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Why Theory Test Pass Rates Are Falling

The latest research has revealed that the theory test pass rate has dropped to its lowest in over a decade – but what exactly is going wrong?

Just 47% of learner drivers passed their theory test in the past year. Figures from 2008 place the pass rate at 65%, which represents a fall of over a quarter in just over ten years. There is one simple reason why pass rates are declining – basically, the test is getting tougher.

For proof that the standards expected of learner drivers are on the increase, we need only look at how the test has transformed in recent years. For example, in 2007 the test was updated to include 50 multiple choice questions. In previous years, learners were expected to answer just 35.

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By 2009, officials introduced a “case study” element to the theory test. This requires learners to be able to take a look at a portrayed scenario, before having to answer a series of questions based on what they have viewed.

Perhaps the biggest shake-up in recent years involved the removal of questions and answers from practice papers and online learning resources in 2012.

Prior to this, learner drivers had the opportunity to memorise all of the answers to the examination before taking the test. Shortly after the removal of official questions from all learning resources, the entire bank of theory test questions was revised and refreshed.

2014 saw yet another DVSA ruling to shake things up. Interpreters and voice-over aides were no longer permitted to be used. This change applies to both the theory and practical aspects of the driving test.

What does this mean for learner drivers?

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Ultimately, learner drivers are now facing the toughest theory test on record. While some commentators see this as necessary to ensure the safety of all road users, it doesn’t take away from the fact that pass rates are lower than they’ve ever been.

Not all experts are convinced the increased difficulty is a good thing.

For example, Edmund King of the AA told a national newspaper that some of the questions are “quite obscure”. While Mr King noted that the test was necessary, he called on authorities to introduce questions which were more relevant to the “reality of driving”.

At present, the test includes questions pertaining to the length of time a burn sustained during a collision should be cooled for – with some commentators convinced that such questions would be better aimed at those taking a Nursing exam, as opposed to those simply looking to get on the road.


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