The DVSA’s ‘Ready to Pass?’ campaign, recently launched to improve the results of driving test candidates, seems to be a step in the right direction. Anything that can be done to improve the frankly appalling 47% driving test pass rate from November of last year has to be a good thing.

There is a lot the DVSA can do to help with the pass rate, some they have done and some they could still do. For example, they could accept appeals based on evidence from dash cam footage where an examiner has made a questionable decision.

In the vast majority of cases the examiners make the right call and I’m not meaning to say that they don’t. Sometimes they don’t and it needs to be addressed. I’m thinking of one particular test from my own history where the examiner failed the candidate for going too slow in a certain situation.

On reviewing the dash cam footage, my opinion was that the candidate was travelling too fast!

The ‘Ready to Pass?’ Campaign

The new ‘Ready to Pass?’ campaign gives candidates information on how to make sure they are ready for the driving test, how to track their progress, information on mock tests and test nerves and what to take to their driving test.

There is a website,, social media channels and materials for driving instructors to use. There is also a checklist, and it’s the checklist which causes me the most problems.

You need to be dealing with every part of driving consistently, confidently and independently – without any prompting from your driving instructor.

Nick’s Thoughts.

On the surface this is looks great but my issue with this comes from the big problem with the checklist. I’m going to go into that later. The lesser problem is that even in Sheffield, you can’t assess all types of driving on a driving test, so how would the DVSA even know?

There is no 70mph dual carriageway within test range of any of the driving test centres except for Chesterfield. The three main local test centres are all very different. There is no decent country road route near Handsworth, not a single challenging roundabout near Middlewood and Rotherham is nothing but big roundabouts!

If you are making silly mistakes that are dangerous or potentially dangerous during your driving lessons, you’re not ready.

Nick’s Thoughts.

Any driver that tells you they don’t occasionally make a silly mistake when driving is a liar.

If drivers didn’t make mistakes we wouldn’t need insurance. If drivers didn’t make mistakes there would be no need for speed cameras, no need for driver rehabilitation courses, no need for Traffic Officers, no need for the DVSA’s extended test.

I make mistakes when driving. Usually they are misjudging my braking distance and stopping a bit short of the line, easily fixed. But I remember one day when I was driving early in the morning, had a late-ish night the night before and accidentally drove through a red light I just hadn’t noticed.

Why is it the system accepts the occasional silly mistake from even a driving instructor but learners have to be perfect?

Taking and passing mock tests with your driving instructor will help you to understand if you’re ready to pass.

Nick’s Thoughts.

Again, it seems pretty good but instructors and examiners have different priorities when we are assessing. Even during a mock test, an instructor will probably grade harsher than an examiner. We look at faults that need to be fixed, they look at the effect of the fault.

It’s a product of the way we are trained.

Now the DVSA have also released information for instructors on how to deliver a mock driving test but it’s not compulsory reading so how many instructors will have even seen it? I know its there and I’ve not had the time to read it yet.

Controlling your nerves is a really important skill for driving safely. Make sure you’ve got a plan in place to manage your nerves.

Nick’s Thoughts.

Again, seems very reasonable but how do we know for sure?

Test day is a specifically stressful and nervous experience. There is no way to truly duplicate it ahead of time. Knowing that in 40 minutes time someone you’ve never met is going to judge you as either good enough or not good enough is a unique experience.

Mock tests cant duplicate it so we can never properly know if you’ve mastered your nerves or if there is more work still to do.

On the good news there are driving test nerves specialists all around the country. If you are in Sheffield and looking for automatic, Nick Smith can help you. If you are elsewhere visit L of a Way 2 Pass to find an accredited specialist near you.

If your driving instructor says you are not ready to take your driving test, listen to them. They’re road safety experts who know what it takes to pass the driving test.

Nick’s Thoughts.

Great, check with an expert. This is winner!

The big problem with ‘Ready to Pass?’

My main problem with ‘Ready to Pass?’ is that 60% of the checklist directly references using a driving instructor. Dealing with big nerves probably means finding a test nerves specialist instructor too so we can call it 80%.

But there is no requirement to ever speak to a driving instructor.

I know its easy for me, as one of the chaps who would financially benefit from the requirement to use an instructor, to say that every learner should have lessons with a professional driving instructor. The average learner would spend £1600 with an instructor for their entire course of lessons after all.

I’m not saying that everyone has to use a current driving instructor for all of their training, though I wouldn’t object if they did. What I am saying is that every learner looking to book a driving test should be signed off by a driving instructor.

Motorcycle training, bus training and lorry driver training already have a system in place where tests are booked by a training provider rather than the candidate. This not only reduces the number of no-shows, but also ensures that the candidates presenting for test have been assessed by a professional.

Putting the same system in place for car tests would not only likely increase the pass rate, but would also relieve the pressure on the booking system.

If the DVSA wants to simultaneously increase the driving test pass rate and eliminate the test backlog, deal with the problem of the cancellation apps blocking tests and encourage more people into the driver training industry, making it so that all driving test bookings need to be confirmed must be confirmed with a driving instructors ID number.

Cost could be an issue here. However I would gladly offer a service of a mock test prior to test booking. Yes, I would want paying for that service but if spending £80 with me to have a single attempt at your driving test rather than saving that money and spending £62 each for three attempts to pass, you are saving money.


Nick Smith is an Approved Driving Instructor working in south Sheffield. Along with automatic driving lessons, Nick is a driving test nerves specialist and offers theory support to learners. A former truck driver, Nick also presents Driver CPC periodic training courses to professional drivers.

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