California Driver’s Handbook

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Section 6 of 22

Section 3: The Testing Process

Driver’s License Tests

  1. Vision Test

    DMV tests all applicants to ensure they can see well enough to drive safely. If you take your vision test with corrective or contact lenses, your driver’s license will have a corrective lenses restriction. If you do not pass your vision test, you will be asked to have your eye doctor complete a Report of Vision Examination form.

  2. Knowledge Test

    When you apply for an original driver’s license, you must pass a knowledge test with multiple choice questions. You are allowed three attempts to pass before you must reapply. Minors must wait seven days to retake a failed knowledge test, not including the day of the failure.

    Testing options will be available once you complete your application at

    You are not allowed to use any testing aids during knowledge tests, such as a California Driver’s Handbook or cell phone.

  3. Behind-the-Wheel Drive Test

    When you apply for an original driver’s license, you will be tested on your ability to safely drive a vehicle. Upon renewal, drivers with a vision or medical condition may be required to take a behind-the-wheel test. The examiner may give two or more instructions at one time to determine whether you can understand and properly follow both directions. For example, “At the next street, make a left turn, and then at the first intersection make another left turn.”

    Visit to schedule a behind-the-wheel drive test appointment.

On the day of your behind-the-wheel test, you must bring:

  1. Your instruction permit or driver’s license (if you have one).
  2. Another California-licensed driver who is at least 18 years old (25 for minors), unless you are already licensed to drive.
  3. A vehicle that is safe to drive for your test.
  4. Valid proof of insurance and vehicle registration.
  5. If you plan to use a rental vehicle for your drive test, your name must be listed on the rental contract. The contract must not exclude behind-the-wheel drive tests.

Minors must wait 14 days to retake a failed behind-the-wheel drive test, not including the day of the failure.

Before you begin, the DMV examiner will ask you to locate and demonstrate the following:

  • Driver window – The window on the driver side must open.
  • Windshield – The windshield must allow a full, clear, unblocked view for you and the DMV examiner. Windshield cracks may postpone your test.
  • Rear-view mirrors – At least two rearview mirrors. One of them must be on the left side of your vehicle.
  • Brake lights – The right and left brake lights must be operational.
  • Tires – The tires must have at least 1/32-inch of uniformed tread depth. The use of a donut tire is not allowed during a drive test.
  • Foot brake – There must be at least one inch of clearance between the bottom of the brake pedal and the floorboard when depressed.
  • Horn – Designed for the vehicle, in proper working condition, and loud enough to be heard from a distance of at least 200 feet.
  • Emergency (parking brake) – How to set and release the parking brake.
  • Turn/Arm signals
    • Left turn.
    • Right turn.
    • Slowing down or stopping.
  • Windshield wipers: control arm or switch – You may be required to show they function.
  • Seat belts – All seat belts must work properly and be used by the individual(s) in the vehicle.
  • Recording Device – All interior recording devices must be powered off or disabled.

If your vehicle does not meet the requirements, your drive test will be rescheduled.

Interpreters may be used during the pre-drive inspection for the identification and use of certain controls in the vehicle but may not accompany you during the drive test.

Only the examiner is allowed to accompany you during the drive test. Exceptions are made for training, service animals, and certain law enforcement situations.

The use of a recording device, including a video/audio recorder, is prohibited during a behind-the-wheel drive test. If the recording device cannot be powered off or disabled, the applicant must block it so there is no visual or audio recording during the drive test.

Other Things to Know for Your Behind-the-Wheel Test

The drive test is intended to determine your skill in operating a motor vehicle in most road situations and evaluate your abilities, not the vehicle’s technology. Therefore, advanced driver assistance systems technologies, such as automated parallel parking, lane departure, and adaptive cruise control, are not permitted during the drive test. Vehicle safety technology, such as backup cameras and blind spot monitors, may be used on the drive test, but are not a replacement for an actual visual check of your mirrors and blind spots.

To view a sample of the Driving Performance Evaluation (DPE) Score Sheet, visit For a sample of the Supplemental/Area DPE Score Sheet, visit