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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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
|Birmingham (Sutton Coldfield)||7709||2707||35.1%|
|Birmingham (South Yardley)||7890||2899||36.7%|
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.
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.
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.
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?
|Iselwroth (Fleming Way)||12,613||6,102||48.4%|
|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.
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%|
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.
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?
|Norris Grenn (Liverpool)||1,528|
|South Yardley (Birmingham)||1,150|
|Sutton Coldfield (Birmingham)||1,143|
|West Didsbury (Manchester)||1,120|
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.
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.
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.
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According to data taken from Gov.uk. Car driving test data by test centre 2021-2022