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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.

You must also understand and apply rules of right-of-way, which includes maintaining a space cushion with a four-second following distance.

If you go over the speed limit or roll past a stop sign or red light without stopping, you can expect to fail your road test. And, don't forget the basics of putting on your safety belt and placing both hands on the wheel.

The California Driving Test

While it may feel like an eternity, the road test is only 20 minutes. During the test, the examiner will ask you to perform several things to demonstrate your skills as a safe and confident driver.

Be sure to listen to what the examiner is asking you to do and don't be afraid to ask questions if you're unclear. It's okay to feel nervous, but the examiner is there to help you and make sure you're ready to be a safe, legal driver!

The examiner will note and grade your alertness and how you obey the rules of the road. You will also be marked on how well you share space and communicate with other users of the road. Some of the required maneuvers include:

  • Following other traffic
  • Starting your vehicle
  • Merging to traffic
  • Backing up
  • Parallel parking
  • Making a U-turn
  • Pulling over to the side of the road and stopping
  • Moving away from a parked position onto the road

California Safe Driving Test Checklist

Here are few of the things (along with tips) that are included on a driving test. Practicing each maneuver several times with a supervising adult will help you ace the driving test:

  • Speed limits - Never exceed these and remember to reduce speed due to conditions.
  • Crosswalks - Be careful to always spot these and if your view is obstructed, proceed slowly with caution looking both ways.
  • Parking - Parallel parking and 2- and 3-point turns.
  • Stopping - Know where to stop. Braking must be gentle and complete.
  • Lane changes - Signal all turns and lane changes 100 ft before your intended turn, and turn your signal off after you've completed the maneuver.
  • Defensive driving - Follow at a safe distance and be on guard for other drivers and the mistakes they can make.
  • Steering - Be smooth and in control.
  • Acceleration - Be in control and don't stall the engine or make it race.
  • Transmission - Know what gear you are in, what gear you should be in, and don't grind gears when shifting.
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