The Theory Test has now experienced a consistent drop in pass rates over the last 15 years.

According to data released by the DVSA, the pass rate now stands at just 44.2%, compared to 65.4% back in 2007/8.

Where and when

Along with under half of candidates passing the Theory Test, where you take it can make a real difference too. However, unlike the practical driving test, this is down to regional variations in the way candidates learn and retain information. It is computer systems that asses the Theory Test, as opposed o driving examiners working in varying real world driving scenarios.

Those in Aviemore, Scotland, most likely to pass (73.5%). But in contrast, new motorists in Hornsea, Yorkshire, are least likely to come away with the qualification (23.6%).

I can’t do it

A study of 12,903 motorists, by AA Driving School, found just 18% think they could pass a theory driving test if they had to retake it.

An overwhelming nine in ten admitted they don’t understand all road signs. In fact, 26% of these admit this happens either sometimes, or very often.

A separate study of 12,598 drivers revealed knowledge of stopping distances was also an issue. As speed increases, fewer people know the distance a vehicle takes to stop.

At 20mph (in dry conditions), 38% correctly said the stopping distance would be between 11 and 20 metres. However, only 24% could identify what the stopping distances would be at both 50mph and 60mph.

Furthermore, just 23% knew it takes 96 metres to stop when travelling at 70mph. Nine percent even believed it took less than 50 metres.

Techy aids

A number of aids to help learners prepare for the Theory Test are available, and are increasingly popular with young learners. Just this week both AA Driving School and RED Driving School have launched their own branded versions.

AA Driving School managing director, Camilla Benitz, says learners are facing  tough “challenges” with the practical test backlog. Alongside this, demand for driving instructors is also leading to delays to learning.

“We don’t want the theory test to be another hurdle for them,” states Benitz.

“The fact so many qualified drivers also struggle with important elements of driving theory, such as road signs and stopping distances, just shows it takes revision and practice to get to grips with the questions and the hazard perception.”

The modern way

Keanan Lloyd-Adams, a young driver social media influencer, said: “There’s loads for learners to take on board when they start lessons, and the theory test can feel intimidating, but it’s got to be done.

“My generation always has access to a phone now, so using an app to pass your theory test is a great way to get your revision done – it’s the best way I can think of.

“In my own experience, and from what I see on social media, learning to drive is a really key moment in your life, when you turn from a child into an adult.

“Crucially, when you pass your test you have other lives in your hands, which is a huge responsibility. Making sure you really know your theory is an important first step to becoming, and staying, safe behind the wheel.”

New colours

The DVSA data shows learner drivers in Gairloch, Symbister and Ullapool are among those most likely to pass their theory test.

But those in Fakenham, Bradford and Uxbridge are not so lucky – being most likely to fail.

RED Driving Schools app, also released this week comes as the business celebrates 1,000,000 driving lessons this calendar year. It’s an indication of the consistent level of high demand for learning to drive. With this comes added pressure, both on instructors and pupils for candidates to learn faster and pass the tests first time to avoid further delays and costs.

Research by RED found that when looking for theory test support, 30% of learner drivers are looking for a study aid that offers a “complete set of learning materials” as their main priority.

Seb Goldin, CEO of RED Driver Training comments that the new app “is a significant step for our company”.

“We know it opens doors to further advances in the industry which we can’t wait to share with you in the coming months.”

Better prepared

The DVSA has consistently sent out the message that driving schools must do more to ensure candidates are ready for the tests before taking them. Increasing levels of failure are causing added burdens to an overstretched test booking system. The more re-tests requested due to failures, the longer the waiting list grow. As with so many areas of modern life, digital technology is seen as an important tool in improving learning, understanding and test pass rates, but used alongside high quality face to face teaching.