The UK driving test report

Find out the most common reasons for failing your test, how many drivers pass first time and which driving test centres have the highest – and lowest – pass rates.

goco author
Updated 8 November 2022  | 3 min read

The saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But whether you pass your driving test the first time or the fifth, learning to drive can be costly.

According to our research the average cost of learning and getting through your theory and practical test is 1,435. But that’s only if you’re successful on your first test attempt and before you add in the cost of buying, taxing and insuring your first car.

While some learner drivers can take off the L-plates after their first driving test, others need more lessons and practice before passing, which can rack up costs.

But could you increase your chances of success first-time around?

We’ve analysed data from the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to look at first-time pass rates from 328 driving centres across the UK to reveal:

  • The busiest and quietest test centres
  • Which centres have the highest and lowest first-time pass rates
  • Where you’re most likely to have your test cancelled

Ten most common reasons for failing your driving test

It’s rare to pass the driving test without picking up a few faults.

And it’s not just the serious or dangerous mistakes you need to worry about. If you add up 15 minor faults, or make the same one three times, you’ll fail your test.

But which mistakes do learners make the most?

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the top 10 reasons for failing a driving test are:

  • 1. Not making effective observations at junctions – Failing to judge the speed of approaching traffic, only checking in one direction, or going straight ahead without realising you’re at a crossroads.
  • 2. Failing to check mirrors – Whether you’re changing direction or exiting a roundabout, not checking your mirrors counts as a fault.
  • 3. Not having proper control over your steering – Poor steering or steering too late can cause you to swing out onto the wrong side of the road or mount the pavement.
  • 4. Poor road positioning when turning right at junctions – This includes obstructing traffic while you wait, or using the left-hand lane when you’ll be turning right at a roundabout.
  • 5. Not moving off safely – Failing to check your mirrors and look around you before moving off, particularly if you’re behind a parked vehicle, on a slope, or you’re moving from the far side of the road.
  • 6. Responding incorrectly to traffic lights – Failing to stop at a red light or to go ahead on a green.
  • 7. Not positioning your car correctly during normal driving – Driving too close to the kerb, or parked cars, or too close to the centre.
  • 8. Not understanding and reacting properly to traffic signs – Your driving theory knowledge isn’t just needed for your theory test. You need to use that knowledge in real life.
  • 9. Not being in full control of your car when you move off – Rolling back or stalling the car repeatedly as you try to move off are examples of not being in control.
  • 10. Not controlling the car accurately when you’re reverse parking – Too many attempts to parallel park the car, ending up with your parked car’s wheels on the pavement, or parking outside of the parking bay lines.

The 10 driving test centres with the highest pass rate in the UK[1]

Scotland wins hands down for the highest pass rates in the UK.

It fills all top 10 spots and most of the top 20, specifically with test centres in more remote and rural locations.

Duns, in Northumberland, and Newtown, in Wales, also made it into the top 20.

Although the DVSA tries to maintain consistency across driving test centres, small towns can be easier to navigate. Fewer roundabouts, quieter roads and less built-up areas could mean a smoother driving test and a greater likelihood of passing.

With an impressive first-time pass rate of 87.1%, the quiet Scottish town of Mallaig had the highest pass rate of 2021-22. Scottish test centres were the only locations to achieve above an 80% pass rate in the past year.

There’s a clear trend with more rural and remote Scottish regions, like the Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and Outer Hebrides, giving first-timers an easier ride when it comes to driving test success.

Place Conducted Passes Pass rate
Mallaig 31 27 87.1%
Ballater 112 95 84.8%
Lochgilphead 123 99 80.5%
Ullapool 51 40 78.4%
Crieff 152 119 78.3%
Montrose 602 471 78.2%
Golspie 104 79 76%
Pitlochry 102 77 75.5%
Inveraray 81 61 75.3%
Hawick 312 234 75%
Newtown 957 713 74.5%
Duns 116 86 74.1%

Across the UK, finding and booking into your nearest rural test centre might give you the edge, with pass pass rates more than double that of some city test centres.

The 10 driving test centres with the lowest pass rate in the UK

As well as driving test locations where you’re more likely to enjoy success, at the other end of the scale are centres which have higher rates of failure.

This is certainly something to bear in mind when booking your driving test.

Place Conducted passes Pass rate
Erith (London) 4797 1361 28.4%
Belvedere (London) 3981 1237 31.1%
Speke (Liverpool) 7898 2616 33.1%
Birmingham (Sutton Coldfield) 7709 2707 35.1%
Rochdale (Manchester) 6453 2307 35.8%
Birmingham (Kingstanding) 11132 3995 35.9%
Stoke-On-Trent (Cobridge) 4409 1584 35.9%
Wolverhampton 10023 36772 36.7%
Birmingham (South Yardley) 7890 2899 36.7%
Wanstead (London) 7743 2871 37.1%

The data shows that London and Birmingham have test centres with the lowest pass rates in the UK, although as two of the country’s largest cities, they do have a higher number of tests taken.

Some test centres in Manchester and Liverpool follow this high fail rate trend.

Large cities are a challenge for learner drivers, with busy streets, complicated roundabouts, one-way systems and dual carriageways.

These obstacles can make it harder to pass than in places like rural Scotland, which have less traffic and fewer hazards. However, for many city-dwellers taking a driving test in a quieter rural setting is not a viable option.

Best place to take a driving test in London: Based on pass rates

As the busiest city to book your driving test in, London also has some of the lowest pass rates. So, if you’re going to be learning in the Big Smoke, where in the city is going to give you your best chance of passing?

Out of the 28 London test centres, the driving centre with the highest pass rate of 54%, and a total of 9205 first driving tests taken, was in the leafy suburb of Tolworth located 11 miles southwest of Charing Cross.

Goodmayes with 23,213 tests and Pinner with 14,656 tests are the busiest London test centres – although both are low down when it comes to chances of success.

Erith in London has a pass rate of just 28.4% this year, making it the test centre with the lowest pass rate across the UK two years in a row, and therefore the most difficult place to pass your test the first time.

Place Conducted Passed Pass rate
Tolworth 9205 4697 54%
Sidcup 7,251 3,885 53.6%
Chertsey 5,066 2,709 53.5%
Borehamwood 4,129 2,151 52.1%
Hornchurch 6,396 3,278 51.3%
Uxbridge 4,546 2,312 50.9%
Bromley 6,783 3,425 50.5%
Brentwood 3,159 1,584 50.1%
Hither Green 9,716 4,780 49.2%
Pinner 14,656 7,105 48.5%

Best place to take a driving test in Birmingham: Based on pass rates

It isn’t just London that’s a difficult city to pass your driving test in. Birmingham also has some of the lowest pass rates in the country.

Three of its seven test centres are in the country’s bottom 10 when it comes to passing the first time around.

The West Midlands is one of the largest and most urbanised counties in the UK, so you have plenty of test centres to choose from in the area. To improve your odds, Wyndley in Birmingham might be the best choice. At 55%, it has the highest pass rate in the city.

Place Conducted Passes Pass rate
Shirley 3,621 1,773 49%
Wyndley 4,114 1,911 46.5%
Garretts Green 11,486 4,740 41.3%
Dudley 11,625 4,646 40%
Wednesbury 7,330 2,895 39.5%
Kings Heath 5,487 2,143 39.1%
South Yardley 7,890 2,899 36.7%
Wolverhampton 10,023 3,677 36.7%
Kingstanding 11,132 3,995 35.9%
Sutton Coldfield 7,709 2,707 35.1%

Top 10 busiest driving test centres in the UK

As well as the pass rate to think about, you’ve also got to consider your chances for getting a slot in the timeframe you want. Test centres get incredibly busy, making it hard to get test appointments quickly.

Waiting times have become longer, as the pandemic has been causing considerable delays and backlogs. The DVSA reported a staggering 710,316 practical driving test cancellations between 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus.

This past year, the number of cancellations has fallen to 119,484, though 49,858 of these cancellations (41.7%) were Covid related

Your driving instructor will usually let you know when they think you’ll be ready to have a go at your practical test and advise you to pre-book in advance.

But with the national average waiting time of 14 weeks announced in May 2022, which test centres should you avoid if you want to take your test as soon as possible?

Place Conducted Passes Pass rate
Goodmayes (London) 23,213 9,599 42.7%
Pinner (London) 14,656 7,105 48.5%
Leicester (Wigston) 13,411 5,720 42.7%
Morden (London) 13,305 6,314 47.5%
Iselwroth (Fleming Way) 12,613 6,102 48.4%
Chingford (London) 12,203 4,954 40.6%
Slough (London) 11,705 5,503 47.0%
Dudley 11,625 4,646 40%
Norris Green (Liverpool) 11,594 4,763 41.1%
Garretts Green (Birmingham) 11,486 4,470 41.3%

Not surprisingly, considering its population, London has the busiest test centres.

But compared to the previous year, the number of first-time driving tests has seen a huge drop, with the Goodmayes test centre alone holding 8,000 fewer tests thanks to Covid.

If you're wanting to book your driving test quickly, look for the quieter test centres in your region. Be as flexible as you can on times and dates too – it’ll increase your chances of getting booked in.

Top 10 quietest driving test centres in the UK

The 10 quietest driving centres in the UK are all based in Scotland, and by no coincidence are all in very rural locations. From the Isle of Mull with just 21 tests in the past year, to Rothesay with 95, in certain areas of Scotland, you may find it easier to book a test appointment.

Place Conducted Passes Pass rate (%)
Isle of Mull 21 14 66.7%
Mallaig 31 27 87.1%
Gairloch 37 25 67.6%
Islay Island 50 36 72%
Ullapool 51 40 78.4%
Beverley LGV 65 38 58.5%
Kingussie 75 40 53.3%
Inveraray 81 61 75.3%
Callander 83 51 61.4%
Rothesay 95 67 70.5%

Not only might their rural location make it easier to book a driving test, these quieter areas also mean you can benefit from high pass rates of up to 87.1%.

Don’t underestimate rural driving though. Dual carriageways and the busier roads of urban areas may seem frightening to new drivers, but Department for Transport statistics show that more dangerous accidents happen on rural roads.

But not having to navigate complicated junctions and tricky roundabouts can be helpful when it comes to taking your test.

Top 10 driving centres with the most cancellations in the UK

Though Covid disruption has lessened this year, there have still been a large number of cancellations, plus delays and disruption across the UK. So, where are you most likely to experience the frustration of having your test cancelled and which test centres might you want to avoid on this basis?

Place Cancellations
Goodmayes (London) 1,888
Southall (London) 1,768
Taunton 1,577
Norris Grenn (Liverpool) 1,528
Kingstanding (Birmingham) 1,243
South Yardley (Birmingham) 1,150
Sutton Coldfield (Birmingham) 1,143
West Didsbury (Manchester) 1,120
Speke (Liverpool) 1,098
Rochdale (Manchester) 1,055

Not surprisingly, Goodmayes, the number one busiest driving centre in the UK, has also cancelled the most tests. Two London test centres feature in the cancellation table and Manchester takes three slots, while Birmingham and Liverpool take two slots each.

More cancellations, when the DVSA has to cancel test appointments, lead to longer waiting times. But when a driving student cancels their test this can actually free up a spot. If you’re savvy and check frequently for test cancellations - particularly early in the morning and late in the evening - you might be able to move your test closer, even by several weeks.

10 tips for passing your driving test first time

There's no sure fire way to make sure you pass your driving test the first time – all you can do is get plenty of practice, and study up. But here are a few tips that can help you give it your best shot:

1. Wait until you’re ready

It can be tempting to book your test as soon as possible, but lots of people fail their first test because they haven’t taken enough lessons or built up enough driving experience to pass. To avoid wasting your time and money, and damaging your confidence, make sure you really feel ready before you take your test – even if this means moving the date of your appointment.

On the day of your test, aim to arrive at the driving test centre at least 20 minutes beforehand to help you prepare and focus.

2. Use your instructor’s car

You’ll be far more familiar with it and at ease. Plus, for the ‘show me, tell me’ questions, it’ll be much easier if you know where all the controls are. If you’ve been learning in your own car, or a family member’s, the same applies.

3. Don’t assume you’ve failed

If you make a mistake, try not to focus on it. You’re allowed 15 minor faults before you fail your test. Dwelling on that mistake could knock your confidence and affect the rest of your driving test.

If you know you’ll struggle to let it go, try thinking of your test as just another driving lesson and focus on doing the best you know you can do.

4. Choose where to take your test and get to know the routes

You can choose where to take your test. You might think it’ll be easier to focus on the driving test centres with fewer roundabouts and rural roads, but sometimes choosing a closer centre means you can practise the driving test routes more.

5. Learn to drive in a variety of conditions

The weather is uncontrollable, no matter what month you book your test in. So make sure you practise with your instructor in a variety of weather conditions, as well as when it’s dark, so you can become a confident driver in different situations.

6. Exaggerate mirror checks

One of the most common faults during a driving test is not checking your mirrors often enough and a lack of observation – especially when changing position and setting off. Make sure your examiner is aware that you’re checking your mirrors. If that means an exaggerated full neck swivel, do it.

7. Practice your theory

You may think that your theory test is in the past, but it's an integral part of driving. From knowing and understanding road signs and regulations, to answering questions from the examiner, you need to be confident about the Highway Code.

8. Don’t be distracted by what the examiner is writing

During your test, the examiner will have a results sheet which they'll write on. You may be tempted to try and look at this, but not only will you not be able to understand the scoring, it's also dangerous and distracting. Keep your focus on your driving.

9. Anticipate and plan

There’s no way you can predict every possible thing that could happen during your driving test. But there are things you can expect, and train yourself to look out for.

You need to be alert and know how to react, from a car making an emergency stop in front of you, to a child running out into the road. By anticipating hazards, such as changing speed limits, oncoming traffic and zebra crossings, you can be prepared - with safe reactions becoming second nature.

And when it comes to planning, make sure you check the list of what to take with you so you’ll have everything you need on the day. On average, more than 4,500 driving tests a year don’t go ahead because people either haven’t brought the correct documents or took an unsuitable car to use.

10. Relax

We know driving tests are nerve-wracking, but if there’s anything you can do to calm your nerves, give it a go. That could be breathing exercises before and during your test or just being extra prepared.

It's important you relax as much as possible, so you can focus on the roads and make sure you show the examiner the best of your abilities.

To help, World Driving have compiled their tips to passing your driving test first time in 2021 in a video here:

No matter where you take your driving test, you’re going to need to practice as much as you can to avoid making mistakes. But from getting your provisional licence to the day you pass your test and are ready to hit the open road, GoCompare is here to help for all your driving tips and car insurance needs. For the best learner-driver apps to download, check out our guide.

Preparation is always the key when it comes to tackling any challenge. But there's no harm in looking at extra ways to boost your chances, and choosing a quieter route can keep your nerves at a minimum.

"The most common reason for failure in driving tests is responding incorrectly at lights. At busy junctions, it's easy to lose your concentration when surrounded by different distractions – choosing a quieter location is a good way to limit this risk. To make sure you're prepared, try to practice in a variety of conditions. Once you've chosen your test centre, drive the routes as often as possible, so you can get used to the trickier roads."
Ryan Fulthorpe, Car insurance and motoring expert

[1]According to data taken from Car driving test data by test centre 2021-2022