7 Important Reminders for the DMV Written Test

Touching screen - Copyright: Andriy Popov

The DMV Written Practice Test Industry

Since 2008, when licenseroute.com started, the DMV written practice test industry has grown tremendously. You can’t search for the words DMV written test without getting a result with numerous websites. These sites offer practice tests and dozens of tips – solicited and unsolicited – on how to ace the test.

It has become difficult to single out the good from the bad or the pros from the amateurs.

Many claim to have the real DMV questions, giving you the impression that you can rely solely on the practice tests to pass the knowledge examination. But replacing real knowledge with memorized phrases is a dangerous study tactic.

Your memorized phrases are also less likely to be on the test because the websites don’t have access to the real tests. They just want you to believe that.

Practice tests are a learning tool, not a cheat sheet.

Expert DMV instructors and driving school teachers have helped me compiled a list of the most important things to consider when you prepare for the examination day. Here are some things you should know:


1. Study the Handbook

Surveys show that students spend less time with the state driver handbook than ever before. It is a shame, since the handbook outline all the information you need to know for the examination. In most states, the handbook is also an excellent source when you need to check facts or refresh your knowledge. States have different laws for when it is legal/illegal to pass a stopped school bus, turning against a red arrow, and many other things. Most of us don’t always remember those rules if we don’t encounter the situation daily.

But you need to know them for the DMV test!

The handbook is usually free (some states charge a low fee for it) and available at your local DMV office. There is also a PDF-version online at the DMV website. In some states, you can also get audio-files and you can download the booklet as an app on your phone.

study the driver handbook

2. Talk to Others

Getting ready for your DMV written test is more than just passing the knowledge examination. You are learning for life and need to be the best driver you can possibly be. After all, your life and health may depend on you being a safe and defensive driver.

This isn’t always obvious to new students. As with all tests, the school-mentally takes over. You study for the DMV writing test by yourself as if it is just another school test.

You should try to break this study habit. Approach your DMV driving test with curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Discuss traffic rules and driving rules with others. Go online and read about vehicles and road safety. There is always something to learn. Engage in forums about driving. Active learning helps you digest the content of a driver handbook much faster. You will also retain the knowledge much longer.

Talk to friends - Copyright: Ammentorp


3. Write

Writing or taking notes is another approach to active learning. Some will say that notes should be kept short and simple. They also say that notes just serve one simple purpose – to help you remember information.

This is not true. You should use notes to rewrite information with your own words. The longer, the better. This triggers a reflecting process which promotes learning.

Short and automatic notes won’t really help, no matter how well you organize them. They have the same low effect on your learning as highlighting, underlining, and rereading the text in your textbook. It becomes static.


4. Understand How Multiple-Choice Tests Work

Knowledge of rules of the road is by far the best strategy when taking the written DMV test, but knowing how multiple-choice tests work may help you when you don’t know an answer.

Do you see the choices “None of the above” or “All of the above” on your test? Then you have an advantage over the test maker. Research shows that this choice tends to be correct most of the time.

Start by looking closely at each choice. If you have “all of the above” as one choice and at least one other choice seems correct, then “all of the above” is most likely your answer. Same thing with “none of the above. If at least one other choice seems false, then all choices are most likely false. Go with “none of the above”.

Creators of multiple-choice tests only use these options when there are many things you should do or many things you must not do. If the first approach doesn’t pan out, ask yourself if there are several possible answers to the question. There usually is.

But since each question should have only one correct answer, the use of “All of the above” and “None of the above” on tests is considered bad practice today. We also see less and less of these questions today.

Do you need to make a wild guess? Look at the length of all answers. A test maker must make sure that a correct choice is indisputably right. This may require more qualifying language. If a choice is noticeably longer than the others and you must guess; go with the longest sentence.

Test makers often construct false choices by using qualifiers like always or never. Unless the question is directly related to traffic laws, such words may stand out and warn you that the answer is incorrect. Conditional phrases with words like “usually”, “normally”, or “in most situations” are more likely to be correct.

Be aware of unnecessary details that may change over time. Motor Vehicle Departments are reluctant to modify tests just because small details like speed limits, penalties, and demerit points change. Updating tests costs money and much administration. That is why a test-maker don’t use this kind of facts, unless they are obviously wrong.

dmv written test - copyright: California DMV Practice Test

In this question, all choices sound plausible, right? But there is no “All of the above” and two answers have details that are very likely to change over time. If you don’t know the answer and are forced to guess, go with the one that may be true over a longer period of time.


5. Take Written Practice Tests

A DMV written practice test serves two purposes:

  • You familiarize yourself with the test format.
  • You get instant feedback on your current knowledge level.

With challenging practice tests, you will also improve your test-taking “endurance” and learn how to pace yourself and read everything twice. You should know that most errors on a DMV exam are made by users who knew the answer, but answered a question too quickly.

You should take as many practice tests as you can and try to learn from every single mistake. Read critically and check facts with your driver handbook.


6. Don’t Attempt the Real Written DMV Test Too Soon

You are probably eager to get your learner’s permit. With eagerness, it is also tempting to try to take shortcuts. Don’t.

Waiting for the dmv written test - copyright: vadimgozhda

For one thing, shortcuts can be mentally damaging. You don’t want to earn your learner’s permit without having a first clue about road signs, safe driving techniques and state laws. Others will know if you cheated your way to your permit or driver’s license and you won’t be a hero in their eyes. They will see you as a failure, even if you passed your exam.

And don’t think that it is all common sense. If the population of this country all had the same common sense, it could be a different matter. But there is no universal common sense. Everyone has their own definition.

Once you got your permit and driver’s license, you will understand what I mean!

Not even laws make common sense, sometimes. But there is always a very good reason behind them. You just need to find out what these reasons are.

Passing the DMV exam and becoming an excellent driver require some self-investment. It won’t happen overnight. Adopt a healthy mindset and set up a realistic goal. Driving is fun and you don’t want it to end just because you didn’t bother to learn the rules.

A DMV written practice test will give you a hint of your progress. Aim for a score of 95 – 100 %. Friends and family can also help with honest feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask them.


7. Know When to Move On

Use your time at the DMV office wisely and don’t be put down by impossible questions. If you have absolutely no idea how to answer a question, move on! Focus on the questions you know the answer to.

Touching screen - Copyright: Andriy Popov

Nearly all states allow you to save a question on the DMV written test until the end of the test. If you reach your passing score before that, you will not see your skipped questions again. The test will simply terminate when you have passed.

If it isn’t possible to skip questions, make an educated guess (see above). If you get it wrong, don’t beat yourself up over it. Be realistic about your abilities and knowledge. Make your best guess and move on!

If you follow our advice, you will only see one or two questions that you don’t know the answer to. That basically happens to everyone.

Photo copyrights: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo, vadimgozhda / 123RF Stock Photo, dotmatchbox, California DMV Practice Test, and Andriy Popov

4 Comments on 7 Important Reminders for the DMV Written Test

  1. Janae spence // April 6, 2021 at 2:22 pm // Reply

    I don’t understand why you all keep changing the answers when I go to the DMV and then that’s why I’ll be failing my test because I wanna put random answers that’s not even in the book

    • I sense your frustration over not passing the DMV test and it seems like we have given you the wrong expectations.

      You will not pass a DMV exam by just memorizing answers from a practice test.

      First thing to understand is that test questions ARE random, meaning not two test takers will get exactly the same test.

      Are answers random? Well, it depends on what you mean. Look at this example:

      When driving in fog, drivers should:

      • a. slow down
      • b. use high-beam headlights
      • c. decrease their following distance

      The answer is found in a handbook paragraph like this: “Always slow down when driving in fog. Headlights should be kept on low beam and fog lights should be turned on, if the vehicle has them.”

      But the question can also look like this:

      When driving in fog, drivers should:

      • a. increase speed to keep traction
      • b. use low-beam headlights
      • c. decrease their following distance

      The bottom line: every question can have several different answers that are correct.

      All answers should, however, be found in your state’s drivers manual. We may stretch this a bit sometimes to encourage true learning, but we don’t, as an example, ask you about what to do in case of a car fire, if that isn’t mentioned in the manual.

      If you still think you have found such questions on your state’s practice test, let us know and we will review them.

  2. Online drivers ed texas // November 18, 2017 at 7:56 am // Reply

    Great post! these 7 tips are really informative and valuable specially for new learner in USA.

  3. All the comments and suggestions are practical and applicable to all test takers….kudos to the people behind these website.

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