We here at PassMeFast fancy ourselves driving test detectives—so, we decided to dig deeper into the reasons behind the national divide.
City vs country
The counties featuring in the top and bottom ten don’t come as a major shock. Rural areas dominate the top ten, with Scotland performing particularly well—seven of the top ten are Scottish council areas. On the flip side, the counties sitting in the bottom ten include many of the country’s major cities, from Glasgow to Birmingham and Liverpool to London.
It’s well-known that urban roads can be tricky to drive on, with congested conditions making life hard for those taking their test in the city. This isn’t to say that country roads are a cakewalk—but, being quieter, learners can usually prepare to tackle any hazards in advance. It’s no wonder, then, that some countryside test centres beat the national average pass rate by more than 30%!
Local road conditions
While the difference between urban and rural driving in general can explain much of the difference, it doesn’t cover everything. Why, for example, are pass rates more than 10 points higher in the Scottish Borders than in neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway? What puts West Yorkshire in the bottom ten while South Yorkshire escapes?
Part of the answer is that no two areas are the same. Each test centre has its own routes, each coming with their individual quirks. Some may suit learners down to a tee, while others may strike dread into their hearts. Take Swindon, for example, with its many roundabouts, or the twists and turns present in Derbyshire’s Peak District. No two test routes are identical, and it’s likely pass rates will vary due to this factor.
Public transport provision
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that has plentiful bus and train connections, driving a car may be a bit of a luxury. For learners out in the sticks, though, getting behind the wheel can be a necessity.
If your car is a lifeline for you, it’s likely you’ll take your preparation that bit more seriously. This may mean taking a few extra lessons just to be sure you’ve got a certain skill down pat—or it may simply mean a change in attitude. Whatever the reason, this could be the push for certain learners to get their licence.
…and a bit of luck!
While geography certainly plays a role in how likely candidates are to succeed at the driving test, the truth remains that tests aren’t taken by places; they’re taken by people. A pass rate is simply the sum of thousands of learners’ stories. Some will have had a great day and driven better than ever; others will have smashed every lesson but fallen at the last hurdle.
All of this is to say that, to some degree, chance will impact upon the stats. Though this generally evens out over time, it can help to explain why certain areas do better or worse from year to year despite nothing else changing.
Finally, there’s one factor that has nothing to do with luck, but is crucially important: the way you learn to drive. PassMeFast’s intensive and semi-intensive courses are designed to help all learners, from nervous beginners to those who are almost test-ready, to get on the road quickly. We offer courses in areas across England—and, with more than 30 million people living in our coverage area, there’s a great chance we can help you to pass. To find out more, visit our prices page to compare the courses we have to offer.
Want to learn even more about this topic? Check out our full article covering driving test pass rates by area.