The Driving Standards Agency are about to change the format of the UK driving theory test yet again.
From January 2012 the test will introduce new questions that will not be published or otherwise publically available.
This change is on top of yet another ‘tweak’ that sneaked by me last month (September 2011) in September 2009 which introduced “more challenging case studies”. Five of the questions asked are based upon an imaginary scenario, which the candidate is given some information about. The DSA use the example of “a trip you may be taking in your car”. Five questions are then asked on this scenario.
The news stories regarding the next revision to take place on January 1 next says that the entire databank of questions will be replaced. Tests will be made of “all new questions which will not be published by the DSA or anyone else as the questions and answers will not be made available”.
Mike Penning, the Road Safety Minister, said:
“Stopping the publication of the real questions and answers will mean that candidates will have to understand the theory rather than memorise which answers to choose in the multiple choice section.”
The argument is that not being able to learn the questions and answers by rote will encourage learner drivers and motorcycle riders to read, learn and actually think about the Highway Code.
So what about the dozens of “Pass your Theory Test” training aids that are published? Well, after January 1st 2012 such books, CDRoms and DVDs can continue to be published as practice question and answers. There are only so many ways questions can be phrased around the Highway Code, so the chances are they will be similar to, but not identical to those used in the actual test. They will also not be allowed to put the answers alongside the question, but will have to put the answers at the back along with a useful explanation or reference to one.
The way the new theory and hazard perception test is conducted will remain the same, with the same pass marks.
I’m not convinced that learning to pass the theory test, by rote learning or otherwise, actually has any safety benefit when it comes to driving or riding on the road. I understand the theory of flight surfaces but I wouldn’t want to try to fly a plane!
Furthermore, working at a basic training school inidcated just how astonishingly quickly candidates forgot some fundamental knowledge, like speed limits, between passing the theory test and taking the DSA practical test! And as they were learning to ride bikes, many were already experienced car drivers!
Still, there might be one plus. The DSA might actually ditch some of the comedy questions and ‘answers’ (“how should you park on a hill? with your bumper touching the bumper of the car behind you” is one gem I remember from the databank some years back!), and remove some of the ambiguity that surrounds quite a few of the questions.