Despite a slight drop in the number of theory tests taken in the UK due to coronavirus, the theory test pass rate has improved significantly during the pandemic, according to new data published by the DVSA. Meanwhile, the number of people taking practical driving tests slumped by more than 50%.
According to Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) data, the number of theory tests taken in the third quarter was down by 8.4% compared to 2019. 457,177 tests were taken and the pass rate rose to 56.3%, representing an 8.2% rise compared to the previous year.
The rise in the theory test pass rate has been attributed to learners being better prepared and motivated to pass their exam given the disruption to driver testing earlier in the year.
Theory tests resumed earlier than practical driving tests in most regions of the UK, and were seemingly less affected by the problems facing practical exams, such as examiner absences and social distancing rules.
Practical driving tests down
Despite the theory test pass rate improving, the figures for practical driving tests were far bleaker, with the number of candidates sitting an exam dropping to 188,520, representing a 53.8% slump compared to the previous year. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted practical driving tests massively.
The DVSA stopped taking test bookings in mid-March and when the agency reopened its booking system in August, more than 200,000 test candidates battled for just 20,000 available appointments.
Although the number of candidates taking a practical driving test in the third quarter (July – September) decreased significantly, the pass rate increased by almost 4%. From July to September, the pass rate for practical driving tests was 50.1%, representing a 3.9% rise compared to the same period in 2019.
Analysis suggests this is because testing was prioritised for critical workers who may have received additional driver training.
Pandemic has major impact
Commenting on the DVSA’s data, spokesman for the RAC Simon Williams, said: “The scale of the pandemic’s impact on novice drivers is clear to see. Even with looser restrictions over the summer, the number of practical driving tests was only half what it was in the same period last year.”
“Given how important the ability to drive is in enabling people to work, there will undoubtedly be enormous frustration among learners about having to delay the start of their driving careers. For that reason, it’s incredibly important that testing capacity is increased as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Williams added.
Increasing testing capacity
With the number of theory tests taken dropping slightly and practical driving tests seeing a huge slump in numbers, the DVSA has said that it’s looking at ‘all available options’ to increase testing capacity.
There are plans to increase the number of available appointment slots and enlist qualified, desk-based staff to conduct tests.
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