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Are the DMV Practice Tests Enough?

The Secret Behind Passing the DMV Exam

We asked Joni Stark, an experienced driving instructor: What is the secret behind passing the DMV exam? Is it enough to just take the DMV practice tests?

“There is no secret and no magic formula for passing the written exam. The exam is constructed in a way to make sure an applicant has the necessary knowledge to become a safe driver”, Joni says.

But many test takers complain that there are questions not related to safe driving?

“I am sure students feel that way sometimes. But, the more you know, the better driver you will be. I think it’s a good thing to make sure our teens really understand that driving a motor vehicle is a serious undertaking”, Joni says.

Woman with car keys - Copyright : Olena Mykhaylova

What is the Best Way to Study for the DMV Exam?

Joni stark has the following advice to anyone who is taking the driver’s license or permit exam the first time.

It is important to remember, she says, that no two people study the exact same way. What works for some, may not work for others. Researchers, however, say that there are some general methods that get better results than other methods.

You will probably be surprised to find that some of the study techniques you were taught at school may not work as well as you think.

1. Get Motivated

The first thing is to get motivated.

With a driver’s license comes a privilege and more freedom. It also comes with a great responsibility. You don’t just learn for the DMV exam. You learn for many years ahead. Try to motivate yourself to learn beyond the written knowledge exam.

It is important that you keep your skills and new knowledge updated and fresh. It will be of great help to you not only on the test, but also in the future.

Statistics show that about six (6) teenagers ages 16-19 die every day from motor vehicle accidents. The risk of being involved in a fatal accident is particularly high during the first months after getting a driver’s license.

You don’t want to become one of those numbers.

2. Manage Your Time

It is a good idea to scan the driver’s manual and understand what you need to learn. Content may not seem to be much, but every word in that manual counts. Questions on your final DMV exam will be drawn from all parts of the manual.

Set aside enough time under a longer period. Make sure you don’t rush through everything in a week or two. That kind of knowledge will disappear just as quickly.

Try to develop a study plan that you can stick to. Divide your studies between reading the manual and taking practice tests. Study when you are alert, rested, and have planned for it. Reading the manual or taking practice test when you are stressed is not a good idea.

3. Be Effective

Repetition means reviewing and rereading information again and again until you have grasped the concept. Even if there is no right or wrong way to study, repetition usually does not work well when studying for your driver’s license. It is because repetition is based on passive learning. It may not be effective. It also takes time

Active learning is the opposite. It is a method in which you are actively involved in the learning process.

Discussing safe driving or traffic rules with peers or parents is one example of active learning. Discussions triggers deeper thinking and allows you to describe things in your own words. That kind of knowledge sticks better.

Students using computer - Copyright : Wavebreak Media Ltd

4. Don’t be a Loner

Reading something in the manual may not always give you good picture of how that knowledge is applied in real life. This is where peers, parents, or other adults come in the picture.

Taking a few practice tests together with an experience driver is probably the best thing you can do. Discuss questions, look them up in the driver’s manual and try to understand why this rule or practice exist.

5. How to Use Practice Tests

Taking practice tests is not necessarily the same as active learning. A student who takes practice tests and passively looks for correct answers to memorize will often score lower than students who actively try to analyze questions and answers and try to understand the concept behind them.

Instead of jumping from question to question on a practice test, look at each question and ask yourself if it covers the information in the driver’s manual. Can it be asked differently? Are there alternative answers? This is an effective way of using both the manual and the practice questions.

6. Avoid Distractions and Know When You Are Ready

When you score more than 92% on the practice tests, you have probably covered all the important items in the driver’s manual. But it may also indicate that you just took enough practice tests to memorize the answers. Make sure you know which.

Stressed - Copyright : Marcos Calvo Mesa

7. Know When You Are NOT Ready

Don’t take a final exam after scoring no more than 80% on the practice tests. Even if 80% is the passing score in your state, you are still missing 1 out of every 5 questions, which is way one too many.

Stay focused and change your study plan as needed. Don’t attempt the real exam too soon, even if you think you will pass or if some of your friends passed.

8. The Written Knowledge Exam

With a good study plan, you have set aside time for reading the manual, discussing driving with others, and taking practice tests. The same thing should apply for the day of the final exam.

Don’t try to squeeze in the DMV exam between school and basketball practice. Know well ahead of time when to take the exam. Avoid any last minute distractions. Get a good night sleep and make sure you feel comfortable with taking the test. Set aside enough time to take the exam.

A lot of us are nervous when we need to take a test. It is normal. Don’t stress yourself. Just tell yourself you can do it. Because you can.

Practice Tests for Your State

Photo copyright: Olena Mykhaylova, Marcos Calvo Mesa, and Wavebreak Media Ltd


  1. Aniesa Samad May 2, 2018

    hey i passed with 19/20 which is 70% yayyy

  2. Alison Johnson October 19, 2016

    I past the driver’s test. The practical remains difficult for me as TN does not provide a vehicle to complete it in.

  3. Alison Johnson October 19, 2016

    I am an adult who hasn’t learn to drive. I am having extreme difficulties locating a proper school and or instructor to assist me in this. In TN it also appears that one has o have their own car to do the practical- that doesn’t seem right as I am wanting to drive but, cannot do so so why would I have a car? On this site is says that Mrs. Stark is an experienced instructor, But I have yet to meet one as she. The last test I failed was the practical the instructor simply stated that I was nervous and she failed to list any wrong thing I had done, which I hadn’t done anything wrong, she simply didn’t go by the point system and there was nothing that I could have done to say different. I really needed to have this done as I am nearing 40 and cannot seem to get this behind me. Please, please advise.

    • The examiner is in his or her right to immediately cancel the road test if the applicant seems unfit to drive. Most people don’t realize that emotions affect their driving. Being overly nervous about the test can certainly make you a bad driver. So my advice is simple. Start by putting this bad experience behind you. Don’t think of the examiner as unjust or unfair. It won’t help.

      If you (at least to the examiner) seemed overly nervous, that is something you must work on. I can think of two possible reasons for your nervousness: test situation or lack of driving experience. Perhaps even a combination of the two. So, driving lessons will certainly help in either case.

      If you have no friends or family nearby that you can practice driving with, expand your search of driving schools. Find a driving school that you can reach by public transportation or one that someone can help you get to. Most driving school can offer different packages, depending on your experience and how quickly you need your license. Explain your situation and they should be able to help. It may cost a bit, but you will be thankful later. Remember, a driving lesson mimic a road test in many ways. You will become more comfortable with having someone beside you that focus on your driving skills. Hopefully, it will help in the test situation as well.

      You may also want to ask if they can help with a car for the exam. Some schools do. Otherwise, you have to look to friends and family again (it must have worked the last time). DMV never provides a vehicle for the exam.

      Good luck!

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