190514 – Is The UK Driving Theory Test Too Easy For Learners?

If you want to drive on Britain’s public roads, you need to have a driving licence. This requirement is the same for virtually any country around the world. Before you can drive a car by yourself in the United Kingdom, you first have to pass the driving theory test and then a practical driving test.

You will also need many hours of expert driving tuition, and you are required to study government publications such as the Highway Code so that you are familiar with the various rules of the road.


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What is the driving theory test?

Introduced back in July 1996, the driving theory test was designed to test people’s knowledge of road rules and regulations.

It originally started as a series of multiple-choice questions that people had to answer on paper, and in 2000, this test was computerised. About two years after this, an additional element was introduced to the theory test: a hazard perception test.

At present, candidates must answer 50 multiple-choice questions in the theory test, 43 of which need to be correct in order to pass. In total, the theory test lasts just under one hour.

The 50 questions are selected at random from a database of around 1,000 different questions.

Is the driving theory test too easy?

If you went with pure statistics, the answer would probably be no. According to the latest Driver and Rider Test and Instructor Statistics from the Department for Transport, 390,326 people took their driving theory tests during the last quarter of 2013.

The pass rate for these tests was just 50.5%, which is 9.6% lower than the last quarter of 2012. There are many skeptics that claim the tests are simply too easy for people to pass!

For example, an article I read with interest from The Guardian newspaper that stated the UK government wanted to raise the driving age to 18 (it’s currently 17). There are several reasons why the government wants to increase the age you can drive on the road:

  • Lower fatalities – 20% of all fatal road accidents involve 17 to 24-year old people. Sadly, many young drivers get somewhat complacent behind the wheel and completely forget or disregard what they have learnt when they were being taught how to drive;
  • Higher pass rates – there are official government statistics to prove that older drivers are more likely to pass their theory and practical driving tests the first time.

People that fail their driving theory tests can simply reapply to take them again through websites such as http://www.booktheorytesttoday.com/, and there is currently no limit to the amount of times that they can retake them.

In contrast, train drivers only have a couple of shots at passing their exams, after which time they can no longer retake their tests.

Trains are obviously more complicated to manoeuvre than cars, but car and train drivers both have to know how to handle their vehicles, be aware of their surroundings and demonstrate skill and responsibility.

Emily Muelford
Emily is a British writer whose love of car culture is augmented by a fascination with both the European and American automotive markets. Her perspective is uniquely fish and chips.