The Driver's License Test Guide

The Driver's License Test Summary
What: The driver's license exam tests one's ability to effectively and safely operate a motor vehicle.
Who: Anyone who wishes to legally drive in the United States.
Where: The exam is administered at a local Department of Motor Vehicles office or Driver's License Center (varies by state).
When: A person can make an appointment to take the exam after completing a sufficient number of practice hours to meet state requirements and personal comfort level.
How: Exam-takers can call the local DMV/Driver's License Center to schedule an appointment for a driver's license exam.
Type: The driver's permit test is paper-and-pencil based, and the license exam is taken while operating a vehicle.
Why: In order to drive legally in the US, a person must be licensed by his/her state of residence. A license is proof of the driver's knowledge of traffic laws and ability to operate a vehicle.
Time: The test should not take more than twenty or thirty minutes.
Language: The test is available in English by default. Test-takers should call their local DMV/Driver's License Center to determine whether a bilingual test administrator is available.
Preparation: Test-takers should use any exam preparation materials (such as booklets) provided by the local DMV. Examinees should also practice driving and consider taking a driver's education course.
Cost: The driver's exam may be free, or it may cost up to $40, depending on the state.

By Larissa Cunningham, Tests.com Contributing Writer

According to the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, there are roughly 200 million licensed drivers in the United States. Generally, obtaining a driver’s license involves first passing a written test in order to first obtain a driver’s permit, practicing driving skills for a significant amount of time, and then taking and passing the driving portion of the exam. Having a driver’s license is extremely convenient for getting around, especially in areas where public transportation is unavailable. Many people consider having a driver’s license a necessity rather than a luxury. Anyone who has reached the legal age at which he/she may legally obtain a driver’s permit with the need for access to easy, convenient transportation should take the driver’s license exam.

Both the written and driving portions of the driver’s license test are taken at one’s local Department of Motor Vehicles office. Each state has its own DMV with numerous offices throughout the state.

While the details of the tests vary from state to state, the general rule in the United States is that a new driver must first take the written test in order to obtain a learner’s permit. Depending on the state, a new driver must be at least 16 years old (or as old as 17 years old in some states, though some states license drivers as young as 14) to take the written test. The test consists of a series of multiple-choice questions about the “rules of the road,” or the general set of guidelines for driving on public roads. The test may include questions about laws, safety, road signs and more. The local DMV will likely have a booklet for new drivers to study containing all of the information that could appear on the written test. Candidates may retake this test if they do not pass the first time.

Upon successfully completing the written test, drivers are issued a learner’s permit and must practice driving. State requirements vary widely on how long one must practice. After meeting the minimum time requirement behind the wheel, candidates may set up an appointment with a local DMV to take the driving portion of the test.

Typically, this test involves driving a car (with a test administrator as the passenger) through a local neighborhood or testing course. Drivers must demonstrate specific skills, such as successful parallel parking. If the test administrator determines that performance is satisfactory, the driver is granted a driver’s license. If the driver fails, they will be given the opportunity to come back and re-take the test.


Driver’s License Test Registration and Administration


Driver’s test candidates do not need an appointment to take the written component of the test, though often it is necessary to make an appointment for the driving portion. Test takers should verify with their local DMV on procedures.

Candidates should arrive for the tests with proof of identity, age and residency. Some states require a driver’s log detailing the time spent and skills practiced. Fees for exams range from $5 to $40, depending on the state.

How to Prepare for the Driver’s License Test

Many states provide driver’s manuals or guides that detail the information candidates need to know to be a safe, law-abiding driver. Test takers should be sure to study these rules not only in preparation for the written test, but also to make sure they do not accidentally break a law during the driver’s test. Next, test takers should spend an adequate amount of time practicing behind the wheel (under the guidance of a licensed driver) in order to learn how to control a vehicle comfortably and confidently. Driver’s education courses are widely available and are often a great idea for new drivers.

Special Considerations

In New Hampshire, driving candidates do not need a learner’s permit. At 15 years and six months of age, a New Hampshire resident is eligible to drive with an adult in the vehicle.

In many states, teen drivers are issued a restricted or junior license that involves limitations such as a driving curfew or a restriction on the number of passengers. Typically the full (or unrestricted) license is awarded at the age of 18 or after having a restricted license for a set amount of time. Details vary widely from state to state.

Are you preparing for a driver’s license exam? Please visit our Driver’s License Test Directory.