Learners are waiting up to half a year for a driving test

People lining up in a queue.

Due to the ongoing backlog created by pandemic lockdowns, learners who are desperate to obtain a driving licence are still being forced to wait weeks or even months to take their practical tests.

And despite the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s best efforts to reduce wait times over the last three years, exclusive data provided to MailOnline and This is Money reveals the severity of the delays students encounter at their nearby test centres.

Official data obtained from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) shows the current wait times at all 243 test centres throughout Britain and how they compare to pre-pandemic times. It also demonstrates that by travelling just a few miles to different centres, one could cut their waiting period by weeks.

Route-Led, a new programme that charts the driving test routes at every location nationwide, has made the information public, allowing learners to use it as a cheat sheet to practise before taking the test.

According to official statistics, the average wait time for a driving test has increased to more than three and a half months, which is roughly double what it was in 2020.

The DVSA has so far been unable to relieve the student backlog despite expanding testing hours, bringing older invigilators out of retirement, and introducing new rules and stipulations.

The agency’s most recent effort is to make people wait to take the test until they are completely prepared to do so by doubling the time they have from 10 to 28 days after failing one.

Route-Led claims that the DVSA would reduce its backlog by encouraging learners to choose testing locations with reduced wait times in an effort to relieve pressure on those with longer wait times. In some cases, testing locations within a 10-mile radius of one another would even offer far earlier test dates.

It requested information from the DVSA under the Freedom of Information Act in March regarding the average waiting times at each of its 243 driving test locations in England, Wales, and Scotland between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, and between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023. In Northern Ireland, driver testing is not the responsibility of the DVSA.

The research reveals Wales had the shortest average waiting time of two months at the end of March this year.

The average wait time for a driving test is almost four months in Scotland and just over three and a half months in England.

In terms of the specific test centres, Bradford (Thornbury), Bolton (Manchester), Hamilton, Hendon (London) and Glasgow (Shieldhall) had the longest average delays of nearly six months at the end of March this year.

In contrast Cardigan and Carmarthen has the shortest average waiting time of just one month.

By travelling further to take the test, students can dramatically shorten the time between scheduling and sitting for the exam, according to a thorough study of the data.

By scheduling a driving test 16 miles away in Sale or Rochdale, where the average waiting time was two and a half months, learner drivers in Bolton, for instance, might reduce their waiting period from six months to more than half.

If drivers in the capital go an additional 6.6 miles to the Barnet test station (13.1 week waiting time), they can reduce their test wait times from Hendon (23.1 week waiting time) by 10 weeks.

Driving 16 miles to Darlington, where the average wait time between scheduling and taking a practical test is 9 weeks, may be an option for learner drivers who currently have to wait an average of 18.3 weeks.

Similar circumstances exist in Birmingham, where the average wait time is 18.9 weeks, yet test sites in Nuneaton and Stafford are only 30 miles away and have wait times of just 10.8 and 7.7 weeks, respectively.

Learners living in Liverpool can expect to have to twiddle their thumbs for 18.4 weeks before they can sit a practical test, but centres less than 10 miles away in Upton and Wallasey will be able to fit them in less than 11 weeks.

Other instances north of the border include lengthy wait periods, which are 18.8 weeks in Edinburgh, but are much shorter in Kirkaldy and Galashiels, at 12.3 and 10.4 weeks, respectively. And while the average delay in Glasgow is 22.3 weeks, it is only 7.7 weeks in Ayr.

11 thoughts on “Learners are waiting up to half a year for a driving test”

  1. Steve Marson

    Going for test “out of area” is exactly what IS causing the problem here.

    Turn up at the local test centre and you will find more students with mum/dad and their own car, from out of the area, than you find local instructors in dual controlled cars. Meanwhile, local students cannot secure test slots and us ADI’s take calls every day from strangers wanting our cars for just an hour for their test… err, no.

    Fair play to the examiners for doing their bit (weekends, bank holidays etc), but until the likes of Testi App get shut down, I can’t see the situation improving.

  2. What a load of rubbish
    Driving tests have become a scam from DVSA and UK government to make money.
    Driving Examiners thin they are ‘God’

    DVSA and the UK government have made the UK roads more unsafe, potholes, cyclists on roads, truck and van drivers driving dangerously. Tailgaters. Road signs unclear and incorrect and road markings .
    Totally disgusting behaviour by DVSA and the government

  3. Has anyone wondered why the waiting lists are so short in some locations? Maybe those centres have an unusually high Fail rate, which local people are aware of? Many test routes include “unconventional” junctions , which, without “local knowledge”, stressful test candidates would struggle to comprehend .

  4. Gillean Young

    This long-standing problem is not getting any better – certainly not in Glasgow. Stop individuals (who probably aren’t ready and won’t be either in 5-6 months’ time) from booking their own tests and let it be through instructors only – and I personally believe this situation will greatly improve.

    But that won’t happen will it?

    Like every other instructor, the amount of daily messages I receive from strangers telling me they’ve booked a test and asking me to take them, despite no previous contact, is staggering.

  5. John Travell

    I suppose this is guy was a new police learner rider?
    DVSA is an old institution full of pen pushers

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  6. I use test centres in East London and Essex however my students cannot see any test slots way into 2024.

    Apparently there is an ongoing issue with tests being sold to students for amounts of £200 and above and I wonder how those websites are able to obtain tests when so many of us can’t.

    This really needs to be looked into

  7. Carlos Pereira

    The waiting times are not due to the backlog created by the pandemic – that is false!
    It’s the result of greed from unscrupulous Booking Agencies and Driving Instructors that are booking all available slots and selling them off at rates that vary from £150 to £250 (or more) . The Driving Examiners are aware of this situation because they have to deal with candidates that fail a test and become very stressed out revealing the amount of money they’ve spent to take a test!!!

    The DVSA is aware of it but have no way of stopping it, so they say!! All it takes to stop this “driving test dates black-market” is to STOP the facility of being able to keep a test date booked in a candidate name and swapping by another candidate name! – That’s how the “scheme” works thus the long waiting times!!!

  8. who’s going to pay for the extra petrol and extra traveling time of 6o miles . plus it would be nesasey to miss other pupil’s lessons to accommodate the time this will take. traveling to strange locations is not going to improve a pupil’s chances of passing is it. just traveling 6o miles or any distance does not remove the problem, of weighting times, the problem still remains. oh just travel 10, 20, 60 miles to your test that will solve the problem for you. Nice try. but not good enough. having a monopoly like this doesn’t work either does it. monopolies have no pressure of competition (you cant go anywhere else for a better run service (it’s us or no-one). you must keep up with your competitors or fail. perhaps it’s time re-think the the hole thing..

  9. Sorry, have I missed the point in this article. A learner driver should not still be waiting anywhere upwards of 6 months to get a driving test where they actually live. They should not have to travel things like 30 miles cross country just to reduce a wait period down a few weeks. There is obviously the added problem of having no experience around these areas increasing the real chance of failing the test therefore elongating their timeframe in getting their licence. Yes, we get these learners to good standards to be able to drive in many different situations, but nerves and the unknown do not go hand in hand when they are in new surroundings. It is about time the DVSA pulled their finger out 3 years after the pandemic and get all waiting time down to manageable levels. It is ridiculous to be even still talking about this situation now. This problem will simply carry on for many more years. The demand now outweighs the supply, it is simple logistics really. Not enough examiners not enough test centres.

  10. Practical car test pass rates by gender, monthly, Great Britain, from April 2007 to December 2022 (source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1142693/drt0201.ods)
    Annually (financial years)
    2007/08 1,762,148
    2008/09 1,738,992
    2009/10 1,533,738
    2010/11 1,605,599
    2011/12 1,569,069
    2012/13 1,436,481
    2013/14 1,477,585
    2014/15 1,532,504
    2015/16 1,537,735
    2016/17 1,730,936
    2017/18 1,718,519
    2018/19 1,664,219
    2019/20 1,599,566
    2020/21 437,352
    2021/22 1,538,314
    2022/23 (year-to-date) 1,242,026

    Linearly extrapolating the last row to Jan-Mar 2023 gives 1,656,035 (conservative considering examiners’ strikes). This is fairly average compared with previous years above and clearly not even close to helping to clear the 2020/21 backlog of potential 1,000,000 learners still willing to pass their test. Others expect learners backlog not to clear by Jan 2024 (e.g. https://www.wearemarmalade.co.uk/learner-driver-insurance/learner-advice/driving-test/driving-test-backlog)
    I personally think that it will take even longer as some of the 1,000,000 people with the majority aged 17/18 have simply parked their driving tests for later (e.g. after studies), so the demand surge is here to stay for some time..

    The DVSA reform will change nothing and is widely laughed at on social media. It is obvious to most people that this reform will have zero impact as even short notice cancellations get snapped immediately and one month’s wait for a test retake is meaningless compared with no slots availability. If anything. this reform will only antagonise young voters even more by attributing the blame to unpreparedness. The statistical law of large numbers works on the population of this size and the same government sources publish pass rates, therefore there is absolutely no reason to believe that they are materially different from past years. In fact DVSA test centres rely on pass rate statistics to verify if exams are conducted fairly and pass rates are not allowed to diverge significantly.

    Supply vs demand will remain the key issue for years, but I like some suggestions from other comments:
    – reducing a radius where people are allowed to book tests
    – block test swapping
    – limit rebooking attempts
    – combine the above with opening up slots for 1 year instead of 6 months, which should show true backlogs for each area

  11. The simplest way to resolve the backlog is by being fair in the evaluations. If individuals are capable, let them pass. This would eliminate the need for rebookings. I have a decade of solid driving experience behind me in diferent countries. Yet, I was failed twice:

    The first examiner believed I influenced the flow of a car from the right at a mini roundabout. I reviewed the video later; I was nearly through the roundabout by the time the other car was just approaching it.

    The second time, I was failed for driving at 27 mph in a 30 mph zone, deemed “too fast.”

    They fail people not for actually breaking the Highway Code, but based on the subjective opinion that you might potentially break it. And this subjective opinion is too vauge: for one you was too slow, for the other you was too fast and so on and so on. As long as they continue failing people, especially women, without valid reasons, the DVSA won’t solve the problem.

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