Are Driving Tests Fixed?

Are driving tests fixed? Do driving test centres have a quota? Is it bad to take a driving test late in the week if the test pass quota has been reached? These are the questions that driving instructors are frequently asked. Driving tests certainly are not fixed.

If it came to the public’s attention that that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) are deliberately failing test candidates in a bid to raise revenue, the repercussions would be severe for sure. With over 2000 driving examiners conducting driving tests around the UK, this type of scam couldn’t remain secret for long.

The driving tests are fixed myth often arises from disgruntled test candidates who have failed a driving test firmly believing that their driving skills are of exceptionally high standard and that they drove impeccably throughout their practical test. This would therefor suggest that either the examiner has no idea what they are doing or that driving tests are fixed.

We’re not suggested that each and every driving examiner is fair when it comes to conducting tests and correctly assessing a drivers ability. Some are far too strict and can seem like they have failed a learner even before getting in the car.

The vast majority do treat every candidate fairly however and a test failure will be the result of the candidate simply not driving up to standard.

Due to the stress that is put on the candidate during a test and that the 30 or 40 minutes that it takes to complete one, seemingly over in a fraction of this time often can make the entire ordeal a little hazy for the candidate upon completion. Each and every examiner is however monitored for their pass rates.

Are Driving Tests Fixed?
Are Driving Tests Fixed?

Varying Test Pass Rates

Each driving test centre has their unique pass rates which is largely dependent on where the centre is located. A test centre in a rural quiet area is likely to have higher pass rates than that of a centre located in a busy city. Quieter rural areas have a tendency to have less complicated road and traffic systems, and of course less traffic on the roads.

Examiners are required to remain within 10% of that test centres pass rates. If they fail or pass too many candidates and fall outside of this 10% threshold, their abilities may be called in to question. Whether you call this a form of quota or a safeguard for the public depends on which way you look at it.

24 thoughts on “Are Driving Tests Fixed?”

  1. John Hagan

    My daughter recently took her test. The examiner congratulated her on passing. Went to give her her certificate then told her that she had failed. How can this happen?

  2. Hello John,
    I’ve no idea – never heard of that happening before. Didn’t she tell the examiner that she was told that she passed?

  3. Ryan Hill

    I had a test that was a brilliant drive. Very smooth with no issues at all. However, while passing another car on a narrow (ish) street, the examiner suddenly hit the breaks on the dual controls and tried to tell me my mirror was going to hit another mirror on his side. I was in shock because my mirror was a least 1 foot away from the parked cars mirror and there was absolutely no way my mirror was going to collide because when he hit the breaks I was 1 foot away with my wheels turned right so it would have been impossible to hit mirrors.. It was obvious he done it to fail me and there is NOTHING I can do about it. I’m assuming he was playing statistics and that was the only way he could fail me because I only got 6 minors throughout the whole test.
    There’s one of two reason why I think he done it. The first is he had already decided to fail me before I started my test or I had accidentally offended him when we were talking. I was asking about his working hours but afterwards I think he may have got the impression I was suggesting he doesn’t do many hours a day.
    Whatever his reason, I am 100% certain he was a corrupt examiner who failed me for the wrong reasons.
    I will be writing to his boss to make the accusation and I will be requesting to view his pass/fail statistics using a freedom of information application so that I can look for any patterns.
    In my honest opinion, I don’t believe that human beings should be doing this job. It’s too easy to manipulate and cheat and I don’t trust my government at the best of times so why should I trust them to have a safe driving test system. Our driving abilities should only be tested by computers because at least we know it’s an honest appraisal and it’s not going to react to human emotions like current examiners do.

  4. It’s always a difficult one this –
    Though examiners are regulated within a set of rules, there’s margins within those rules that allow for fails and passes based on the examiners opinion – I’ve seen this first hand. So where you failed with this examiner, might have not been an issue with another. This is a perfect example of why I believe internal and external cameras should be permitted during the practical driving test.

  5. I Drive Better Than Most People

    Has anyone ever considered that maybe driving examiners don’t have quotas, because the ones that don’t meet it just get fired? If you have a guy that passes everyone (whether fairly or not), he’s going to get the boot because he doesn’t follow the statistics for driving tests. How likely is it that they fire someone who passes too many, versus someone who fails too many, considering that the pass rates are ~45% for men and ~38% for women? (stats are give or take 4%, just look up pass rates in articles, Google it)

    They are obviously going to keep examiners that fail more than they pass as they want to maintain their pass rates.

    Also, consider this: if driving exams were truly fair and judged based on the driver’s abilities, why are there so many bad drivers on the road? How did they get their licenses? Yes, some people fail because they are not ready to drive. I am not talking about those people, I am talking about the people who do have their licenses that should not be on the road – and a driving examination system that lets them on the road while the rest suffer because of statistical probability. It’s really a subtle dystopia that we’ve created for ourselves.

    Admittedly, I failed twice – once because I was asked to drive through the most unsafe, uncommon road conditions (i.e. being told to turn into a lane with construction in it – the correct manoeuvre was to straddle the lane, but I was told to turn into it), the second for speeding (the instructor looked at my speedometer right after I turned into a 30 km/h side road from a 80km/h highway – not enough time to slow down without dangerously braking).

  6. Ken Casey

    So basically if you live in an area where lots of people are particularly crap drivers and therefore the fail rate is high your likelihood of passing legitimately is lowered. Instructors know they have to keep within 10% of that rate and will know how many passes / fails they have. Sounds fair. Not.

  7. Michelle Thomas

    I failed my test today i was going up a road with no signs on either the floor nore the pavement stating it was a school zone nore a 20mph zone i got back to test centre and examinor said sorry u failed n only reason i failed was doing 26 in a 20 zone but the zone in question is not marked as a 20 zone can i contest this decision?

  8. Hi Michelle,
    If it isn’t a 20 mph zone, then it is likely 30 mph and if you can prove this then I’m sure you will be able to. It’s usually beneficial to have someone else in the car during the test such as your instructor. A second person able to back up your claims will often result in a stronger case.

  9. You did not drive brilliantly, as you have already said you had 6 faults (that is one every 5 or 6 minutes by the way!!). You do not say how fast you were travelling when you were a foot away from the other car, or whether you were moving off around it. However, unless you were travelling at very low speed, or it was not your fault that you came to be that close to the other car, then it all sounds like you were at fault. Remember: The examiner can”t play a game of chance with someone else”s car!

  10. I was failed for no reason and have to wait 6 months to retake my test

    I concur with “I Drive Better Than Most People”. I was taking my driving test and the examiner didn’t say a single word throughout the entire drive other than giving me directions. I assumed this was beneficial since it meant the examiner didn’t have to comment on any mistakes. When I finished my driving test, I glanced over my examiner’s paper to find that they had marked NOTHING down. I thought that I had finally passed (I failed a few times before) and that I would finally receive my drivers license that I have worked so hard towards. As I am waiting for my examiner to tell me that I have passed, they instead sit there silently for a few seconds. They then said that I had excelled in all areas, and that I was a good driver. However, after all of that praise they tell me that I have FAILED due to a “dangerous action” that is so ludicrous that I cannot even properly remember what it exactly was. The examiner marks down on their paper that I have failed and sends me on my way. Because this corrupt manager failed me, I now have to wait 6 MONTHS (half a year) before I am eligible to retake another driving test. And by the time that happens, I will have to renew my temporary license which means going through an extremely petty and mundane process all over again. So instead of acquiring my drivers license and getting the experience to drive by my lonesome for the very first time, I have now been sent all the way back to the beginning and will have to delay any future job opportunities. I will also be unable to assist my parents, friends, and other siblings with anything they need that requires me to go out and drive. All because of a quota that a certain examiner had to fulfill. I’m sorry that I had to type this long paragraph, but you can tell by now how agitated this has made me.

  11. Dan W

    About two months ago I took my second test and failed but I 100% believe that he failed me on purpose. I took my test at 2:00pm on a Friday and the roads were empty which was good. Half an hour in we hit traffic and had to stop, at that point I looked across and saw not a single mark on the sheet. I was delighted to see that the test had been going well, not letting the excitement get the better of me I continued the drive back towards the test center. On the drive back I did make a mistake which was not changing down before a turn, this earned me a minor for gears which is fine and I knew it was a minor because I was him mark it down as one. However upon arriving back at the test center I pulled up in a bay excited to hear my results but my examiner took a minute or two to mark down a series of minors and fails. He then told me I had failed without any prompting and asked if I wanted a break down I said yes and quickly glanced over the fail sheet.

    My fail sheet said that I had 5 minors: 3 for Mirror, 1 for passing and 1 for gears. This means I would have passed but…..
    I also had two serious marks: 1 for mirror whilst reversing and 1 for dangerous driving.
    The two serious marks the examiner passed over and when I asked him about them he said that I had nearly caused a crash by pulling away into a car. Now this is something that didn’t happen at all, my friend nearly crashed on his test and the examiner had to slam on the breaks which mine didn’t do. The second serious of reversing is completely fake because I didn’t even reverse on the test. Further more the examiner said what I failed on was the three minors which makes no sense.

    Everyone I have spoke to including friends, family and even my driving instructor have said that the test is wrong and that I should contest it but it would cost thousands, this has put me off going in for it again because I worry that it doesn’t matter what I do they will always fail me. I’m an honest person and would own my mistakes if I made them, the first time I failed was my own fault and I knew that but this time it really wasn’t.

  12. Hello Dan.
    Very disappointing, particularly if you were expecting a pass. It’s usually a good idea to take along your driving instructor on the test. Having another set of eyes can help in verifying mistakes made or not made. This can be of particular benefit if you do intend on contesting the result. You can simply complain to the DVSA and contest your result, but ultimately it would be the examiners word against yours (if your instructor wasn’t there). Whether this is worth it is debatable because even if the result went in your favour, you wouldn’t be issued a pass, but a free test instead.

    Having multiple faults within the same category (mirrors in your case) might or might not result in a failure. There’s usually a level of discretion here which is down to the examiner. Which examiner you have does make a huge difference with how strict they are. They will tell you that they all receive the same training and all mark the test identically, but in reality it does vary. Try not to be let down by this experience and keep trying. Get as much driving experience as possible and you’ll have a full licence before you know it.

  13. Anon

    I believe i have also experienced an unfair mark as on my test today i recieved 6 minors (which i understood and agreed with) but 1 serious due to signalling. The event occured on two mini roundabouts extremely close to one another where i was told to turn left at the first and straight on at the second. I indicated to go left and did this well as the instructor stated and as i went on to the next i turned it off to carry on forward. Nothing seemed wrong. But according to the instructor i had left my left signal on for too long and confused the car to my left who had already stopped as it is my right of way. Despite the indictor the car was already stopped and had to give way to me anyway and as we are all taught in lessons, dont pull out until you know the person is turning incase they decide to change their mind. I had already been warned by two friends and another learner instructor that this instructor was unfair and he had failed them for unjust reasons too. I am now left with his word against mine so i would like to know what i can do to ensure this will not happen again for me or any other learners as i feel this is completely unacceptable!

  14. Based on your explanation it does seem misjudged by the examiner. Unfortunately there’s little point in making a formal complaint as it’s as you say, your word against the examiners and even if you were to be successful, you would only get a free retest. This is why many test candidates believe there should be cameras recording the test. Taking your instructor with you next time can improve things a little. It essentially comes down to a lot of skill on the day, with a little luck too.

  15. Anon

    I feel the same happened to me. I had 4 minors total (later passed a retest with only three) but one major under ‘judgement’ on my first test – I was driving on a narrow road and a car was coming towards me so I began driving slightly closer to the parked cars on my left, which resulted in the examiner suddenly pushing my steering wheel to the right (and actually into the path of the oncoming car) to tell me that he thought I was going to drive into the parked cars. The examiners must bear in mind that candidates have been driving their test cars for maybe a full year (almost two in my case), and that they can’t make the same spacial judgments particularly as us when that’s maybe the first time they’ve ever been in that sized car before? Not everyone can afford a retest and so to be unfairly failed is devastating. I’ve been driving for about seven months now and I am still enraged just thinking about having to pay twice for no reason. It is common knowledge to everyone I’ve asked in Bridgend that this centre’s tests are unfair and fixed, no doubt about it.

  16. Although this is extremely rare, it can potentially happen.

    One reason is that the examiner suddenly remembered a clear serious or dangerous fault happening on test that cannot be ignored, but forgot to mark it on test report at the time of it happening. Upon arriving back at the test centre, the examiner would look down at the report, see no serious or dangerous faults marked and so go into his or her pass routine, only to remember that a serious fault did happen and have to break the bad news.

    It really depends on the circumstances at the time, as it could have been just parking up at the end of test, maybe a handbrake wasn’t applied and car starts rolling in test centre car park towards pedestrians, and examiner having to stop the car to prevent crash etc.

    Really though there is too little information to know, but if it is what you say it is, then it’s likely a legitimate reason for a test failure,

  17. What you describe is a clear dangerous fault.

    The examiner has advanced driving skills, having had to take and pass an advanced driving test to become an examiner, to then have at least another three days advanced driving training when on the training course, (sometimes it’s a week) and has already been driving for a number of years before becoming an examiner (a job entry requirement).

    Also you’re driving towards parked cars on the examiners side of the car, so he or she has a better view and judgement of the space available.

    Examiners are also specially trained in crash prevention (AKA E.T.A. Examiner takes action) where they know when and how late to leave a situation to develop until they have no choice but to either shout an instruction at you to prevent a crash, use dual brakes to prevent a crash, or grab the steering wheel to prevent a crash.

    When an ETA happens, this is marked as a dangerous fault, meaning a crash was imminent. You could have been further away from the parked cars that you weren’t going to crash, but still have a high risk of crashing, resulting in a serious fault which is still an instant fail.

    The fact that the examiner took action by steering towards oncoming car and yet still didn’t crash into any vehicles, means the examiner steered your car appropriately and as necessary to prevent a crash, and you should work on your judgement, if its a narrow road, slow down more, and if possible wait for oncoming car to clear you before proceeding into narrow road with parked cars.

  18. Sian

    In reply to John Hagan.

    Hi
    Am Sorry to hear about your Daughter
    The very same thing happened to me back in the 1980’s the reason given was that The Examiner had passed his quota.

  19. Realist

    In reply to Ryan Hill.

    While the DVSA do not issue targets to driving test centres, they do issue the number of candidates they think will pass during the next month. If this is exceeded, the test centre gets itself examined, and who wants that. No targets, but expectations that are treated as targets.

    Certainly pursue your FOI request. The statistics are held by the DVSA, and they should be available. While youre at it, you might like to look at the statistics for each test centre country wide. Strange how they all tend to have similar pass rates. Impossible, statistically.

  20. Realist

    In reply to Michelle Thomas.

    Sadly not Michelle. The examiners are a law unto themselves. Don’t feel too bad though. They have ‘hard’ routes and ‘easy’ routes, and I am convinced test outcomes are agreed among them beforehand. Any examiner can find something to fail you on if they wish to.

  21. Realist

    In reply to Driving Test Tips.

    I think you have hit the nail on the head here. “Might”. It is in many of your replies. There is far too much leeway given to examiners. I know they themselves are examined from time to time, but the way in which it is done is meaningless. What is required is a “mystery shopper” approach. A senior examiner books a test at a centre far away from where they normally work. Then they will get a ‘real’ test ,not a performance.

    You also have stated that test results are not fixed in advance. Take a look at the national statistics for each and every test centre, and you will find they ALL hover around the same percentages for pass rates. This alone is statistically impossible. The DVSA told me (FOI request) that they do not issue targets, but that they do inform each test centre of the percentage of candidates that they expect might pass each month. While not formally a target per se, it is easy to imagine what would happen to a test centre, or individual examiner who passed too many people above this ‘expectation’, and who wants that in their lives.

  22. Hi Realist,
    I suppose that does open up the question on whether it’s a good or bad idea to book a test at the end of the month when an examiner might be making last minute adjustments to their pass quota. I certainly have witnessed tests that should have failed, but passed along with test candidates that should have passed but failed. Was this quota adjustments? Who knows.

  23. Essentially test centres can double or triple their income by failing candidates on the silliest things. With the massive backlog due to Covid, it’s a no brainer really.

  24. Anonymous

    I failed my test today. Last weekday of the month. If they do have a quota and they were going over it then my test was the worst time to take it as they’ll try and squeeze as many fails in so it doesn’t look like they’ve passed too many people since it’s the end of the week and the month. I failed at the first traffic light because I apparently went too slow when turning right when I just slowed a bit to check my left and right for any cars or emergency vehicles that may cross me. I really didn’t think I slowed down that much and even if I did, I feel it’s really harsh to mark it as a major fault. My examiner explained it was because I made the car behind me slow his speed too and he wouldn’t have been expecting it. What annoys me even more is he took me straight back to the test centre. So I paid £60 for a 10 minute test. I didn’t get to have any more feedback on my driving like minor faults I could have made if my test had continued so it feels like such a waste and almost like I didn’t really even take a test. He only mentioned that major fault then left and went to greet someone else that was taking their test. When I got my email explaining my faults it said I had 2 minors for positioning which he never mentioned. I’m so confused as my parents and instructor always said what great road positioning I have so I do think he was being really strict. Another thing is, a week ago I received as email saying there is ‘a trial that will be assessing a potential increase in the number of tests our driving examiners carry out each day’ so because they would have more tests I feel he rushed back just to see the next person. I was extremely nervous and maybe he did the right thing but everything just doesn’t sit right with me.

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