DMV's Driving Test How to Prepare for Your Driving Test

DMV's Goal

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One of the Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) major goals is to keep all drivers licensed for as long as it is safe to do so. Along with that goal is the responsibility to enhance highway safety by increasing driver competency. DMV also recognizes that the independence and mobility that driving provides are important factors in the quality of life for most Californians.

What to expect

You can expect to be treated with respect, fairness, and courtesy during the entire examination process. If you are not treated in this manner, please contact the office manager.

DMV Wants You to Pass

Many people take their driving test when they have not sufficiently prepared, or have not practiced enough, or have not practiced the right way. Others get very nervous because they don’t know what to expect. Remember, the DMV examiner will ride with you only to make sure that you can drive safely and obey traffic laws.

Your driving test will last about 20 minutes. The test consists of basic maneuvers you will encounter while driving such as: left and right turns, stops at controlled and uncontrolled intersections, straight line backing, lane changes, driving in regular street traffic, and in some cases driving on the freeway.

DMV wants you to pass your driving test. Study this pamphlet as well as the California Driver Handbook. Relax and do your best.

Who Takes a Driving Test?

You will be required to take a driving test if you have:

  • never been licensed in any state or you hold a foreign country license.
  • a vision-related problem.
  • a limited term license for specified physical and mental (P&M) conditions.
  • a physical condition (except corrective lenses) and DMV imposes a restriction, or if you are currently restricted and you request that the restriction be removed.
  • an out-of-state junior, provisional, or probationary license.
  • been licensed out-of-state but do not have the license to surrender.

Driving tests for license renewals or holders of out-of-state or U.S. territory licenses are normally waived, if the license is presented. However, DMV may require a driving test at any time.

Are All Driving Tests the Same?

The driving test for the basic license class (Class C) is the same for all drivers regardless of age. An adult driver takes the same type of driving test as a teenage driver. A driver with a physical and/or mental condition may take a different version of the driving test containing additional test elements.

Preparing for Your Driving Test?

  • Get enough practice. Some drivers need more practice than others. Minors must complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training (including ten hours of required night driving) before taking a driving test. When you practice, pretend you are taking a driving test. Ask your accompanying driver to calmly point out your mistakes. Ask questions about a particular driving situation that may have confused you. Correct your mistakes. The next time you practice, pay particular attention to correct any driving errors you made the time before.
    Practice all the driving maneuvers listed in the Safe Driver checklist below. The DMV examiner is there to ensure you have demonstrated you can handle your vehicle in regular traffic situations, not to trick you. During your driving test, the examiner will note how you obey the rules of the road and traffic signs and/or signals. He/she will note other areas in which you may need improvement.
  • Safe driving tips. Practice these tips to improve your driving skills:
    • Steer smoothly at all times.
    • Accelerate smoothly. Don't race the engine or make it stall.
    • Stop the vehicle gently. Start braking well ahead of where you must stop to avoid sudden “jerks.” Know where to stop. Be aware of crosswalks. If your view is blocked at a crosswalk, move forward carefully and look both ways before entering the intersection..
    • Be sure your vehicle is in the correct gear. Don't grind the gears. Don't coast to a stop.
    • Always obey the posted speed limits. If needed, reduce your speed to adjust for existing weather, road, and other traffic conditions. Remember to turn on your lights if you need to use your windshield wipers in poor weather conditions.
    • Follow at a safe distance. Use the three-second rule. Increase your following distance in bad weather or poor visibility.
    • Know what the traffic signals mean and obey them at all times.
    • Always use the proper lane. Turn from the correct lane into the correct lane.
    • Signal for all lane changes and turns.
    • Always look for potential hazards (scan). Check your mirrors frequently. Always look over the proper shoulder before making lane changes or pulling away from the curb.
    • Drive defensively. Anticipate another driver’s errors.

If you are unsure about your driving skills, review the following DMV publications: Parent-Teen Training Guide (PDF), Senior Guide for Safe Driving, California Driver Handbook, and the Let's Go for a Drive streaming videos available online at: www.dmv.ca.gov/video/. These publications provide detailed instruction to correctly perform the driving maneuvers required on a driving test, as well as the laws and rules of the road and safe driving practices.

Other Test Information

For your safety, please ask the examiner to show you his or her DMV identification badge before the test begins. Pets or passengers, other than the examiner or other authorized personnel, are not permitted during your driving test.

If you have any questions, please ask the examiner before your driving test begins. During the test, the examiner will ask you questions or give you directions, but he/she will not engage in general conversation.

Test Vehicle Requirements

The vehicle you use for your driving test must be safe to drive. Before the test, the examiner checks for:

  • two license plates. The rear plate must show current registration.
  • both front and back turn signal lights and working brake lights.
  • a working horn designed for the vehicle.
  • tires with no bald spots.
  • adequate brake pressure (you will be asked to step on the brake pedal to see if it works properly).
  • a driver’s side window that rolls down.
  • a windshield that allows a full unobstructed field of vision.
  • two rear view mirrors (one must be on the outside, to the driver’s left).
  • driver and front passenger doors that open from both the inside and outside.
  • a secured glove compartment door so it doesn't open during the test.
  • a passenger seat permanently attached to the vehicle.
  • working safety belts, if the vehicle was manufactured with safety belts.
  • working emergency/parking brake.

Financial Responsibility

You must show that your vehicle is properly insured before the driving test begins (or the test will be postponed) by providing one of the following:

  • A document with the liability insurance policy or surety bond number.
  • An Assigned Risk insurance card with the name of the assigned insurance company, file number, and current coverage dates.
  • Current insurance binder or copy of an insurance policy signed or countersigned by an insurance company representative.
  • Rental car contract if the driver is listed on the contract as the insured.
  • DMV-issued certificate of self-insurance or acknowledgment of cash deposit.
  • Written confirmation from the insurer that the person is insured.

After Your Driving Test

Learning to drive safely does not end with your driving test. Your license means you have met the driving test requirements. However, in everyday driving you will have to deal with many situations and problems you did not encounter on your driving test. The best ways to deal with unexpected situations is to always use the same, safe driving habits and the responsible attitude you demonstrated on your driving test.

GOOD LUCK!

Safe Driver Checklist

Starting the Vehicle:
  • Adjusts mirrors and seat
  • Fastens safety belt
  • Knows where the operating controls are located
Moving Forward:
  • Signals
  • Looks in mirrors and over shoulder before pulling into traffic.
  • Uses two hands on opposite sides of the steering wheel.
Stopping:
  • Checks traffic (sees and reacts to hazards).
  • Stops behind crosswalk or limit line.
  • Stops without using accelerator at the same time.
Turns:
  • Slows for turns.
  • Begins and ends turns in the correct lane.
  • Yields right of way when necessary.
  • Accepts legal right of way when safe.
  • Sees and reacts to hazards.
Backing:
  • Checks mirrors.
  • Looks over right and left shoulder as appropriate.
Changing Lanes:
  • Signals
  • Checks mirrors.
  • Checks over shoulder to view blind spot.
  • Changes lanes safely.
  • Maintains speed.
Driving on the Freeway:
  • Checks traffic flow.
  • Times entry into freeway.
  • Checks mirrors and over shoulder before merging into traffic.
  • Signals early and slows on exit ramp.
  • Adjusts speed to road conditions.
Defensive Driving Techniques:
  • Checks mirrors before braking.
  • Checks cross streets before passing.
  • Checks signal lights and signs.
  • Keeps eyes "moving".
  • Keeps a "space cushion" around the car.
  • Follows at a safe distance.

FFDL 22 (REV 5/2012)