Driving Exams in California

A California drivers test is required before any candidate can obtain his or her learners permit, drivers license or motorcycle license. Some motorists may also be required to take a drivers exam when renewing a license or replacing a lost license. In other situations, a driving exam may be required for adult applicants who have never held a license, or for applicants who wish to remove a driving restriction that was put in place due to a vision problem or physical condition. California’s drivers tests include a written drivers test, road skills test and vision exam. Each driving test ensures that drivers know the rules of driving and can operate a vehicle safely. Driver tests are administered by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A drivers license test requires every motorist to demonstrate his or her ability to understand and follow traffic rules in the presence of a DMV test administrator. Passing a CA DMV drivers test requires applicants to study and practice skills ahead of time. Before taking a driver test in California, review the information presented below. Drivers can also prepare for driving exams by downloading our comprehensive guide.

California Driving Test Vision Test Requirements

CA DMV driver tests require that applicants have a certain standard of eyesight. Driving test applicants who wear corrective lenses are required to wear their glasses or contact lenses during the vision test. The DMV tests vision in each eye individually, then both eyes together. The drivers test vision screening uses two methods: a printed chart with rows of letters and an electronic screening machine that measures color vision, visual acuity and peripheral vision. California driving test applicants who fail the vision screenings may still have other options.

California Written Drivers Exam

The California written drivers exam is designed to test your knowledge of driving techniques and CA traffic laws. You can prepare by taking a drivers ed test for practice and reviewing the California Driver Handbook. You can also increase your chances of passing the drivers license written test by downloading our detailed guide, which includes information about drivers ed tests.

In California, the written drivers test includes 46 questions. You must get at least 38 of the driving exam answers correct to pass your test. The written DMV test can include a wide variety of topics. It is important to study all of the topics covered in the drivers manual, including situations you do not think you would encounter. The written driving test may cover topics such as:

  • When to notify the DMV after buying or selling a vehicle.
  • How to drive in foggy or rainy conditions.
  • Being aware of blind spots and changing lanes safely.
  • What to do in a traffic collision.
  • How to interpret signs and painted road markings.

Driving Skills Tests in California

The road skills portion of the California drivers license exam allows you to demonstrate your safe driving skills. At the beginning of the driving test, the DMV instructor will have you demonstrate adjusting the seat and mirrors, fastening your safety belt, starting the vehicle and putting it in gear. During the test, you will be required to turn left and right, stop at intersections, back up, change lanes and drive in traffic, among other required maneuvers. Your instructor may require you to demonstrate freeway driving as well.

Vehicle Requirements for a CA Driving Test

When taking a drivers test in California, you must provide a safe vehicle that meets a number of CA DMV requirements. The driving test examiner will check for all of these features prior to letting you begin the test. If any of these requirements are not met, you may not be allowed to take the test in that vehicle. Among other requirements, your car must have:

  • A license plate on the front and back with current registration tabs.
  • Working features such as a horn, signals, brake lights, seat belts and an emergency brake or parking brake.
  • A clear view through the windshield on both the driver and passenger side.
  • Adequate brake pressure and tires that are not bald.
  • A glove box that closes securely.

Retaking a Driver Test in California

If you fail a written test or driving test in CA, the CA DMV limits how many times and how often you can retake the test before you must start the process over again. If you fail a driving skills test, you cannot retake the test for another two weeks. You are allowed to use three drivers test attempts before you must start over with a new application. If you retake the road skills test, you will have to pay a retest fee for each subsequent attempt.

If you fail the California written drivers test, you are only required to wait seven days before you can retake it. Similar to the driving test, you can only attempt the written test three times before you have to start the application process again. Keep in mind that when applying for a drivers license or learners permit, the application fee you pay covers three drivers tests of any type within a 12-month period.