Driving tests: More people are passing than ever

If you are taking your driving test today, there’s probably only one statistic that you want to know: what are the chances you’ll pass? Well, your particular chances obviously depend on how much you’ve practised, and how carefully you’ve listened to your instructor. But, on average, your odds are just a little worse than 50/50.

Of the 7.86 million driving tests taken in the five years to September 2017 (the latest month for which figures are available), 3.69 million resulted in a pass. That’s a pass rate of 47%.

That rate naturally fluctuates a little from month to month, but – as the graph below shows – it’s been consistently close to the 47% mark ever since 2011. It’ll be interesting to see whether that number changes following the introduction of the new driving test format last month.

Graph showing the monthly pass rate of practical car driving tests in Great Britain.

The number of driving tests is rising

Although the pass rate hasn’t really changed in recent years, the actual number of passes has been growing steadily since 2013. That’s because more and more people have been taking their driving test – a trend that’s probably mainly due to the general economic recovery and the increasing availability of driving test examiners.

As our second graph shows, 1.65 million driving tests were conducted in 2016 – 230,000 more than in 2013. 777,386 people passed their driving test in 2016, up from 669,215 in 2013 and just shy of the pre-recession peak of 803,777 in 2008.

We’re still waiting on the figures for the last three months of 2017, but the total for the first nine suggests that it was a record year for passes. There were 1.35 million tests in January to September 2017, 12.4% more than in the same period of 2016 and pretty much equal to the total for the first nine months of 2008. As the pass rate is higher now than it was in 2008 (when 45% of tests were passed), 2017 is well on course to surpass that year’s record for newly-qualified drivers.

A bar chart showing the number of car practical driving tests passed and failed in Great Britain from 2008 to 2017 (up to 30 September 2017).

The top ten reasons for failure

Of course, a 47% pass rate means that 53% of driving tests end in failure – which is to say that there are more than 800,000 disappointed candidates every year. So, what are the main reasons that those people fail their tests?

Handily, the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency has produced a list, which we’ve turned into the table below:

Top 10 reasons for failing the car practical driving test in 2016-17. From 1 to 10: Junctions: observation, use of mirrors: change direction, control: steering, junctions: turning right, move off: safety, positioning: normal driving, move off: control, response to traffic lights, reverse park: control, response to traffic signs.

So, if you want to be one of the happy 47%, you’ll want to take extra care at junctions and when changing lanes, and spend a bit more time practicing moving off. Good luck!