Fair and equal tests

Our industry works hard to ensure all tests are fair and equal

I spoke with a journalist recently about DVSA test statistics for learners. He wanted me to comment on the controversial issues surrounding differences in pass rates for certain groups of people. This got me thinking about test statistics for Diamond and, in particular, occupational assessments and testing. When anyone fails a test it is not easy to accept the result. They might blame themselves or their nerves on the day, but sometimes they will blame the examiner.

Of the complaints Diamond receives, 99% will be from people who have failed a test. A Diamond examiner’s decision or grade on test is final and cannot be changed. This is the same with the DVSA. A test result cannot be overturned unless the examiner’s conduct is in question and then the complaint will be investigated in full. 

When a client complains about a test result they are looking at it from their point of view. Often it is not just the fault in isolation, but the events surrounding the fault that have caused the person to fail. Circumstances on a particular date, time and place cannot be replicated, so it is difficult to side with either the client or the examiner as you would need to be there to see the full story. 

It goes without saying that if the examiner’s conduct is questioned, this is very serious. Sometimes the emotive subject of racism rears its ugly head. To say an examiner is racist or has failed a client due to their ethnicity is an extremely sensitive and serious allegation. 

The reason someone failed a test cannot be answered in one simple sentence. Questions such as: “Why do young men pass more than young women first time”
or “why do black women not have as high a pass rate as white men” (which was the question I was asked yesterday) do not have easy or immediate answers. 

These type of questions, on a personal level, irritate me. I feel as a driver trainer and examiner myself, I have to justify my actions, or should I say the examiner’s actions, when a person fails their driving test. 

There are so many factors to consider when someone fails a driving test: nerves, anxiety, preparation, has that person been professionally trained, the list goes on. The bottom line is if you know your stuff, have put in the effort to train hard and do the work, there is no reason why you wouldn’t pass. 

Everyone I have taught to drive is nervous on a driving test, so I think we can safely say everyone is on an
equal footing when it comes to nerves. I do of course appreciate that for some people with diverse medical and physical needs it can be a very big challenge to overcome anxiety, but, again, preparation and practice are key. 

The DVSA, as does Diamond, takes all complaints very seriously. Diamond works hard to ensure all tests are uniform and that everyone has the same chance of passing a test be it taxi, advanced or elite. This is one of the reasons we only conduct tests in daylight hours to ensure consistency and it is also the reason why examiners have to pass an elite test themselves every three years and take part in continued professional development (CPD). 

Routes are designed to ensure uniformity and this
in itself can be a challenge, as areas have regional differences in terms of the variety of road conditions, rural roads, built up areas, etc. 

Diamond examiners are also supervised and monitored both by the DVSA and Diamond head office to ensure tests remain uniform, not only in the marking system, but to ensure conduct and professionalism is adhered to at all levels of testing. 

I think, like me, the DVSA must get frustrated with sweeping statements from organisations and members of the public when statistics are released. The questions that need to be asked about statistics are more complex and probing than the initial set of figures suggest. 

Statistics have their place, but for driving tests there are many more considerations before we can start pointing fingers at particular people or organisations. 


Karen Bransgrove is an experienced driving instructor and is available to help with training and Diamond- related queries of DIA members. Karen heads up our post-test training division, exploring how we can help both occupational drivers and general motorists develop their driving.

Email: karenbransgrove@driving.org

Telephone: 020 8253 0120

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