At the DIA Conference Loveday Ryder, CEO of the DVSA, was speaking about mock testing. She told us that their research showed only 53% of learners say that they are properly prepared at the time they take their driving test. From April to December 2021 around 31% of failed tests involved the examiner taking physical or verbal action for safety reasons. Amongst other measures, the DVSA are launching a behavioural change campaign called “Ready to Pass” to improve learner drivers understanding of their readiness to take the test and what they can do to help them pursue a lifetime of safe driving. Helping them understand what it means to be test ready and to encourage them to delay if they are not. Additionally, they are creating a simple infographic for DVSA social media aimed at parents to improve their understanding of what is required for the modern test compared to when they sat it.
Learners who have private practice in addition to professional tuition are 1.5 times more likely to pass their test. They are releasing a “You’ve Got This” pack of information and guidance which will be available at theory test centres. Arguably this is reaching them too late. Maybe including it with the issue of provisional licences would be a better option? It has information on what a good instructor looks like and how to find one (assumedly DVSAs ‘Find your nearest’), the top 10 reasons for failing, things you can do while waiting for the test, test nerves and how to control them, as well as driving with disabilities.
Regarding mock tests, Loveday referred to the guide that has been released, which hopefully you have all taken the time to read. I have to say I think they have done a pretty good job! It’s clear, detailed, provides examples and covers most of the angles. However, I have some questions, thoughts and opinions which I would like to raise. I discussed this with Terry Cook from The Instructor Podcast in case you would like to listen in. The Instructor Podcast can be found on all good podcasting apps
We were told that the aim of the guidance was to increase the number of mock tests that learner drivers have with their instructors. It is designed to make mock tests more consistent, delivering more authentic test conditions to better assess test readiness. Loveday said, “We would only advise you to conduct mock test when the pupil can drive independently”. However, this was followed by “Mocks are a guide to the learning process.” This raised the following questions for me.
Are the DVSA specifically talking about a 100% genuine mock lasting 38-40 minutes and covering a variety of road conditions? Why are we doing it? What are we/the DVSA trying to achieve? What problems are we trying to fix? Is this the holistic use of mock testing or should we be looking at a wider range of options? How does this fit with the modern move away from fault-finding and test focus?
This isn’t to say that I disapprove of mock tests, I don’t, but I am not sure what the DVSA are trying to achieve by encouraging them. To put it under their own standards lens:
What is the goal?
What level of experience and ability is the test aimed at?
What are the risks of focussing on the test?
Does focusing on fault analysis have a negative effect on a pupil’s performance?
Should our reflection be fault focussed or confidence building?
What I think the DVSA want to achieve:
The DVSA focus is clearly on test readiness. Despite their best efforts they are making very little dent in the waiting list and one strategy to address this is a better pass rate. I estimate that increasing the pass rate by just 5% would potentially reduce the capacity needed by 80-100,000 tests p/a. (Approximately 2 weeks reduction in the waiting list). There will always be the argument from instructors that, despite our best efforts, test day is out of our hands, and yes there are many factors that we do not control. However, if we are open to it there is more we can do and maybe mock testing plays a role in this.
The DVSA publicised approach does two things:
Prepares the candidate for the test process, giving them an understanding of what is going to be asked of them and what they will experience.
Gives the Instructor a tool to evidence the lack of test readiness, potentially pushing back the test. However, this is not an easy conversation to have or standard to achieve if doing so means waiting 6 months for a test. It is understandable if not palatable that the DVSA are putting so much weight on test standards including the DVSA TIP criteria for Standards Checks.
While I see a benefit in some forms of mock tests, I don’t agree with (my interpretation of) the DVSA analysis and I think it misses out on a more holistic ‘mini-goals’ approach. I think we have to start with:
Why do candidates fail?
What, if anything, can we do about this?
Is ‘test focus’ and/or ‘fault focus’ a good thing?
Personally, I think this is the final measure and the point of failure occurs much earlier. Primarily this is down to communication and expectation. How can we expect pupils or parents/stakeholders/bill payers to understand the process if we do not educate them on it? We need to start this from the outset with better communication of what is required, what the expectations are, and how we will assess this ongoing process. Ask pupils and invested parties what they are looking for. Is it a pass or is it safe, and what is the difference? Is it a first time pass, or a confident driver? Do they want to learn the minimum or the maximum, or something in between? NOT in a way that sells lessons, or undermines their position, but as a genuine question that helps all parties know what the ‘rules’ are.
I believe that doing this more effectively early on dramatically reduces complaints about development and ‘give it a go’ tests. In fact this is where I think mock tests are an asset.
It has long been spoken of that modular learning could/should be used as part of the process. Instructors signing-off manoeuvres or skills with assessment based learning. In fact, at the DIA Conference CEO Carly Brookfield and Baroness Vere (via video due to COVID) announced a modular teaching trial being run later this year. This process of Introducing – Learning – Doing – Assessing works really well and introduces the Assessment vs Test element. This can be introduced from the first lesson and developed through their training, demonstrating that learning a subject doesn’t equate to independence in a subject.
This process can grow with them, resulting in the test representing an assessment of an independently lead drive. Far less pressure and stress, two key factors in failure. Former Chief Examiner Trevor Wedge told me in my early days “We never said WHO had to Identify, Analyse and Remedy!” This is something I have held onto over a decade later. Yes a mock can be done as a rehearsal of the technical factors – Instruction, Elements and Coping strategies – but it can also be an education in what the rules are and how to work inside them, encouraging self-reflection.
Personally I like to do a full mock test (with support to ensure risk mitigation) as early as possible to desensitise them to the test. This is potentially 8-10 hours in, and before this specific assessments of learning goals along the way building up to it. They are usually surprised how easy it is, and how low the standards are.
I believe most ADIs could better prepare pupils for the mental trials a test can bring. I believe the key bits of knowledge should include:
It is ok to go the wrong way, in fact it can be desirable.
That faults are weighted from ‘not worthy’ to serious and it is not their job to judge it (during the test).
They can ask.
That commentary or self-talk is allowed.
Examiners are (mostly) human!
Mock testing may not bridge the gap between fail and pass, but maybe it nudges the odds in their favour by reducing the stress, trauma and anxiety so many experience when being tested.
A final point of note:
Those of you with an understanding of the GDE Matrix (Goals for Driver Education) will know that the test is limited almost exclusively to level 1 (Car and Control) and 2 (Road and Rules). Interestingly this move to encourage mock testing does take us a step closer to the DVSA identifying and engaging with level 3 – Context and the factors of the journey, and even level 4, the driver (Goals for life and Skills for living). However, this does rely on the Instructor taking that opportunity to engage and address these factors. Sadly, as the DVSAs ADI qualification process doesn’t require an understanding of these areas meaning that this opportunity may be missed by many. Maybe greater regulation over qualifying procedure, trainers and syllabus is something the DVSA should be addressing?
If you liked this feedback or have your own opinion we would love to hear it. You can contact us at the Driving Instructor and Trainers Collective (theditc.co.uk) or via Facebook. While there, investigate the savings you could make with the DITCs student discount card or CPD providers. Alternatively, the DITC are regular guests on The Instructor Podcast with Terry Cook, and we would love to hear what you think of the shows (theinstructorpodcast.com)
(Written by Chris Bensted)
Posted by Chris Bensted
July 9, 2022