What’s on the Road Test?
Whether you’re just starting to think about drivers education, are already taking in-car driving lessons or are almost ready for your road test, you might have one thing on your mind: “Exactly what’s on the road test, anyway?”
We’re here to give you an idea of how to prepare for the road test, what to expect during the road test and importantly, how to pass the road test.
The Road Test Basics: How Long Will it Take and What Will Be Assessed?
The first thing to be aware of: the DMV road test does vary between states. Therefore, exact timings and assessments will differ from state to state, but the road test might be shorter than you think.
Dylan Russell, Regional Operations Manager for DriversEd.com in Georgia, said: “The test in most U.S. states takes 10-15 minutes to complete and is the most basic assessment of a driver’s ability to control a vehicle. Interestingly, many people call our office all the time simply asking if we can teach them how to parallel park or pass the road test, even though they have no basic driving experience.
“The answer I’ve always provided to potential clients is ‘As a by-product of our all-encompassing methodology of instruction, passing a simple road test will not be an issue for you. Our goal is to ensure you have the fundamental skills to interpret your driving environment and make the correct decision each time you are behind the wheel.’
“Passing the road test and getting a license does not mean someone is, by default, a ‘safe and crash-free driver.’ We need to ensure everyone understands the importance of obtaining the correct type of driving experience.”
So, what does this mean for you? It means, learning to drive should be about learning to drive safe, and drive SMART. The goal is not simply to pass that road test. Although, passing the test is of course an important milestone on the journey to a lifetime of safe driving.
How to Prepare for the Road Test
As with any test, the road test requires preparation. Make sure you have plenty of sleep the night before, try to remain calm and leave yourself plenty of time to get to your appointment early.
To be able to take the road test, you’ll need to have the following:
• A registered vehicle in good operating condition
• Proof of registration and insurance for the vehicle
• Valid learner’s permit
• Proof of your completed and signed parent/teen driving log, if applicable *
• Certification of completion of drivers education, if applicable *
Some states have additional requirements. For example, in Texas, you’ll need to take your Certificate of Completion of ITTD Impact Video and DL40 form/have a parent sign for permission for you to take the test. In Georgia, you’ll need to take Alcohol Drug Awareness Program (ADAP) certification and school attendance record to your road test.
*State requirements vary; always check with your local DMV office.
Vehicle Knowledge for the Road Test
Being familiar with your vehicle and how to operate the controls is at the heart of safe, SMART driving. And that’s why your knowledge of your vehicle will be assessed during your road test!
In the road test, you will most likely be asked to demonstrate things like:
• Turning on the windshield wipers
• Turning on the headlights
• Switching the heaters on and off
Of course, by the time you take your road test, you should have spent hours and hours behind that wheel – in all traffic and weather conditions – so will already be extremely familiar with all of your vehicle’s controls.
Basic Maneuvers on the Road Test
During the road test, your examiner will want to see evidence that you can perform basic maneuvers – these shows that you are able to control your vehicle. You’ll usually head to a parking lot or a quiet residential area, where the road test examiner will ask you to perform maneuvers such as:
• Starting and stopping
• Acceleration and braking
• Backing up
• Using signals
• Parallel parking
• Checking mirrors
Evaluation of Driving Skills on the Road Test
The road test examiner will want to see how you drive on roads with other traffic. This demonstrates your ability to share the road safely with others, respond to road signs and traffic signals and also adapt your driving behavior to suit conditions.
Usually, the road test examiner will be assessing driving skills such as how you:
• Change lanes
• Approach corners/intersections
• Make a left turn
• Make a right turn
The road test examiner might also assess your understanding of right of way, traffic signals and traffic signs. The examiner might even want to see evidence of the correct posture when driving, so be sure to sit in a way that enables you to safely control your vehicle and see around you as clearly as possible.
Demonstrating Knowledge During the Road Test
It is important to remember that road test examiners are not only making assessments each time they ask you to do something. They are also very alert to your attitude and your knowledge of the road environment. You’ll be expected to demonstrate a safe following distance without being asked to, for example. And you’ll also be expected to automatically fasten your safety belt and hold the steering wheel with both hands.
You’re unlikely to know which roads your examiner will use for your road test until the test itself, so you need to be confident in all driving situations. This includes:
• Driving through school zones
• Knowing how to respond to school buses with flashing lights
• Dealing with emergency vehicles
• Stopping at railroad crossings
• Handling a traffic jam
• Giving way to pedestrians
• Merging safely
• Using roundabouts
If you are not 100% comfortable in every driving situation, not just those listed above, you might want to practice driving a bit more before signing up for the road test.
REMEMBER: Being a Safe Driver Extends Beyond the Requirements of the Road Test
Taking any test can be nerve-wracking. But taking your road test shouldn’t be. Why? Because, if you’ve completed all the steps required by your state and fulfilled way beyond the minimum teen-parent driving hours, you should have gained more than enough driving experience to prepare you for the road test.
Kris Kluis, Regional Driving Instructor Trainer & Recruiter for DriversEd.com, said: “Our goal is to create crash-free drivers for life vs. just passing the little road test. Therefore, the best thing our instructors can do is focus more on crash-free tips and techniques vs. intense focus on the road test.
“Of course, we do prepare students for the road test. In California, toward the end of lesson #3 (or the 6th hour), our instructors go over our road test sheet in detail. This test sheet is very similar to what the road test examiner will have and grade them on during the actual road test. The sheet is also left with the students and parents to have for future reference. They can ask any questions they like about it, so there is no secret about what is going to be expected of them on the road test.
“Even though a student might not realize it, our lesson plans prepare them for the skills that are expected on the road test. However, our focus remains firmly on crash-free driving, rather than simply the mindset of just passing the test.”
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