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The Ultimate Guide To Passing Your California Driving Test


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Here's Exactly What You Need To Know to Pass Your California Driving Test

We know that taking your California driving test can be nerve-wracking. With a little preparation and insight into the test itself, there's nothing to be worried about. This guide will make sure you know the specific requirements in California, what you can expect on the test itself, and give our best practice tips. Here's exactly what you need to know to pass your California DMV behind-the-wheel test.

California DMV Driving Test


What to know before your California driving test

Prior to completing your test, you need to ensure that you have completed an adequate amount of practice so that you are comfortable and prepared behind the wheel. The vehicle that you take should be the same one you have been practicing in as different cars will operate a little differently. Whether you decide to practice with an experienced family driver, take driving lessons or book with ourcar and driver road test service, you need to be prepared to understand both the technical and practical sides of the test. This encompasses studying the right material and utilizing that knowledge on the driving test.

Once you believe that you are comfortable enough, you can schedule your road test. This is not an option, walk-ins are not possible. Save yourself the time and ensure that you have booked your driving test in California. Certain DMVs will have higher pass rates. Those are your best bet to ensure that you pass.

Prepare yourself for success...

The night before your test, you will want to ensure that you do your own pre-test inspection. The worst situation would be to bring your vehicle to the test and not have it operating properly. Any cracks in the windshield will lead to an automatic reschedule. Ensure that the vehicle is in pristine shape and that your mirrors are adjusted to allow you to have maximum visibility. Any requirements and vehicle details that must be met in California should be looked over.

Your paperwork will need to be completed and accompanied with your permit, valid insurance, and registration details. Once all of that is ready, you should review the material. From road signs to hand signals to the features on your vehicle, it is a good thing to be prepared. On the day of your test, you can have a licensed driver accompany you to the test.

Once you verified your road test, paperwork, and car requirements, it's time for more practice. In California, unlike a few other states, you can practice in the area around the DMV where your behind-the-wheel test is scheduled. We strongly recommend that you do, as this is where part of your road test will be. Take time and get to know the area.

What are the vehicle requirements for the California driving test?

In California, your vehicle is required to demonstrate the following vehicle and driver safety items within the pre-drive checklist. It is a good idea to check all of these prior to going to the testing center. Here's what your vehicle needs to have:

  • Current registration, insurance, and inspection sticker
  • A windshield with no cracks or debris that would obstruct the view
  • Key safety requirements: working speedometer, horn, rearview mirror, seatbelts, and windshield wipers.
  • Working doors: the driver and passenger doors must open from the inside and outside.
  • Working lights: brake lights, turn signal lights in front and back, headlights and taillights.
  • No service or warning lights illuminated on the dashboard

If you don't have a vehicle that meets all of these requirements or a licensed driver to take you to your road test, you have several options. You can get a car through a driving school, see if a friend or family member can accompany you with their car, or Skip offers a car and driver for the California behind-the-wheel test which you can reserve ahead of time online.


What to know the day of your California driving test

First, get to the DMV early! If you're late, they'll ask you to reschedule. Once you arrive, you'll go inside the DMV with your licensed driver to check-in. This is when you'll need your paperwork handy. After check-in, the DMV rep will ask you to go outside and pull your car around (your licensed driver needs to be with you) to the side of the building where the behind-the-wheel tests start. You'll wait there in the testing line until an examiner comes out to meet you.

The examiner will come to the driver's side window to ask for their Driver's License, your permit, as well as the registration and insurance for the vehicle. Your licensed driver will then get out (and can wait inside the DMV for you) and the examiner will begin the test, which starts with the vehicle safety check. They'll ask you to show them the car's hazard lights, left and right blinker, horn as well as hand signals. Then you'll start the driving portion of the test.

When leaving the DMV parking lot, some locations have a stop sign before you can exit onto the road. Be sure to see this and fully stop! If you roll through this stop sign, it's an automatic failure and the test will end there. Many people fail before they even get out on the road because they miss this.

In California, you can get up to 15 points wrong. If you get more than 15 points off you fail, but if you make any critical errors you automatically fail.

The test itself is 10-15 minutes. It will go by quickly, so take your time. Every minute counts and you'll think and perform better if you don't rush 🙂


California DMV driving test overview

In this video, Terece explains what you need to know on the test, from beginning to end. She explains the pre-drive safety check, the hand signals, all the way to the end. This video has gone near-viral on YouTube!



Maneuvers to practice for the California driving test

  1. Right and left turns: Make sure you turn into the same lane you are turning from, this is important. Also, don't forget to signal and you should do so about 200 feet from your turn.
  2. Changing lanes: Remember to always look and signal before doing so.
  3. Observing right-of-way: Allow pedestrians to cross. Make sure to pull over and stop for emergency vehicles to pass and don't enter an intersection where you'll interfere with other traffic.
  4. Stopping at intersections:Start slowing well ahead of time to avoid a sudden or jerky stop.
  5. Backing up: Back for a distance of 50 feet at a slow speed while turning your head and looking over your right shoulder to the rear.
  6. Follow at a safe distance: don't follow too close behind other cars. Keep a minimum following distance of three to four seconds.
  7. Driving in traffic: Remember to always be looking and don't drive too fast or too slow.
  8. Looking over your shoulder for bicyclists. There are so many bicyclists and this is important. Examiners love to test on this. You will get points off if you don't look.

Lastly, during your road test, it's highly likely that your examiner will be taking notes. This is nothing to worry about! The examiner may simply be checking off requirements as you complete them. Keep your eyes on the road and not on your examiner, and you'll do just fine.

If you'd like a refresher on California road laws, signs and safety, feel free to review the California driver handbook.


More California driving test tips

In this video, driver Leo takes you on the road and goes over a few more driving tips that you should definitely know for the test. This video compliments Terece's overview very well.



What happens after my California driving test?

Congratulations on completing your road test! Regardless of the result, you should be proud for going through the test.

If you passed, you will be given a temporary license. It will serve as your license to drive until your actual laminated one comes in the mail.

When you are driving with an experienced driver or a professional, it feels a lot safer knowing that they are there to provide support and quick decision making, but now that you are driving on your own, there are precautions you must take. Not all drivers will be able to read your mind, which is why you should always drive defensively. You are responsible for your passengers, so remind everyone in your vehicle to buckle up. Be a diligent driver and play your part in ensuring that the roads are safe for other drivers.

If you failed your test, don't worry! Most people usually pass on their second try, and it gives you another opportunity to learn and try again. Call your instructor to find out where you went wrong. This will provide benchmarks to help you adapt and test again. In California, you can retake the test in two weeks. Remember to schedule each time, make sure you have a licensed driver with you and car for the test. In the meantime, keep practicing and re-schedule your behind-the-wheel test when you feel ready 🙂


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More California DMV Questions?

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California DMV to resume behind-the-wheel drive tests

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

After a weekslong pause, the California DMV is resuming behind-the-wheel driving tests statewide on Monday.

The department halted the in-person tests on Dec. 14 due to a rapid surge in coronavirus infections, initially saying the appointments will be suspended for at least two weeks.

Those who had their tests canceled because of the suspension will automatically be rescheduled for a new appointment, according to a Department of Motor Vehicles news release.

During the next two weeks, those affected will be notified by text of their rescheduled appointment.

Meanwhile, new appointments for behind-the-wheel tests are expected to become available in mid-February, DMV officials said.

The department is limiting how many people can enter an office a a time, requiring face coverings and screening visitors to protect from the spread of the coronavirus.

For behind-the-wheel tests, people will have their temperatures taken, the car windows will stay cracked and instructors will use seat covers.

The DMV had previously extended permits with expiration dates through May 31, 2021, for six months from the date of expiration, and also extended expiring commercial driver’s licenses, commercial learner’s permits, certificates and endorsements through Feb. 28, 2021.

The department still encourages all customers to use its website for driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals amid the pandemic. Nearly all Californians can now renew their driver’s license online.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Knowledge and Drive Tests Preparation

Before you can get a DL in California, you’ll need to pass relevant knowledge and driving tests to show that you understand the rules of the road and are comfortable driving the vehicle that the license will allow you to drive. We put together these resources to help you prepare for these tests.

Prepare for Your Knowledge Tests

In most cases, you are required to pass knowledge tests showing that you understand traffic laws and safety before you can get an instruction permit or DL.

Here are a few suggestions for studying for your knowledge test(s):

  • Review the California Driver Handbook. It contains a lot of important information, so give yourself a few days to get through it.
  • Read the test questions carefully. There will be one correct answer and the other two answer choices will be either obviously wrong or not appropriate for the question asked. Don’t overthink it; there are no “trick questions”.
  • Remember, all the test questions are taken from the handbook. If you miss a question, the field office employee can tell you on which page to find the correct answer.
  • Don’t be nervous. DMV wants you to pass your test. Good luck!

Prepare for Your Driving Test

We require first-time DL applicants, and other applicants who meet certain conditions, to pass a driving test before they can get a DL.

The purpose of a driving test is to determine whether you:

  • Are able to safely operate a vehicle.
  • Use safe driving habits.
  • Can apply your knowledge of traffic laws in real life situations.
  • Can make up for any physical condition, such as loss of a limb, poor hearing, or a vision condition.

The driving test is divided into 2 parts:

  • Pre-drive safety check: Determines whether your vehicle meets the minimum DMV safety standards and whether you are familiar with the operation of your vehicle.
  • Driving Performance Evaluation (DPE): Behind-the-wheel driving test with a DMV examiner who evaluates your driving skills.

DMV also offers two additional types of driving tests:

  • Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE): Given to applicants of any age who have a physical, mental, or vision condition, and/or a referral due to a lack of skill that may impact their ability to safely operate a vehicle.
  • Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE): Limits you to drive only in specified areas. If you are successful with the ADPE, your DL will be restricted to only the specified areas where you were tested.

How to Pass the California Driving Test

The thought of taking a California driving test can be daunting, but fear not! If you're ready to get behind the wheel, we have the information you need. Just follow these steps and you'll pass without a hitch.

Getting Yourself and Your Vehicle Ready for the California Driving Test

Like anything else, it's best to practice your skills ahead of time to help calm your nerves and gain confidence on the big day. The night before the test, it might be a good idea to reread the California Driver Handbook or take an online practice test (included with our California online drivers ed course) to refresh your memory of the rules of the road.

Don't forget to bring a valid learners permit with you.

Know your vehicle! The test administrator will you ask to demonstrate the following:

  • Adjust your mirrors
  • Turn on your windshield wipers, radio, defroster, headlights, heating and cooling systems
  • Tap your horn

They will also inspect these items to make sure they're in safe working condition:

  • Brakes and brake lights
  • Current license plate
  • License plate light
  • Doors
  • Exhaust system
  • Windows
  • Safety belts
  • Speedometer
  • Tail lights
  • Tires

Vehicle Control for the California Driving Test

A key part of SMART driving is vehicle control. That's why road examiners will focus on how you control the vehicle to ensure that you can perform a range of tasks successfully and without hesitation whether you're in streets, traffic, or freeways. This includes steering, turning, accelerating, braking and stopping, and switching and maintaining lanes.

Knowledge for the California Driving Test

The test examiner will make sure you know about driving rules and regulations, which include passing in the correct lane and knowing when passing other vehicles is prohibited. You will demonstrate to them signals for lane changes and turns using both lights and arm signals.


Test california drivers

Sample Driver’s License Knowledge Tests

Google™ Translate Disclaimer

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website uses Google™ Translate to provide automatic translation of its web pages. This translation application tool is provided for purposes of information and convenience only. Google™ Translate is a free third-party service, which is not controlled by the DMV. The DMV is unable to guarantee the accuracy of any translation provided by Google™ Translate and is therefore not liable for any inaccurate information or changes in the formatting of the pages resulting from the use of the translation application tool.

The web pages currently in English on the DMV website are the official and accurate source for the program information and services the DMV provides. Any discrepancies or differences created in the translation are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or enforcement purposes. If any questions arise related to the information contained in the translated website, please refer to the English version.

The following pages provided on the DMV website cannot be translated using Google™ Translate:

  • Forms
  • Publications
  • Field Office Locations
  • Online Applications

Tips To Pass Your Driving Test

DMV Practice Test California

DMV CA Permit Practice Test

One of the best ways to make sure you’re ready for your California written permit test is by taking a California DMV practice test.  If you’re looking to pass the California permit test, DMV test practice is vital.  Taking some time to run yourself through practice questions can really help when it comes to passing the exam.  With a permit practice test, you’ll get a feel for questions you will face in person at any DMV California location you test in.

A DMV CA permit practice test utilizes questions from the actual CA permit test.  All of the questions and driver’s license test answers that appear on the site are crowdsourced and submitted by your peers.  We check them for accuracy, but these are essentially the exact questions you will see on the DMV permit test.

Need a faster alternative to a practice test?  Our premium DMV CA cheat sheet is built for those looking to pass the test easily and quickly without drilling on practice tests.

California Learners Permit Requirements

With an alarming number of accidents involving teenage drivers, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has put into place a Graduated Driver License (GDL) program.  There are several things that will be required of you in order to get your California provisional permit (also referred to as a learner’s permit).  Here are the things you need to make sure you have in order before heading to the DMV for your written permit exam.

How Many Questions are on the CA Permit Test?

The permit test at the CA DMV consists of 46 multiple choice and true or false questions.  These questions cover topics such as rules of the road, alcohol awareness, traffic safety, traffic violations and fines, car preparedness, road signs, and distracted driving awareness.  Nearly 25% of the questions you encounter will cover traffic signs as the exam is known to be highly visual in that area.  To pass the exam, you must answer 39 of your 46 questions correctly.  That means you need to answer 85% of your questions correctly to pass and receive your permit in the state of California.

One of the valuable things about finding our site here at is that we crowdsource the questions from the CA permit test.  All of the questions you see on our site have been part of the 46 questions administered at the California DMV during a real permit test.  These questions aren’t subjective and they certainly aren’t made up by us.  These are real questions that you can find at your California DMV at this very moment.  Don’t forget, you can also get a CA DMV written test cheat sheet for a minimal cost.

How Much Does the Permit Test Cost in CA?

The permit test at the California DMV costs $38.  You will have three attempts to pass your test.  If you fail your initial exam, the California DMV requires you to wait 7 days prior to taking your examination again. Once your exam is passed and your $38 is paid, you will be issued your provisional permit.  The $38 paid covers your provisional learner’s permit and driver's license.  If all of the requirements for your license are not met within a calendar year, your application will be considered void.  Once voided, you must repeat all of the steps mentioned below.  Don’t let that happen.  Trust us, it’s not fun.

How Old Must Someone Be to get a CA Driver's Permit?

For new drivers looking to get their California provisional permit, an age of at least 15 ½ is required by state law.  If you are younger than 17 ½ years old you will be required to take a drivers education course either in person or online with an approved provider.  Here are the steps needed to accomplish this.

Take a California Driver's Ed Course

To sign up for a California approved driver education class make sure that it consists of the following: 
  • 25 hours of classroom instruction. This classroom instruction may be completed through:
    • Classes at a California Secondary School
    • A state-licensed and approved professional driving school and associated coursework.
    • An online drivers education program like Aceable or, as long as it meets the requirement of 25 hours.
  • You must complete 6 hours of hands-on driver training. This training is restricted to 2 hours per day behind the wheel. (If you're observing another driver in the car, that time does not count toward your requirement of 6 hours.)
*If you're at least 14 years old but less than 18 years old AND can prove a hardship of some sort, you can apply for a Junior Permit. For steps and restrictions, review the Application for Junior Permit (Form DL 120).

Take Your CA Permit Exam

If you have completed a Drivers Education program in the state of California, it is now time for you to head to the local DMV to take your permit exam.  Make sure to take some of our practice tests before you go.  As noted above, an 85% pass rate is required to get your learner’s permit so practicing beforehand makes a lot of sense.

Before you head to the DMV, make an appointment to ease your waiting experience.

You have the choice of whether to apply for a REAL ID-compliant permit or a standard permit. A standard permit will only upgrade to a standard license.  A standard license will NOT be valid as federal identification after May 3, 2023.

Here's what to bring to your appointment:

  • Your completed Driver License or Identification Card Application.
    • Double check that your parents or legal guardian have signed the application!
  • Proof of Social Security number. It will be verified with the Social Security Administration while you are at the DMV.
  • Your birth certificate, or a certified copy of your original birth certificate.
  • Proof of identity and lawful U.S. presence (e.g. unexpired U.S. passport, Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization, original or certified birth certificate).
  • Proof of your California residency with:
  • Certificates stating that you either have:
    • Completed Driver's Ed.
    • Completed driver education and driver training.
    • Are enrolled and participating in an approved driver training program.
If you're over 17 1/2 years old, but not yet 18 years old, you do not have to provide certificates of completion for driver's education and driver training. However, you must wait until you're 18 years old to take the driving test.Here's what you'll need to do:
  1. Pass a vision exam.
  2. Pass the written permit test.
  3. Have your picture taken.
  4. Provide a thumbprint.
  5. Pay the application fee.
Get it all done?  Congratulations!  It’s time to get behind the wheel for more experience.

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