Research Papers

Design and implementation of global skills based driver testing in Northwest Territories

Version 1
Date added June 17, 2014
Downloaded 0 times/fois
Category 2014 CMRSC XXIV Vancouver
Tags Policy and Practice, Session 1C
Author/Auteur Spencer McDonald
Stream/Volet Policy and Practice

Slidedeck Presentation Only (no paper submitted)

1C McDonald_Design and Implementation of Global Skills Based Driver Testing in Northwest


In 2009, the Government of Northwest Territories determined that the driver license testing system
used in the Territories was inadequate to meet the requirement to provide fair and objective
assessment of applicants for licensing. An evaluation of the existing system was undertaken and
revealed significant shortcomings. Identified issues included

  • Outdated (borrowed) driver licensing/testing manual originally designed for a different jurisdiction that failed to address challenges as faced by NWT and as a consequence did not incorporate policy or practise to address these challenges
  • Lack of organized or formalized examiner training
  • Inadequate or non-existent policy or best practises. This forced examiners to improvise testing in remote areas without adequate training or preparation
  • Vague, unclear and inconsistently applied test criteria


  • Development of a Northwest Territories Driver Licensing/testing Operations manual
  • Development of new tests for all classes of license in NWT
  • Training to prepare examiners to administer the new tests
  • Development and implementation of a phased plan to transition to new tests for all classes of license in NWT Development and implementation of an examiner train-the-trainer program which places the capability to train new examiners in the hands of senior NWT driver examiners.

Target Group
The group directly participating on this project were the Northwest Territories Transportation Dept. Driving Examiners however the end user group is anyone in the Territory applying for a driver license
and requiring road testing.
Prior to this project, the NWT driver testing system was a dated testing process with rudimentary  examination protocols based on fixed pass/fail criteria determined by aggregate driving error
accumulation over a variety of test routes, each presenting the driver with differing degrees of difficulty.  This resulted in a situation where drivers tested on more challenging routes were being exposed to
greater opportunities for error and higher probability of failing the test than if they had been tested on an “easier” route.  Compounding the problem was examiner training which had been handled on an ad hoc basis without a formal examiner training course curriculum or standard.
Global Skills based testing
Traditionally, driver testing has relied on assessing the driver over a testing route and counting the number of errors observed and the point value of each error; more serious errors worth more points and less serious ones fewer. If the aggregate total number of error points meets or exceed the fail mark, the candidate is unsuccessful on the test and must try again. This methodology is problematic, particularly when the degree of difficulty presented by different routes varies. For example, a route with 5 left turns presents much less challenge than one with 10. If the pass/fail cut-off is not adjusted to control for these variables, the standard is inconsistent. Further, many systems limit the number of times one specific error can be marked resulting in passing a driver with serious difficulties in that specific area.

Global Skills based testing assesses the candidate in 4 critical areas; Observation, Space Management, Compliance, and Vehicle Control Skills. These global skills categories include specific observable errors which can be marked.

During the road test, all four global skills are assessed in every manoeuvre type: Left and right turns, through intersections, parking and other vehicle handling manoeuvres and general driving which captures everything else on the test between manoeuvres. Candidates must be successful on each global skill over-all as well as each manoeuvre.

Pass fail cut-offs are set based on the number of manoeuvres on each particular route.
What outputs came from this work?
Planning to update the system and introduce new testing procedures and tests was undertaken with the assistance of Thinking Driver, a BC based training and consulting firm. The 3 year project was completed
in summer 2011 and included development and phased implementation of new tests for all classes of license as well as an examiner train-the-trainer program which places the capability to train new
examiners in the hands of senior NWT driver examiners. Implementation of this system was phased in over 3 years with Passenger vehicle tests in 2009, Commercial Vehicle classes in 2010 and motorcycle testing in 2011 along with examiner train the trainer.

Spencer McDonald