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How to Ace the Road Test

Once you've obtained your learner's permit and completed your state's other requirements, you'll be eligible to take the road test for your driver's license. To get you ready for the big day, follow these tips to give yourself the best chance at passing the test on your first attempt.

For information about what to do prior to taking the road test, check out our sections on applying for a license for teens or adults.

Practice Your Driving Skills

Like anything else, practicing your skills ahead of time will help you calm your nerves and gain confidence for test day.

Some tips that can help you make the most of your practice time include:

  • Starting out in an empty parking lot or residential street with low traffic to gain confidence.
  • Having your parents give you constructive feedback while you're behind the wheel.
    • Though criticism can be difficult, use the opportunity to improve your driving.
    • If real-time feedback is too distracting, ask your parent to give you an assessment at each stop sign. Alternatively, set up specific checkpoints where you will pull over (into a parking lot or onto a side street), where your parent can give you tips and feedback before moving on.
  • Taking a driver training course.
    • Though these aren't free, signing up for this service is a good way to practice for the test.
    • Instructors will simulate the test conditions, which will improve your knowledge and help you gain comfort behind the wheel.

Remember that the more you practice, the more your skills will become second nature.

Know the Rules—and Make them Habit

You'll need to do more than memorize the rules of the road to pass the driving test. You'll need to have practiced those rules so many times that they are now second nature, and part of your habitual reactions on the road.

As you practice driving with an experienced adult, have them test you on your knowledge and application of:

  • Passing laws.
    • This includes passing in the correct lane and knowing when passing other vehicles is prohibited.
  • Road signs.
  • Traffic signals.
    • Including flashing yellow and flashing red lights.
  • Speed limits.
    • Including reduced speed requirements for weather conditions, construction, etc.
  • Safe following distances.
  • Signaling for lane changes and turns.

Before the test, it might be a good idea to reread your state's driver's manual or take an online practice test to refresh your memory of the rules and regulations of the road that could show up during your test.

Simulate the Road Test

Simulating the test several times with a supervising adult prior to test day is usually a good idea. If it's possible, head to the local DMV you plan to test at, and drive around on the same roads you'll be tested on.

A few of the things you'll want to practice that are usually included on most driving tests include:

  • Parking.
    • Using parking spaces.
    • 2- and 3-point turns.
    • Parallel parking.
  • Stopping.
    • Checking for oncoming traffic.
    • Maintaining distance behind crosswalks or stop lines.
    • Making a complete stop at stop signs.
    • Knowing how to use your emergency brake.
  • Turns.
    • Gradual slowing leading into turns.
    • Yielding right of way in intersections.
  • Lane changes.
    • Using proper signals.
    • Checking mirrors before the attempt is made.
    • Ensuring a vehicle isn't in your blind spot.
    • Maintaining speed.
    • Accelerating when entering freeways.
  • Defensive driving techniques.
    • Following at a safe distance.
    • Using mirrors before braking.
    • Checking signal lights and signs for safety.
    • Reacting to possible hazards.

Remember, too, that some states will put tips and scoring guidelines for their road tests on their DMV website, which can be excellent resources as you practice.

Additional Tips for Test Day

If you've put in the time and practiced each of the required skills, you'll have fewer reasons to be nervous.

On the day of the test, remember these tips to stay calm and be confident:

  • Focus on your driving, not the examiner.
    • Spending your energy focusing on the actual test, and the person testing you, can lead to mistakes. Instead focus on your driving and make good, sound decisions just as you've done during practice.
  • Don't worry about mistakes.
    • If you do happen to make a mistake during the road test, move on. Worrying about what's just happened can have a compounding effect and lead to even more mistakes.
    • Remember that if you make a mistake and don't pass the test, most states allow multiple retests.
  • Be comfortable with your vehicle.
    • It's generally a good idea to test in the same vehicle you've been practicing with.
    • The night before, make sure you adjust your mirrors and check that your vehicle's turn signals, lights, and brakes are working properly to avoid any headaches the morning of the test.
    • Know how to turn on your windshield wipers, heating/cooling system, radio, etc., should your test administrator ask you to demonstrate these elements.

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