How to improve your pass rate
Every business on this planet is results driven.
If you can’t deliver the results, then expect to lose business both short and long term.
In driving instructor terms, you need the majority of your pupils to pass first time and leave feeling that your service was good value.
Many instructors will often say “it’s about safe driving for life not passing a driving test”.
Safe driving for life is essential. However, if you want to stay in business don’t you think that you should put equal emphasis on helping your pupil pass first time? That’s what they want.
If you cared to ask 10 pupils “would you like to pass first time?”, all 10 of them would say “yes please”.
Here’s some tips on how to improve your driving test pass rate as an instructor.
Learn the test routes
One way of really helping your pupils to pass their driving test first time is by learning the test routes for your area. I’m not just talking about the tricky junctions, i’m talking about learning those routes road by road, particularly the independent driving sections.
The way I put it to other instructors that disagree is; If I could tell you which route you would get for your part 2 exam and tell you which PST you would get for your part 3 exam, would you take it?
90% of anyone reading this now would take it.
Give your pupils that option towards the end of their learning. If they say they don’t want to learn the test routes then fair enough – at least you have offered. You will also find that learning the test routes takes time, which will ultimately cost the pupil extra lessons. If you give them the option, I’m sure will most will pay for extra lessons to increase their chances of passing first time.
One question you might be asking yourself is, how do I find out the test routes?
The best way is sitting in on your pupils’ tests.
Sit in on your pupils’ tests
I always used to sit in on my pupils’ tests. It’s the best way of learning the test routes and learning how the examiners mark.
You will be surprised at times how forgiving the examiner can be and other times you may think their decision is slightly harsh.
However, that’s how they mark – deal with it. Learn from sitting in on each test and then apply to your pupils.
You will find your pass rate will go up the more and more you sit in on tests. As long as your eyes are open, you will learn how each examiner marks slightly different (not much) and you will learn the test routes – road by road.
You will notice that during driving tests your pupils will do something quite random at particular areas on their test route. It becomes a pattern.
It’s something you just can’t get your head around. By noticing these patterns you can pre-empt the problem from happening by warning your pupil when you go over that area. After passing your test, these areas are sometimes known as accident black spots. When enough people crash or die, the council will eventually address the matter by putting extra paint on the road such as slow downs, chevrons signs or rumble strips on the road.
You will see time and time again by sitting in on the tests that your pupils will make the same mistakes in the same places. If you care – sit in on at least 1 in 3 tests throughout the year.
If none of your pupils want you to sit in on their test, that’s a sign you haven’t built a good rapport with your pupil.
It’s painful to hear that some instructors disagree with doing mock driving tests. Again, why not ask the pupil if they would like a mock test?
Without being manipulative or trying to put your pupil off of doing one, why not just say “would you like to do a mock test on the approach to your driving test so you can understand what test standard is and where you are now in relation to test standard and also experience test conditions?”
When I was teaching full time, I regularly did mock driving tests. Sometimes I would do a mock test very early on with over-confident pupils to help them understand that there is more to the driving test than hot-wiring a car.
Nobody wants to be told that they aren’t ready for a test or they can’t book their test because they not ready.
By doing a mini mock test for say 10-15 minutes, the pupil could experience test conditions and realise for themselves they are not ready. There’s no point doing a 40-minute test if the pupil has already committed 3 or 4 serious faults in 10 minutes.
Once the pupil had committed 4 serious faults early on, I would then pull them up by the side of the road and then say “in the interests of safety, I have had to abort the driving test.” This is what the examiner would say if it was their test before walking back to the test centre. This is known as a “walk back”.
I would then tell the pupil that “the examiner’s job isn’t to protect the car or to give you a lesson. Their job is to sit in the passenger seat and mark the test, saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the end. If too much intervention is required from the examiner, then he/she will abort the test and walk back to the test centre leaving the pupil in the car. The instructor will then be told at the test centre what has happened and have to walk to the car and meet the pupil”.
I have never had to tell a pupil that they are not ready for their test. They always know for themselves.
If your pupil is close to test standard, try doing a mock test in silence.
If your rapport with the pupil is good, you may find they are quite talkative.
With these types of pupils I would say, “today we are doing a sponsored silence mock test meaning the only talking will be from myself giving you directions.”
Start the test from the test centre, with the show and tell me questions and do everything like for like.
It may make your pupil feel slightly uneasy. Just explain to them if they feel to uncomfortable you can stop the sponsored silence but also explain some examiners are very quiet and barely talk, so it is good practice and preparation.
I used to say to my pupils as a minimum requirement if you can’t complete a mock test with less than 3 serious faults over 40 minutes then we need to consider moving your test date back or consider increasing your hours to get them ready for the big day.
Understanding the marking sheet
Some instructors just don’t know the marking sheet. If you don’t know the marking sheet very well then what hope does your pupil have? Take some time to study the marking sheet and read the “driving test report explained” overleaf. If you do this, you will understand 99% of the sheet. If there is anything you are unsure of you can ask the examiners at the test centre or drop a comment at the bottom of this article and I will answer it for you.
If you understand the marking sheet, know all the test routes, you understand how the examiners mark serious, dangerous, minor faults and you’re doing mock tests with your pupils I’m sure your pass rate will increase!
Driving test psychology
Once you have taught your pupil the routes and they drive safely, the last thing to introduce is a little psychology. It’s important you pitch this correctly. If you tell your pupil that they are the best thing since Lewis Hamilton, they may become over-confident. If you say to them they have got no chance, they will be under-confident. If you have decided to take the pupil down for their test then you must give them some confidence even if you think they might not pass.
Explain their strengths and then give them 3 or 4 remembers regarding their mini weaknesses.
Years ago I was sitting at the test centre waiting for the examiners to come out. I was giving my pupil a mini pep talk so it wasn’t silent.
There was another instructor sitting there with his pupil reading his paper.
His pupil could obviously hear bits of what I was saying and then asked his instructor “do you have any last minute advice for me?”.
His response was, “yeah, bring the car back in one piece”.
No surprise – the pupil failed. Everything about the instructor was wrong. He’d clearly forgotten that taking your driving test for the first time is like a footballer playing in the FA cup final.
I doubt very much this instructor applied any psychology with his pupils other than negativity. A few years on, I saw him working in B&Q.
Because your pupil has had experience doing mock tests, you can help them to understand that silly faults like a one of stall isn’t a fail if they deal with the situation correctly and don’t flap.
Help your pupil to understand that no matter what mistakes they make, keep going, don’t throw in the towel. Examiners can use their discretion at times. So the better you drive, the more chance they will use their discretion on something that is borderline.
If your pupil keeps saying they are going to fail, say to them “Yes you probably will if you can saying that. I’ve put you in for your test because I think you are ready. That doesn’t mean you are definitely going to pass but if you are positive, focused and concentrate then you can definitely pass.”
I hope you have found the above interesting or useful. Feel free to ask a question or comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.