How to Prepare for Your DMV Driving Test

January 27, 2012

When you are going for your DMV driving test, there are some documents you are required to bring on the day of your exam, and some skills you need to have mastered.

You are required to bring certain things to your test site. The person who will be grading you will ask for proof of insurance, proof of registration (if it is your car) and proof of identity. They will also have you pay your fees for the exam, if you haven't done so already. If you are under 18 years of age, you need to provide a certificate stating that you completed the required number of hours behind the wheels with a supervised driver. The number of hours varies state to state.

Before the Test
Before the test begins, check the lights on the dashboard, your mirrors, etc. Your tester will be in the car with you, so doing these checks shows that you know what you are doing behind the wheel of a vehicle. Also, your examiner will make sure the car is in good working order, so make sure beforehand nothing is wrong with the car, or you will be asked to come back at another date.

During the Test
The DMV driving test is not a long test at all. Make sure you are in control of the vehicle at all times, and that you are observant of everything going on around you. The examiner will tell you to start the car, and then you should do your checks of your mirrors, safety belts, and other things again before you start moving. The examiner will direct you on a drive that will include various situations. Some of the things are simple, like making a right turn, or stopping at a stop sign.

There are usually three main things that all DMV tests have in common: a three point turn, parallel parking and a left turn at an intersection. Make sure you signal to both sides during this process, as well as look multiple ways. The parallel parking can make or break you. If you hit the curb or a car, that can be an automatic fail in some states, but usually it is about half your points taken off. The left at the intersection is to make sure that you yield to those with right of way. Other parts of the test include things like making sure you yield to a pedestrian, making sure you signal when necessary and that you observe all traffic laws and speed limits.

Signs You'll Be Tested On
Street signs are one of the items covered on the test for a driver's license or learner's permit. Knowing and understanding what street signs mean will help you answer your DMV test questions correctly.

  • Colors on signs. The colors on signs have significant meanings. Yellow signs shaped like diamonds provide warnings, like those warning of deer in the area. Yellow signs of any shape that have a bright, fluorescent yellow or green background warns of children in the area, pedestrians or the possibility of bicyclists. White, rectangular signs indicate a rule that has to be followed such as the speed limit, no parking, no turns, no passing, etc. You can get a ticket for not doing what these signs say. Red signs are placed for the safety of a driver and must be obeyed. Examples of these include "Do Not Enter" or "Wrong Way" signs. Signs that have a red circle outline with a line through it mean you can't do a particular action. For example, when there's a circle with a line placed over an arrow pointing to the right, this means "Right turn not permitted."
  • Arrows on signs. When you see signs with arrows, these warn about which way traffic is going. Arrows on signs may indicate one or two-way traffic, upcoming curves on the road, the addition of lanes, merging traffic and if a divided highway is starting or ending. Some signs that are similar to signs with arrows are those whose lines don't have a triangular top. These will warn of upcoming intersections, lane changes, crossroads, or let you know the road is slippery when wet
  • Stop and yield. An eight-sided red sign with "STOP" written in big white letters in the middle of it means just what it says. You have to come to a complete stop at a white limit line, crosswalk, or at the corner where the sign is. A yellow sign that looks like an upside-down triangle is a yield sign. A yield sign can also be white with a red border. When you see a yield sign, you have to slow down and possibly stop for other vehicles, pedestrians, or people on bicycles, as they have the right-of-way
  • Railroad crossing. A yellow circle with a big X in it, with the letter R on either side of the X tells a driver that a railroad crossing is coming soon. At a railroad crossing, the sign will be shaped like the letter X and have a white background with black font. When you see the x-shaped sign, slow down and be prepared to stop in case a train is approaching. The train will always have the right-of-way

The signs you'll be tested on are logical and pretty straight forward. Take the time to review them when you study for your driver's license exam so you can feel confident answering the questions about them.

After Your Driving Test
After you successfully complete your DMV driving test, you are eligible for a driver's license. Under most circumstances, passing the standard test authorizes you to apply for a class C license, used for driving standard citizen automobiles. Separate tests are required for other types of licenses to drive semi trucks, limos and other atypical vehicles.

Immediately after Completing the Test
In all cases, you will complete a series of forms at the DMV in order to apply for the license card itself. You will also need to pay a small processing fee and have your picture taken for the license card. Some states also require that you have a thumb print or other identifying test to add additional information to the face of the license. After completing the forms and payment, you submit your information to the DMV and await their processing of your license. This typically takes somewhere between one and three weeks. The DMV will mail your completed license card to the address you provided to them. In the meantime, they issue you a temporary license card that is valid for a short period of time and designed to provide you a form of government-issued identification while you wait for your real license to be printed and mailed to you.

After You've Received Your License
Once you receive the license card in the mail, the temporary license card becomes invalid and you may throw it out. Keep your new license with you as a means of photo identification at all times and protect it in a safe place. You may be required to present it even if you're not driving a car.

If you are under 18 and are receiving your license for the first time, you'll have to pay careful attention to the rules applying to new drivers. These differ somewhat according to the state, but generally mandate the total number of people who may be in the car at one time while you're driving, as well as the hours you may drive. It is also a good idea to review the basic traffic safety information found in the DMV handbook.

For those who are returning drivers or who had to complete a driving test as part of the license renewal process, these special probationary rules do not generally apply. Some drivers who have had their licenses suspended or revoked previously may be under certain special rules. It is important that you be aware of these if that is the circumstance.