The key to discovering effective learning
3rd October 2022
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7th October 2022

How likely is it that your pupil will pass their driving test?

There are a lot of mistaken ideas about chance or probability. This blog is going to raise the thorny issue of the chances of one of your pupils passing their driving test.  


Many people would tend to instinctively say, “Well, it’s 50/50 of course.” When you ask why they say that they will highly likely say one of two things: 

  1. It is like a flip of the coin, there are two possible outcomes, my pupil will either pass, or they will fail. 
  2. The national pass rate is about 50% so therefore it makes sense, that is their chance. 


I was listening to an Arsenal podcast this evening, where inevitably the chat is beginning to focus on the chances of Arsenal winning the premier league this season. The guest (Sophie Nicalaou from the Highbury Squad) was referring to Manchester City and said: 

“Look, going into anything you’ve got a 50/50 chance. If I play darts with you tonight, I’ve got a 50% chance of winning.” She views probability like the first example above. 

I will often ask my pupils, “If I ran head to head in a 100m spring with Usain Bolt, what is my chance of winning?” 

There are many instructors who would be close to feeling insulted by predicting driving test passes in this manner. Since the DVSA has been monitoring my pass rates; 2 years exactly 4 days ago, my pass rate currently stands at 82% Yes, it is true that there are two possible outcomes of a driving test, and yes, the national average is indeed 45-50%, but no, MY pupils stand a much higher chance than 50/50 of passing a driving test.  

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The last driving test that I presented a pupil was last week and my pupil had done a BIG TOM “All-inclusive beginners” intensive driving course with me. She did in total 45 hrs practice with me, and she did plenty of private practice with her Mum. She spread her 45 hours across a 3-month period. The day before her test, the DVSA contacted us to say that there was no examiner available, but she could have one the day after. Was she nervous? Yes. Had she done a mock test? Yes. Was she a safe driver? Yes. Over dinner at home the night before her test, I jokingly said to my family that I was so certain she would pass her test the next day, that if she did not, I would eat the family dog – you can imagine the response that got when it was said in the hearing of the dog! Let me be clear, I would have put my house on this pupil passing her test the next day.  

The next day on test, after being pulled over, my pupil forgets to turn her left signal off while she goes to move off generating a minor driving fault on her test sheet. And that was the one and only driving fault she committed when the examiner said at the end “Well, that was an easy test to assess.” 

What am I saying here? I am saying that the chances of one of your pupils passing a driving test is directly linked to…. you. Absolutely true. So rather than getting distracted talking about nerves, the weather, the examiner having covid, the actions of other road users etc, start looking within, because actually, you know, this will all come down to how good you are. In the BIG TOM franchise, we recognise that our most important asset is the quality of the driving instructor – which is reflected in their earnings. 

Here is another little brain teaser about probability, have a little think on this one: 

It is a game show, there are 3 doors, behind one of them is a brand-new car, behind the other two is a goat. The contestant is asked to choose a door, “Door number one” he shouts. The host then opens one of the other doors to reveal, a goat. The host turns to the contestant and asks him if he would NOW like to change his mind. Most people at this very point do not switch, although if they did it would double their chances of winning the car. 

Get your head around that one and it will make predicting driving test passes a whole lot easier.