Highway code exam: why has the pass rate plunged in seven years? – Driver’s licence: should the examination of the highway code be simplified?
The pass rate for the highway code exam has plunged in recent years. From around 70% before 2016, it fell steadily in the years that followed, reaching 50% in 2019 and 2020 and rising a little, to 54% and 56% in 2021 and 2022.
This fall comes after a small revolution that has disrupted the test of the highway code, launched in 2016 by the government: questions relating to driver behavior have been added and the examination takes place in centers run by external service providers ( La Poste, Dekra, SGS, etc.).
Have these new questions made passing the code more perilous? “The examination is not more difficult”, slice a spokesperson for the Road Safety Delegation (DSR). Dekra’s general manager, Karine Bonnet, disagrees and points to “the complexity of the questions that have been added. The way they are put shows that you have to understand the whole context in which the driver is at that moment”.
A success rate fell to 16.7% in May 2016
The impact of code reform on the success rate, Gérard Hernja also observes. For this former instructor, now a researcher in educational sciences within the ECF group, “the spirit of the reform was understandable: we realized that the quality of driving was not only linked to the number of hours of practice, but also behaviors. »
You cannot measure a behavior from a multiple-choice quiz.
The questions added in 2016 therefore aimed, in fact, to make people think about the attitudes to adopt in a given situation. “The problem is that you can’t measure behavior from a multiple-choice quiz. In examination, respondents imagine what they are asked, without necessarily reacting as in a real situation.
The DSR also acknowledges having “undertaken to renovate the questions asked during the exam, in particular to improve their intelligibility”. A grooming that follows the major cleaning carried out just after the implementation of the code reform in May 2016. With a success rate that had collapsed to 16.7% on the first day, the DSR had decided to withdraw the questions “with the lowest success rates”.
The boom in e-learning
Another reason could explain this drop in the success rate since 2016: more and more candidates are preparing for the exam alone, via online platforms. A phenomenon that has been growing “since the covid-19 crisis in 2020”, notes the DSR.
On the internet, students train to answer questions, but it’s more than that, passing your code.
Karine Bonnet sees a deleterious effect in this: “On the internet, students train to answer questions, but it’s more than that, passing your code. The notion of safety encompasses road user behaviour, respect for others and the context. It is something that is learned with training. However, it is too little done in driving schools which are nevertheless able to give the right level of learning of the highway code. »
“The platforms have established the idea that we can prepare remotely”, estimates, for his part, Gérard Hernja, who sees “two faults” in it. On the one hand, the inequality engendered by these courses in the face of “very variable intellectual levels and learning capacities”. People who face more difficulties are faced with solo learning or have to pay more for classroom training. On the other hand, the loss of a “mixing of ideas” allowed by classroom teaching, which facilitated learning by pooling.
For its part, the DSR sweeps away this argument of less good preparation via internet platforms: “No figures come to support it. It’s a pedagogical choice.
More frequent exams
The opening up of the organization of the examination to private service providers could also, statistically, have a downward effect on the pass rate recorded annually. It allows those who fail to pass the test much more quickly than before the 2016 reform. As a result, some students can chain failures in a shorter time… . “Until 2017, the share of first exam submissions was around 72% of total submissions, it steadily declined through 2020 to 52.6%. This confirms that candidates take the exam more times to pass,” notes the DSR.
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