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The Geography Of The Driving Test

By raccars Published

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New research suggests that geographical factors have a huge influence on driving test pass rates, and that learners in rural areas enjoy a far higher pass rate than urban drivers.

Inner city areas of Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds and London post pass rates of only a third for men and 25% for women, compared to a 75% pass rate in rural areas. Experts have suggested that this is because country dwelling learner drivers get to practice in fields before even putting the L plates on at 17.

About 1.4 million learner drivers take their test every year. The current driving test in the UK is preparing for a major overhaul, which will see traditional manoeuvres, including the three point turn, replaced with others more useful in the modern day, such as parking methods. The driving test could also be revised to include a section on following satellite navigation directions, to reflect how people drive in the real world today.

On average, pass rates are higher for men than for women countrywide, but a number of factors seem to affect the geographical discrepancies in pass rates. Learner drivers in affluent areas have a higher pass rate, for example, which is attributed to them being able to afford more lessons before sitting their test. Drivers in inner city areas get little opportunity to practice their clutch and steering control compared to those in rural areas, who can use fields to practice in.

The highest pass rate for women in the UK in 2013-2014 was 77%, in Ballachulish in the Scottish Highlands. Other areas demonstrating high pass rates were the Isle of Skye, the Lake District and Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire. The lowest pass rates were seen in SouthYardley, Birmingham, at just 27.4%. Of the ten lowest pass rate areas, four were in London and others were the West Yorkshire town of Heckmondwike, Wednesbury in the West Midlands and Bradford.

Similar patterns applied to men, with an 82.6% pass rate for Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides and Welsh towns such as Lampeter, Llandrindod and Pwllheli. The lowest pass rates for men also occurred in London and South Eastern towns, including Barking, Belvedere, Enfield and Wood Green.

A number of areas posting low pass rates also demonstrate high immigration levels. This means that a number of candidates are taking the test in English when it is not their first language.

The Motor Schools Association is happy that the level of testing is consistent nationwide and that the discrepancy in pass rates accurately reflects the difference in driving abilities of test candidates in different areas.

How to pass your driving test

Like any exam, the driving test requires a certain amount of learning and knowledge to achieve a pass. However, you can help yourself along the way. A number of exam tips are simple common sense but if it were that easy, the pass rate would be 100%...

Learning to drive is particularly stressful, time consuming and expensive. You will need to pay for enough lessons to get you successfully through the practical test without breaking the budget. Then, even if you are relaxed under stress, nerves can still scupper your chances on the day.

Study hard

Before you get to this stage, however, you'll need to pass your theory test, the part which fills most learner drivers with dread. Simple hard graft is the best way to overcome this obstacle: you have to put in the hours of study and research. There's no end of source material out there, so you need to work out a study method and steel yourself for a bit of academic learning.

The theory test consists of a series of multiple choice questions on road regulations, hazards and parking procedures and a high percentage of correct answers is required for a pass. Test yourself with the aid of a friend or family member again and again, until you receive a respectable pass grade every time, or you risk spending money taking a test which you have very little chance of passing.

Rest and relaxation

After encouraging all that work, you should also make sure you get plenty of rest. Nerves on the eve of your test can make it very difficult to get a good night's sleep but you will need to be at your best. Use whichever relaxation method works for you in preparation for your test, whether that's a yoga session, a game of football or a hot bath.

Tiredness will not only make you less effective in a test situation but can also be dangerous. Similarly, make sure you eat a decent meal before your test - something healthy and nutritious if possible, to keep you energised and alert.


How do you know when you are ready to take your driving test? You may be desperate to achieve the freedom of the open road but trying to take your test too early is most likely to result in a discouraging failure (and a depleted bank account!). Your driving instructor is the best person to give advice on your test readiness. Even if you think you are ready, keep studying and practising until that pass certificate is in your hand.

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