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Are Driving Tests Getting Harder or Easier?

Friday, 04 September 2020

Passing your driving test represents the completion of your independence. But has the test got harder or easier?

With the introduction of sat-navs, longer tests and the removal of procedures such as ‘three-point turns’, some may argue the test is considerably different now.

Here at Moneybarn, we have analysed a significant amount of historical data to assess whether driving tests are getting easier or harder and why this may be.

Theory test pass rates have dropped 16% over 10 years, practical tests remain the same.



Practical Tests Vs Theory Tests


At first glance, it looks like theory tests have seen a significant decrease in passes over the past 10 years. Pass rates for theory tests have reportedly dropped 16%.

On the other hand, practical tests seem to have remained the same. Over 10 years practical test pass rates have dropped by just 0.417%.

But first time pass rates have increased by 0.8%.


First time pass rates with zero faults has doubled in 10 years!


Either tests are getting easier or learner drivers are more prepared.

Why could tests be getting easier?

There could be a few reasons that explain the increase in first time passes and increase in first time passes with zero faults.

The introduction of sat-navs is an interesting theory. Since December 2017, drivers are allowed to follow directions from a sat-nav instead of signs.

This may seem a simpler task on paper, but according to the data it has had minimal impact. Since the introduction of sat-navs, practical test pass rates have fallen 0.39%, first time pass rates have fallen 0.1% and first time pass rates with zero faults increased by 0.11%.

While tests seem to be getting easier, this trend was apparent before the introduction of the sat-nav. Surprisingly, tests may have actually started to get harder since this change.

However, there are further reasons that may better explain the more general increase in first time passes and first time passes with zero faults.

There are 3.5% more instructors rated ‘Grade A’.

Over a five-year period, the number of instructors that are rated ‘Grade A’ according to their most recent standard check has increased significantly.


Quality over quantity! The number of removed instructor licences has increased by 84%.

These instructors were removed by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) by Registrar Decision for either not attending standards checks, poor standards check performance or not meeting ‘fit and proper’ reasons.

Which individuals are finding the tests easier?

Some people seem to find tests easier than others, regardless of when they took it.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to pass.

17 and under has had consistently higher pass rates than any other age group for the past 10 years. It also seems that the older you are the less likely it is you will pass, apart from in 2016/17 where the 45-54 age group performed worse than the over 55s.


Men are on average 6.8% better at practical, while women are 4.6% better at theory.

Men also have, on average, a 0.18% higher pass rate for first time passes with zero faults.

Pitlochry (a town in Scotland) is most likely to give first attempt passes with zero faults, while Bury (Manchester) is the least likely.

Where you take your test inevitably influences whether you find a driving test ‘easy’ or ‘hard’. This data, which aggregates each test centre’s pass rate for 1st attempts with zero faults over five years, suggests it may be harder to achieve this result in busier areas but is significantly easier in quieter, rural test centres.

Why do people fail?

Listed by the Department for Transport, the top reasons for failing have remained largely unchanged for the past 10 years. If you have your test coming up, make sure you don’t struggle with any of these!


While theory tests are certainly getting harder, practical tests may be getting easier when we consider the significant increase in first time passes and first time passes with zero faults. Although, this is likely explained by the increases in driving instructor quality and stricter regulations on removing instructor licences if they are poorly qualified.

Depending on who you are and where you take your test, you may be at a significant advantage or disadvantage. For example, those taking tests in rural areas may find it easier than those taking tests in busier, more populated areas. And while men may struggle more with theory, women may struggle more with practical.

A helpful way of passing your upcoming driving test is ensuring that you have mastered all the ‘top reasons for failing’ given by the Department for Transport.