Top 10 bike test centre pass rates

Where are you most likely to ride away with a licence?

IN an ideal world it shouldn’t matter where you live when it comes to learning to ride – you should be able to get the same standard of tuition and a fair go at passing the tests anywhere – but official figures show that pass-rates actually vary wildly from area to area.

We’re looking specifically at the ‘Module 2’ test here – the on-road part that, when you pass it (having already passed your theory and off-road ‘Module 1’ test) allows the L-plates to be ripped up.

In the last measured period, April-September 2015, the national pass rate stood at 71%, showing that there’s a constant improvement over the last few years. In 2012/13 the pass rate was 68.9%, rising to 70% in 2013/14 and 70.2 in 2014/15. Over the spring/summer of last year 14,674 people took their Module 2 test, and 10,419 passed. The ratio is good, but the overall figures are weak; we haven’t got precisely comparable data but during the 12 months from April 2014-March 2015 49,194 tests were taken, with 34,556 passes – more than triple the spring/summer 2015 numbers in just twice the time (so unless there’s a massive spike in tests during the autumn and winter, the year-on-year numbers will be down.)

The overall 71% pass rate is good, but rates at individual test centres during the period ranged from 94.7% to just 52.1%. There’s no immediate evidence why there’s such variation. It doesn’t appear to be connected to volume of tests – the lowest scorer of all, Livingston test centre near Edinburgh, had only 96 candidates, of which 50 passed, while the second lowest was Basildon (52.5% pass rate) with 756 candidates and 397 passers – or location; the very highest pass rates were largely outside large urban areas, but there were plenty of city test centres above the average pass rate.

Perhaps it’s down to the candidates – the data isn’t available by area, but the most recently available figures (for 2014/5) show that nationally the pass rates of particularly young candidates (18 and below) are notably lower than average, as are those for candidates past their mid-50s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best pass rate is for 24 year olds (74.1% pass) – also the age where there are the most candidates – since these will be the guys and girls who have been specifically waiting for their 24th birthday to take the direct access route to a full category A licence. Oddly, 27, 29, 44 and 45 are also ages with particularly high pass rates. Maybe the test centres with the highest pass figures happen to get a lot of riders in those age groups, while those with the lowest rates are swamped with 18-year-olds (who had a national pass rate of just 54.8% in 2014/15).

Alternatively, maybe the differing pass rates around the country are a reflection of the quality of training available, or simply the leniency of particular examiners.

Whatever the explanation, if you want the best chance of passing your test, it might be an idea to move to one of the areas in this list.

10. Peterhead – 83.3%

Moving to Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, might be a bit extreme if you’re a Southern softy, but the test centre there didn’t see many failures last summer. In April-June, it was near average – 22 of the 29 candidates passed (76.1%) but in July-September that rose to 88.4% as 38 of the 43 newbies rode off with a licence in their pocket. With a total of 73 candidates (and 60 passes) over six months it’s clearly not a motorcycling hot-spot.

9. Workington – 84.1%

Even quieter than Peterhead, the test centre at Workington (on the coast between Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness), had just 44 Module 2 candidates last summer. And only seven of them were left disappointed, since the other 37 passed.

8. Failsworth (Manchester) – 84.6%

Failsworth? Passesworth would be more suitable given the 84.6% success rate for Module 2 candidates there. From 149 tests taken in the six month period from April-September last year, 126 new riders went away happy. Bucking the national trend, female candidates were more successful than male ones here, with 87.5% passing vs 84.4% of the boys. Admittedly, there were only eight tests taken by girls at Failsworth (just one failed) so the sample size might not be scientifically representative…

7. Southampton (Maybush) – 85.6%

Coming much further south, the next centre to make the list was again a fairly quiet one – there were only 90 tests done during the six months, with 77 passes. Again, the ladies did particularly well, with nine out of 10 passing. Unfortunately we’re not using ‘nine out of 10’ to express fractions here – only 10 girls took the test, compared to 80 blokes, of which 68 passed (that’s a still-creditable 85%).

6. Lowestoft – 86.2%

Lowestoft turns out to be another example of a not-too-busy test centre and another place where the girls have shamed the boys in their test achievements. Of 102 chaps, 87 passed (85.3%) while from 14 girls an astounding 13 got their licence (92.9%) between April and September 2015. Looks like East Anglia is another spot where there’s a stronger-than-average chance of passing.

5. Newport – 87.6%

Thought Southampton was the most southerly test station to make this list? Nope, the Newport we’re talking about here is the one on the Isle of Wight, not in Gwent. You might be surprised to hear that there were as many as 105 tests taken in Newport (IoW) during the period we’re looking at, with 92 passes. Unfortunately if you were in the other Newport (Gwent), your chances were rather lower – only 61.7% of Module 2 tests were passed there (256 out of 415.)

4. Stornoway – 89.7%

From an island at one end of the nation to one right at the other, our next stop is Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. You won’t be surprised to hear that there weren’t many tests taken there, but the pass rate was impressive nonetheless. Only 29 new riders tried for their licence, and 26 passed. Or perhaps only 26 tried, and three had to take a second go.

3. Lee-on-the-Solent – 89.7%

From the list so far you might be forming the idea that only tiny test centres, with handfuls of candidates, are handing out high pass rates, but Lee-on-the-Solent, right on the south coast, blows that idea out of the water. It had an impressive 584 candidates, and gave 524 passes for its 89.7% pass rate. This time the boys were making the running – as well as making up the majority – since of 524, 477 passed (that’s 91%). Of 60 female candidates, 47 passed (a still well-above-average 78.3%).

2. Swindon – 91%

Another relatively busy test centre here, with 445 tests taken in the six months, from which there were 405 passes to make a 91% pass rate. That’s massively higher than the 71% national average. Girls and boys were pretty well matched here, with 91.8% of the female candidates passing compared to 90.9% of the male ones. Again, blokes were the huge majority, accounting for 396 of the tests (and 360 passes) vs 49 tests and 45 passes for ladies.

1: Bangor – 94.7%

Well some people clearly had a luvverly time the day they went to Bangor. It was the ones taking their Module 2 bike tests. Admittedly, there were only 76 of them (69 chaps, 7 ladies) but just four failed (3 male, 1 female). That means 72 were opening a celebratory bottle of cider and, perhaps, singing a few of their favourite songs as the wheels went round. Fiddler’s Dram aside, those are some pretty good odds, and seem to suggest that either the bike training in Bangor is second to none or the test is a tad easier to pass than elsewhere in the country. At 94.7%, the pass rate is significantly higher than even the second place centre on this list. What’s equally surprising is that not long ago, Bangor was among the toughest places to pass – in April 2012-March 2013 its rate was 62.2%, and it wasn’t much better at 66% in 2013/14, before jumping to 83.9% in 2014/15. Now, at 94.7%, it’s the top of our list.

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