Are Online DMV Practice Tests Good or Bad?

Derek Thompson, a retired driver instructor from Pennsylvania, does not like our online DMV practice tests. He says that the explosion of online practice tests for DMV exams have created a new generation of young people who master the DMV examination, but have no a clue about rules of the road.

We, of course, got curios and had to find out what he means.

Not Meaningful Learning

If young people pass their DMV tests the first time with the help of online permit practice tests, isn’t that a good thing?

Derek: Just recognizing questions and answers from an online DMV practice test may help you pass your examination, but it will not make you a good driver. It is not meaningful learning.

So what is meaningful learning?

Derek: Memorization is useful when it comes to numbers and vocabulary – like when you are learning a new language. When you are learning about safety and driving, you need to understand the whys and the hows. To me, it is all about knowledge and attitudes. Sorry to say, many teenagers today don’t get the most important message of all: driving is a privilege, not a right. They only focus on their written exam, and lose the big picture.

The DMV Sample Tests are Different

Nearly all state departments dealing with motor vehicles, licensing or public safety have some sort of sample tests, like the ones on PennDot You also have several private websites. Isn’t variety good?

Derek: The sample tests on the DMV homepage just shows you a glimpse of how a test is constructed and what you should expect. They don’t lure you into thinking that you will get all answers for free and without having to study.

We always stress that anyone using our website must read the driver handbook and fully understand the content.

Derek: But do they?

I believe most students do. But there will, of course, always be people who wants to cheat on high-stakes tests. For different reasons. That will happen with or without online DMV practice tests, won’t it?

Derek: Teenagers will not work hard when they have a perfectly good excuse for being lazy. Any parent knows that. To me, tests on internet are that excuse.

How Important are the Written Knowledge Tests?

But studies show that safe driving and security has very little to do with the written knowledge tests. States with more, and perhaps harder, questions don’t get better drivers on the road.

Derek: I disagree, true knowledge and safe driving are strongly correlated. A driver with knowledge, skill, and the right attitude has a much lower risk of being involved in accidents. Otherwise, we wouldn’t invest so much in safe driving classes.

I agree that attitude and conscientiousness play a significant role.

Derek: A knowledge test is supposed to focus on that as well. But if you are just repeating things you have seen on an online practice test, there is no real impact on your attitude and conscientiousness. You have, sort of, missed the point.

The Solution?

So what is the solution?

Derek: 25 questions on a knowledge test and 15 minutes behind the wheel on a road test is not enough to evaluate a person’s knowledge, skills, and attitude. I think sites like this have taken DMV a bit by surprise. They need to adapt and change, making DMV practice tests like this less important. The Graduated Driver program is as step in the right direction. Otherwise DMV tests in US haven’t changed much in several decades. It is time to rethink a lot of things. I hope that will happen soon.

Photo copyright: Warren Goldswain.
Photo is illustration only and does not show people in this post.