The theory test demands commitment and practise to pass – but how are driving instructors teaching their pupils to deal with its many challenges?
Evaluating and understanding the Hazard Perception Test and how it works is something of a dark art for ADIs and pupils alike. In theory, the process is straightforward according to the DVSA’s own guidelines:
To get a high score you need to respond to the developing hazard as soon as you see it starting.”
In execution however, judging precisely where the hazards are and when they should be clicked on can prove to be something of a mystery.
Cheat Detection System Too Sensitive?
The plot thickens further thanks to the test’s cheat detection system, which is summed up by the DVSA as follows:
If you click continuously or in a pattern during a clip a message will appear at the end. It will tell you that you have scored zero for that particular clip.”
This advice can leave pupils scratching their heads as they’re failed because the system has deemed that they have clicked too many times and are simply trying to ‘game’ the test. The problem according to ADIs is that the detection system is too sensitive.
“According to my pupils, people are often getting disqualified from videos because the system thinks they are cheating, particularly in the busy town scenarios,” explains Debbie Brewer of Debs Driving School. “The town scenes have so many potential hazards that it is too easy to get disqualified. It is not that pupils are clicking too much, more that because there are so many hazards, the number of clicks they end up performing causes the system to believe that students have been clicking in a pattern, so the system is flawed.”
The Theory Test Pro hazard perception option is excellent practice for my pupils, and the feedback from them has been very positive.”
Timing & Practise Produce Hazard Perception Passes
To combat this potential issue, practise is of course essential. It’s why Theory Test Pro offers mock HPT clips plus the ability for students to playback said clip, revealing the marked hazard in relation to where the pupil clicked.
Also imperative is identifying the potential hazard in the first instance. Debbie and other ADIs including Stuart Rigby of The Driving Academy use a unique approach to keeping click rates manageable and accurate: “I find some pupils can notice the hazard a little too early,” explains Stuart. “It’s why I introduced the two-second rule – the student clicks when they first see a hazard, waits two seconds and then clicks again. This approach stops people from scoring zero if they click a little too early.”
Another issue with the Hazard Perception Test can be the students themselves. Extensive practise is critical to passing and building confidence but getting students to realise how difficult the HPT is in the first place can be an uphill struggle, as Stuart explains: “I often find that pupils skip the HPT during learning, dismissing it because they believe it’s simply all about common sense. Even when reviewing some pupils’ progress within Theory Test Pro, I see little attention being paid to the HPT.”
Half the problem is the struggle that pupils have working with the HPT system itself.”
Learners, Spot Road Hazards while Driving
To encourage them to participate, Stuart ensures that the issue of hazard perception is brought up during actual lessons by asking pupils to highlight potential hazards while driving. Using a dash cam is also an invaluable educational tool – it means that he and the student can review hazards at the end of each lesson so they become part of the learning process.
Debbie believes another key method for inspiring pupils to engage with the HPT is to book the theory test, “ so they have a deadline to work to, which encourages them to use Theory Test Pro. It enables me to see their progress too and give positive comments to encourage their learning – and for them to ask questions.”
Ironically though, it’s generally the young people who shine the most when they do actually apply themselves; more so than other age groups: “I think the DVSA Hazard Perception Test is delivered well, but is more like a computer game than real life,” explains Debbie, “and because of this, I find the young inexperienced learners perform better with it.”
We suspect that this trend will only increase once the DVSA makes the move to full computer-generated clips for the Hazard Perception Test. The introduction of CGI could also help deal with the current issues surrounding the HPT as well, offering clip designers an exacting, easily-controlled process for creating clips where the fog of confusion is finally removed. Time will tell.