Learner drivers in Rotorua are performing better than many around the country, according to New Zealand Transport Agency figures.
Pass rates for the new restricted licence test, introduced in February, show about 430 motorists in the district sat the exam between February 27 and September 14 and 47 per cent passed.
But while more than half our drivers failed to make the grade, pass rates for the Far North and South Taranaki districts were at a lowly 35 per cent and for Hawke's Bay just 34 per cent.
Nationally, almost 21,000 motorists took the test during this period and 41 per cent passed.
The test is longer and harder than the one it replaced. It now lasts 45 minutes, instead of 30, and involves driving through different speed zones.
"The ultimate aim is to have less tragedies on our roads," Rotorua District Council road safety co-ordinator Jodie Lawson said.
"I guess if it's harder it's making sure that those getting on to the roads are better for it."
Figures also showed about 8900 motorists in New Zealand had their exams cut short because of critical errors, such as being involved in a collision, driving at excessive speed and ignoring instructions.
About 200 people were from the Rotorua district.
Ms Lawson said people had to put more practice in if they wanted to succeed under the new test.
The 2011 national pass rate for the previous restricted test was 81 per cent.
NZTA spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said the new test was designed to better prepare novice drivers and the organisation made no apology for that.
"New Zealand has one of the highest rates of teen road deaths in the OECD.
"We have made it very clear from the beginning that this is a more challenging test and we encourage people to ensure they are adequately prepared before sitting it."
But Mr Knackstedt said the pass rate was expected to climb gradually as people recognised the need to put in more preparation and latest figures suggested that was happening. The pass rate has risen from 38 per cent in March to 52 per cent last month.
Controversy around the current test flared after an internal NZ Driver Licensing memo was leaked to the media last month.
Written by national operations manager Gerard Clark, the memo said the pass rate for the current exam should be about 40 per cent.
In March - a month after the test was introduced - the pass rate plummeted to 38 per cent.
Mr Knackstedt denied the existence of set rates. "There is no target for pass or fail rates and there is no quota. There is however, an expectation that the test will be applied with a degree of consistency around the country.
"The fact of the matter is that more than 50 per cent of applicants are now passing restricted licence tests," he said.
"People are getting the message that this is a harder test [and] they are putting in more preparation."
In the driver's seat
Between February 27 and September 14:
20,863 drivers sat the restricted licence test.
12,291 or 59 per cent failed.
2882 failed a second time.
433 drivers sat their restricted licence test.
230 or 53 per cent failed.
40 failed a second time.