10 Tips to Boost Your Driving Test Pass Rates!

Driving Test Pass Rate - boost-your-pass-rate“Hi, Ged & Claire.  Like most ADIs, I really enjoy all your articles and posts, so keep it up! I was, however, wondering if you could offer some advice on improving driving test pass rates…

I’m scratching my head at the moment: I qualified a little under a year ago and started very positively with my pass rate – 8 out of the first 10! However, of late, I have had several unsuccessful attempts in a row. I prepare all learners in exactly the same way, and always ensure they pass a mock test before booking a real one. I am slightly concerned for my reputation, both with learners and with examiners, and am working hard to arrest the slide. Is it my fault? The learner’s? Or are peaks and troughs like this normal? Any advice would be appreciated, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who stresses about their pass rate!”

Well, first, what an achievement. 8 out your first 10 tests passed – that’s great! My first ever learner to test failed, and it was an awful feeling. Yes, peaks and troughs are normal and I’m sure many excellent instructors have had their fair share of ‘bad runs’. No matter how good we are, expecting to have a 100%  test pass rate is unrealistic. We can, however, do everything we can to improve. It’s worth mentioning that this is no one’s fault or failure. You’re just learning from experience. After all, a FAIL is just the ‘First Attempt In Learning’ and if they do fail it’s not a matter of life and death. To put it into perspective, it’s just a test! And they can take it again until they do pass. 

How to Improve Driving Test Pass Rates

10 Top Tips which I hope you will find useful in improving your driving test pass rate.

Tip 1 – Monitor

magnifying-glassIf you want to know what you’re good at and what you could improve on, measure your results. Taking a photo of the driving test report or copying a test report onto a blank one will allow you to keep records of what your learners are picking up faults on. Is there a trend? When I did this, I found that I was getting quite a few driver faults on mirrors, including the odd serious one. I decided to remove my eye mirror, and the learners became aware of when I was watching them. This prepared them for being watched by the examiner, and also became a subliminal prompt. After that, my mirror faults decreased significantly!

Tip 2 – Shut up (in the nicest possible way!)

quietThis has always been a particular challenge for me.  Even on ‘mock’ tests, and certainly in the lessons on the run up to the test, it’s easy to overlook how much help you are actually giving your learners. Getting them used to total independence for set periods of time will not only prepare them for the test conditions, but also give you insight into how much you actually help them without thinking about it!

Tip 3 – Use records

A common question after around 8 lessons is, ‘When can I book my test?!’ If you use records, it’s much easier to show the learner what they need to be able to do BEFORE they book their test and what standard they need to reach for all the topics listed. ‘When you have covered all these topics and can do them without my help, shall we crack on and get that driving test passed?’

Tip 4 – Syllabus

Sounds simple, but do make sure your learner can deal with everything required for the test and much more! Allow your learners to experience a wide variety of areas, types of road and traffic situations – the more variety, the better. They will become better all-round drivers, and much more capable of dealing with situations on their test. That said, if there are any tricky bits or junctions where ‘local knowledge’ is needed on test routes, it’s best to make sure they can deal with them confidently, too.

To download a copy of the DVSA’s ‘Safe and Responsible Driving Syllabus’, click here.

noTip 5 – Say NO!

We have all had the learner who books a test when you know you have more chance of winning the lottery than getting a pass from them. Some learners deteriorate after booking the test, some come to us with a test already booked. If they’re not ready, say NO and stick to your guns. It’s your car, and your reputation. If they can’t meet the requirements for the test, don’t take them. Make sure your terms and conditions cover this.

Tip 6 – Pick the best time

Some people work best in the morning, some in the afternoon. Find out what works best for your learner and book a test to suit. I also used to avoid the rush hour test times and the school kicking-out times. The kids from the school round the corner from my local test centre used to play ‘chicken’ with learners: not great when your learner is already under a lot of stress!

Tip 7 – Does your learner feel ready?

Irrespective how how ready YOU think they are, confidence in their own ability will help your learners deal with test day nerves. If they don’t want to do their test just yet, let them decide when they do want to do it. What do they want to achieve before they take their test? Can you help them achieve that first? Having goals will help create a sense of confidence. ‘When I can do Manchester Street roundabout, I know I will be able to deal with anything on my test’.

woman-biting-wheel2Top 8 – Deal with test day ‘nerves’

Learners will naturally have some degree of nervousness on their test day. What helps them relax? Is there relaxing music that they can listen to before the test? Do they need a cigarette (assuming they smoke, of course!)? Accommodate their needs and make sure you allow sufficient time to do so. Some won’t want to drive beforehand. If that’s what works for them, then great. Learn some basic breathing techniques to help them relax. Make them laugh. Encourage them to have a brisk walk to the end of the street and back. Have some Rescue Remedy in the car, even if you don’t believe it works. If they think it will, then it will! Ask them to tell you again what passing the test will give them. Motivation is a powerful force!

Tip 9 – Eliminate negative language and self-talk

Be positive, and encourage your learners to do the same. This applies not only to the test day but also to the days leading up to it. Those who have trained with me will know that ‘if’ is banned in my car, as is ‘hopefully’. They are equal to swear words! ‘If I pass my test’ becomes ‘WHEN I pass my test’ and ‘Hopefully I’ll do it’ becomes ‘I WILL do it’.

Also, be aware of and eliminate any negative body language. Walk to the test centre with your learner proudly, smile and say ‘hello’ to your fellow colleagues and the examiners. Present a positive environment to your learner (even if you have to fake it!) 😉


Tip 10 – Be positive about all the examiners

Learners are influenced by what their mates tell them. ‘I hear one of the examiners never passes anyone there’. A simple reframe will quell any fears. ‘Really? I have an 80% test pass rate with him!’ People see what they expect to see. It’s much more useful for your learner to go in thinking that the examiners are all nice and looking to give out a pass than to believe they’re all evil and waiting for the chance to fail them – which, of course, they aren’t 😉

down arrowHave you any further advice that you would like to share?  What has helped you improve your driving test pass rate?

Please let us know in the comments below.

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  • My philosophy which I always try to convey to the candidate is to treat the occasion less like a test and more like a demonstration. Whatever the examiner asks you to do, try to give a positive demonstration of what you can do in the way you’ve been taught rather than worry about the faults that may or may not be marked. Another one is instead of clamming up go out there and express yourself.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Brilliant advice Chris! Like it a lot! 🙂

  • Hi Ged and Claire. Some excellent advice there regards to driving test success. What I would add to that is what I do with my pupils is I get another driving Instructor I know and trust to cross check my pupils driving and I sit in the back. This gets the Pupil used to another person in the car and brings to light any areas of driving that require further development I may of missed.

    On test day I say to my learners do not over think the test. Just drive safely, systematically and smoothly listening carefully to what the examiner says and concentrate. If you do make an error, recover as best you can and carry on with the drive. On test my learners are drivers so drive like a driver, not learnerish.

    • Claire Wilmot

      A really good idea Harry! There’s a few who do this and I agree it helps both the pupil and the instructor a lot. 🙂

  • Thanks for the tips some great advise some I already do but some I will certainly be using in the future thanks again.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Thanks Roger, glad you found the article useful! 🙂

  • I normally say to them , examiners did not knock on your door asking to test you , it was the other way round , you went to them and you paid them £62 out of your hard earned money !!!, because you are good at this , go out there and show them how good you are . also examiner doing a rewarding job to ensure that you are safe .

    • Claire Wilmot

      Ha ha! That’s right Micheal! I used to tell my pupils that they’re paying the examiner wages which effectively makes them their boss! 😀

  • Zaheer Abbas

    Hi Ged & Claire some great advice here, when Examiner walks in room and calls their name I say to learner “You are very lucky you got the best examiner” that really putts the relief on their face thank God I missed the bad one,

    • Claire Wilmot

      Brilliant Zaheer! It’s all in the mind isn’t it?! 😀

  • Hi Ged & claire ,
    My favourite part of doing this job is preparing my pupils for big day and all what you said in this blog , I am already doing that and i think i have fantastic pass rate.
    Teaching pupil is one thing , getting them through test is another . If you have booked test for a pupil then rather then doing a normal lesson, just try and change contents of a lesson(mock test) and do whatever examiner do .

    Mark every lesson on same level like examiner .A little strict marking will help them more and main part of your lesson should be explaining pupil of what they are doing wrong and re-train them if needed rather then turning big gun of saying no to them .
    You will get 6-8 hours extra work if you analysed them early and work on them weakness rather then saying a “no” to them and this can damage their confident aswell.

    If you see no improvement then explain that to pupil and advise them to postpone their test for another few weeks and really a sensible learner will listen to you.

    Those Adi who get a fail after fail, my advise is stay positive . If you not positive yourself , you cant make your pupils think positive about driving test. I think all the examiners in my area are doing a great job and i always try to ask question if i am not observing test .

    • Claire Wilmot

      Some good points there Darz. Thanks so much for contributing! 🙂

  • Mark Fitzgibbon

    Ged and Claire
    That article has been very useful to me thankyou. I the idea of taking a photo of the test report and also of working with another Adi that I know to buddy up and help my pupil.
    In addition I provide two very formal mock tests with the aim of achieving a pass and fewer than 6 df’s before sanctioning the first attempt at the real thing. My late uncle used to be a Senior Examiner and used to say candidates ” pass or fail themselves” I always make sure my pupils take ownership, some do try to wrighle out of responsibility though!!!

    • Claire Wilmot

      Thanks for your comments Mark! Glad you find the article useful and yes, I agree that pupils need to take ownership. 🙂

  • Hi Ged and Claire

    Great tips for test day. I agree with the eye mirror one as this is something i did too. I remember on a pink licence my pass rates were always really good. After I qualified they started to decrease. I think as an ADI you must keep going through your notes and pretend you are studying for your part 3 or even standards check all the time. This keeps your enthusiasm for the job but also everything you need to know is on the tip of your tongue, making the job flow easier.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Thanks for your comments Pete, great to hear that you keep fresh and enthusiastic! 🙂

  • Simon williams

    Hi guys this site is really helping with changing my career but still struggling with who to go with I’m stuck between the aa and bp!! Any hep advice would be great fully revived!

  • Philip Padfield

    I would also recommend sitting in the back of as many tests as possible. This gives the opportunity to see how the examiners work, but more importantly, to see how your pupils actually behave under real test conditions. I’ve seen some really suprising drives (both good and bad!). I sit in the back of about 90% of tests, but always give the pupils the choice by impartially discussing the pros and cons. My recommended pupils already know I often sit in the back and most are positive about it before the first lesson. The parents love the idea of course!

  • Neil Tyler

    Hi guys, I have found during my vast experience as an ADI (1 year, lol) offering pupils a 20 minute demonstration drive just prior to their test focussing on ‘making progress in a manner suitable to prevailing road, traffic and weather conditions’, ‘use of speed’, ‘meeting, passing, crossing and adequate clearance’ and gently reminding the delicate individual (…just about any pupil or ADI on their Standards Check Test day) that they already know what the ‘demo drive’ highlights. All they have to believe is believe in themselves and their own ability to draw from their learning.
    All the previous posts offer great advice, good work guys!
    Be a positive instructor and your positive pupils will give you so much in return:)

  • Dave Galloway

    Hi Ged and Claire.

    As always a fantastic site and a wealth of knowledge, im still on my pink after a bad bout of depression caused by my Ex employer, I have had 11 tests and 9 passes so far and I have sat on all tests bar1, this has given me a valuable insight in to how the examiner marks and how to coach my pupils to be able to not only meet the basic for test standard but to be a good all round driver, ive seen one of my pupils a fantastic driver on test fall to bits on test with Nerves, when he first came to me his right leg shook for his first 2 lessons, so no matter how well you coach them and prepare them nerves can still get the better of them, I always tell my pupils that the examiner is there to pass them and not to fail them, I tell them that they want them to pass and they are only there to ensure that you are safe driver at the minimum test standard, once you pass your test is when you start to learn to drive.
    After 7 passes in a row and then a fail I started to think on my first fail, am I teaching right and again on my second fail aswell, you do doubt yourself, but you realise it isnt you, not everyone can pass first time, be it nerves or be it negativity, my pupils say im so nervous and I explain I get nervous before every test and during the test, its a normal human reaction, just imagine im sat at the side of you saying mirror, mirror,mirror, imagine its just a lesson you are on and im sat at the side of you, drive like you normally do and you will be fine.
    I love my pupils and seeing them pass but then seeing them pass also makes me sad to see them go, to have comments of Im glad ive passed but sad to not be having lessons with you anymore, makes me sad, teaching pupils is like a therapy for me and im like a councillor, marriage guidance, pregnancy advisor, relationship advisor you name we do it, not many jobs are like this, without my pupils I dont know what I would do, we have our ups and downs but thats life, we are here to make sure our pupils go on to drive safe for life and gain independence.