How Is the Colorado Driving Test Scored?

driving on a colorado road

Passing the Colorado driving test after you’ve taken your drivers ed course is an important milestone in any new driver's life. Knowing how the test is scored and what the instructors will be looking for during the test will help you prepare properly and learn the most important elements of learning to drive. 

Below we have provided information on the different sections of the driving test, what types of maneuvers the instructors look for during the test, and how the test is scored.

Pre-driving Checklist — Before the Test Begins

There is not a Colorado practice driving test, so make sure you have had plenty of driving practice with a parent before you take the official driving test. You'll also want to make sure you've already taken the Colorado practice permit test and received your permit.

Before you start your vehicle, the instructor will complete a preliminary inspection to ensure it complies with Colorado state laws. The following points are just a few of the things that the instructor will examine:

  • Driver's window.

  • Rearview mirrors.

  • Tires.

  • Headlights.

  • Emergency brake.

  • Backup lights.

  • Turn signals — left and right.

  • Horn.

  • Emergency flashers.

In addition to making sure your vehicle is in proper working order, you will also need to show proof of insurance and current registration. If you do not have the proper registration, you can get the appropriate information from the Colorado DMV.

Important Testing Sections — What Is the Instructor Watching?

Once the pre-driving checklist is completed, it's time for the test to begin. Your instructor will have you perform a number of different maneuvers and drive in different areas of town including the freeway or highway, residential districts, business districts, through intersections, and more. 

You will be scored on how you do within each section. To pass the test, you must have three or fewer errors under the pre-drive checklist section, numbers 9-14. You must also have fewer than 15 errors under the scoring maneuvers section, which includes:

  • Highway or freeway driving including entering and exiting, merging, and lane use.

  • Intersections — includes through intersections where there are no stop signs present and intersections that require stopping and starting.

  • Lane changes.

  • Parking lot driving.

  • Turning — includes approaching the turn, stopping before turning, and completing the turn.

  • Backing.

  • Residential/rural and business/urban driving.

As you complete the above maneuvers, the instructor will mark you off for any infractions you commit and will add notes as appropriate to the sheet.

We talked to Derek Kuhn from the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles about the most common mistakes that new drivers make. "The most common issue our Driver Testing and Education team members see is that applicants do not scan properly at all intersections," noted Kuhn.

"Scanning intersections is very important when driving because not doing so could lead to an accident involving vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians."

Critical Driving Errors — Avoiding the Immediate Fail

There are several things you can do that would result in what is called a critical driving error. Any of these actions listed result in the immediate failure of the driving test:

  • Intervention by examiner.

  • Striking objects or curbs.

  • Disobeying traffic signs or signals.

  • Disobeying safety vehicle or personnel.

  • Dangerous maneuvers.

  • Speeding.

  • Auxiliary equipment use.

  • Lane violations.

"The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles always encourages motorists to drive safely and follow all driving laws," said Kuhn, which is why this list results in an automatic fail.

How to Pass Your Colorado Driving Test

Now that you are aware of the different driving maneuvers you will be tested on, how many errors you are permitted to make, and what critical driving errors to avoid, you can get started on a Colorado practice driving test or a Colorado practice permit test. If you're taking a driver's ed course, most instructors are friendly and will do their best to help you while determining whether you are ready to drive on your own