The driving theory test fails new drivers

Thursday 17th October, 2013 at 10:10 COMMENTS (0)

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) chief driving examiner wrote, "With the ever increasing volume of traffic on the roads today, it's important to make sure new drivers have a positive attitude and a broad spread of driving knowledge and ability."

Whilst this sounds admirable yet somewhat obvious, does the driving theory test achieve what it set out to?

The theory test

A separate written theory test was introduced on 1 July 1996.  It replaced questions asked about the Highway Code during practical test. 

The theory test pass mark was raised from 26/35 to 30/35 on 1 October 1996 and to the current requirement of 43 out of 50. 

In most cases you need to take the theory test before you can get your first full car or motorcycle driving licence. 

Preparing for the theory test

Tools and information are available to help you practice and prepare for both parts of the theory test.  Indeed, the DSA encourage new drivers to prepare properly for the test by studying all or some of the appropriate resource materials. 

Preparing for the multiple-choice part

To prepare for the multiple-choice part of the theory test you should use 3 books known as the 'source material'.  They are:

The Highway Code
Know your traffic signs
Driving the Essential Skills. 

All 3 publications are available from most high street book shops and from good driving schools plus you can download the 'Know your traffic signs' booklet and the Highway Code. 

Online practice theory test

You can take a practice theory test online as often as you like although if you repeatedly score a pass on the practice mock tests, it does not guarantee a pass when you take the real theory test. 

Perhaps, this is where it all goes wrong

Preparing for your driving theory test is about more than just learning the questions and answers. 

Although some people can do this well enough to pass the theory test others will take numerous attempts, wasting time and money. 

Either way, most people will lack the understanding needed to promote safe and educated driving practices. 

New figures have shown, a woman has managed to fail her driving theory test 105 times. 

The hapless motorist is believed to be the country's most incompetent candidate to date, according to data supplied by the Driving Standards Agency. 

The theory test currently costs £31, so the woman from Essex has spent more than £3,000 so far, exceeding the cost of a small car. 

Her latest unfortunate attempt at the exam took place at Ilford, Essex.  Unfortunately the result was the same as the previous 104 attempts. 

It's difficult to comprehend how someone could take the theory test this many times and fail. 

Whilst there are people who are not very good tests and people who get very nervous, I think it's fair to suggest, most just don't prepare adequately. 

When the theory test was first introduced to the driving test, we at Karen's School of Motoring undertook a structured theory training courses which were extremely successful in encouraging the same positive attitude and a broad spread of driving knowledge and ability that the DSA encouraged. 

That is until the DSA started publishing the entire question and answer bank.  This stand alone publication was supposed to support other training materials but it's fair to say that new learner drivers opted for the easy option. 

Unfortunately, learner drivers are easily allowed to slip into this path due to three main reasons;

The examining body promoting, How to pass the theory test: official DSA guide in literature and through social media sites. 

It's fair to suggest also, the bulk of the driving instructors continue this theme or more alarmingly refuse to teach the theory in any capacity, choosing to let the learner fend for themselves. 

In this case, it's easy to appreciate that due to financial or peer experiences the quickest will typically be chosen. 
To its credit, the DSA have stopped publishing questions used in theory tests September 2011

The reason cited as it will help to ensure that new drivers learn the principles behind driving theory rather than just learning answers by rote. 

The driving theory test should help to prepare drivers for real life on the road - good driving is not just about learning answers to questions, but about having the knowledge and understanding of safe driving theory. 

No longer publishing these questions and answers will mean that successful candidates will have to understand the theory rather than simply memorising answers. 

It should be noted that practice questions and answers, not used in theory tests, will still be available from the DSA and other companies to help candidates with revision. 


The broad spread of driving knowledge and ability should be doubted based on the amount of attempts students take to pass the test but more so as this is transferred into the practical training and beyond. 

I believe that more could be done to help learners achieve an understanding, perhaps on similar lines to the Unites States . 

First time drivers in the State of Florida are required by law to take a Florida drivers ed.  course prior to applying for a Florida drivers license. 
These courses typically last four-hours and can be done from the privacy of the drivers own home or at school in a classroom environment. 

To be fair, all said, the current method of developing understanding is an improvement on answering several questions at the end of the driving test. 

However, some 16 years after the theory test was introduced to the driving test, I would suggest learners find this no more than an irritant and delay prior to taking the practical test. 

The Driving Standards Agency and indeed the government together with the driving instructors need to take a closer at their responsibilities in order to develop driver's positive attitude towards the theory of driving.


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