Learner drivers will be required to memorise directions under a revamped driving test which could see the pass rate fall by a quarter.
Test candidates will have to navigate to a particular location using only verbal instructions from the examiner or by following road signs.
The Driving Standards Agency says the new section will promote ”independent thinking” and mimic a situation where a driver gets lost.
But the agency’s initial research suggested the changes could cause the pass rate to fall from 42 to 18 per cent – less than one in five.
However the agency claims they carried out a second review which revealed the pass rate would not be effected.
The changes have received a mixed response from motoring groups, with some saying they make the test too difficult and others praising them for better preparing learners for ‘real world’ driving.
John Lepine, general manager of the Motor Schools Association, said: ”If the pass rates drop by those figures it will be a massive extra cost to learner drivers who already have a lot to pay.
”That’s a crazy amount for test results to plummet by.”
Hugh Bladon of the Association of British Drivers said: ”The whole driving system is absurd.
”These new measures are missing the point of stopping reckless drivers on the road.
”These confusing new tasks could just make it more costly and take more time for learner drivers to pass their test.
”Learners need to be taught the basics of driving first before they’re allowed on the road.
”You can’t stop them passing their test as denying people their licence is denying them their freedom.”
The DSA – which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the driving test this week – made the test harder after a review last year.
It says the new test will expose learners to real-life situations like getting lost and having to flag down passers-by to ask for directions.
Examiners will ask candidates to drive to a specific location by memorising his or her verbal instructions, or by following road signs.
The learner will then drive for around 10 minutes without any help or prompting from the examiner.
Candidates will also be asked to perform a five-point turn – or U-turn – in a road to mimic a driver going the wrong way and having to turn the car around.
However, when the DSA tested the new section on 100 learners they made five times more mistakes than the traditional test.
They branded it ”effortful, mentally demanding and frustrating” and just
18 per cent passed, less than one in five.
The new test will be introduced on October 4 and cost the same £62.
Learners will still have to take the theory test which was introduced in 1996.
The DSA’s chief driving examiner Trevor Wedge said: ”This year will see the introduction of independent driving into the test, to help candidates demonstrate their ability to drive without step-by-step instruction.
”Evidence shows learning to drive alone is the biggest challenge faced by newly qualified drivers. We believe that this added element will lead to better and safer drivers.”
A spokesman added: ”The claim that independent driving would lead to a fall in the driving test pass rate is taken from early research where conditions did not reflect the eventual design of the new element of the test.
”Subsequent trials with a larger number of participants and more closely reflecting the conditions in the planned new test showed no significant fall in the pass rate.”
The changes were welcomed by motoring group The Institute of Advanced Motorists, who said they were more ”realistic”.
Chief examiner Peter Rodger said: ”You take away the examiners’ prompt to turn and instead have to work it out for yourself as you do in the real world.
”The changes will make the tests more realistic and increase the standard of those coming onto our roads.”
But some instructors would like the test to include a section on driving on motorways and rural roads.