Is It Common to Fail your First Driving Test?

If you fail your first driving test, then you’re not alone. It’s surprisingly common for candidates taking their first driving test to fail. The 12 months between July 2020 and June 2021, 49% of all candidates taking their first driving test failed.

First Time Driving Test Fail Rates

These are the national first time driving test fail rates for both male and female driving test candidates from between May 2020 and June 2021. Statistics show total amount of driving tests conducted and the total amount of first time test failures based on gender.

Male 1st attempts Male 1st attempt fails Fail rate
128,174 59,776 46.6%
Female 1st attempts Female 1st attempt fails Fail rate
120,076 61,748 51.4%
Total 1st attempts Total 1st attempt fails Total Fail rate
248,293 121,551 49.0%

As we can see by these official DVSA statistics, male test candidates have the edge with a slightly lower fail rate over the female test candidates.

Further Driving Test Fail Rates

Over the same period, let’s now look at the driving test fail rates for both male and female combined, for 2nd driving test attempts onwards.

Attempts Conducted Fails Fail rate
2nd attempt 95,183 47,216 49.6%
3rd attempt 43,320 22,233 51.3%
4th attempt 22,205 11,847 53.4%
5th attempt 11,902 6,628 55.7%
6th attempt 16,443 10,066 61.2%

As we can see from these statistics; with each test failure attempt, although the amount of tests that are conducted reduces, the driving test fail rate increases.

Whilst these statistics might not look too optimistic, when you drill down into the numbers, it’s actually not that bad. For example, from every 1000 people that take their 3rd driving test attempt, 789 will pass and for those taking their 5th attempt, 852 test candidates will pass.

Why Do So Many People Fail Their First Driving Test?

There are so many reasons that people fail their first driving test, but some of the most common reasons are:

Being Underprepared

Being underprepared doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have the skills to pass, just that you don’t have the experience. The practical driving test has a nasty habit of producing unexpected and unwanted situations, usually at the hand of another road user.

While the test candidate might know what to do, due to their lack of experience, they often take too long to do it, resulting in a test fail. Even if it is another driver’s fault, it’s often the test candidate who ends up paying for the other driver’s stupidity.

In reality, having 50, 60, or even 100 hours worth of driving experience just isn’t enough to handle the many unexpected situations that occur on roads each and every day. It takes years of driving experience to do that. Essentially then, it means the driving test is a bit of a gamble, with fingers crossed that you have a nice, event-free test.

Driving Test Nerves

Driving test candidates seem to be disproportionately affected by nerves, where mistakes are made during the test, that are not typical of driving lessons. As instructors, we’ve seen this time and time again, where a test candidate is technically ready for the test, but mentally, the stress becomes too great.

Most of us have heard it before; the mind goes blank and you’re left not knowing what to do. It’s very common to be nervous on the driving test, but if you feel that the stress is becoming too much, don’t be afraid to tell the examiner that you wish to pull over to compose yourself. Obviously ensure that you do this safely and legally.

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