How to Study for the DMV Written Test

The Tests You Must Take as a First-Time Applicant

Before you can get a learner’s permit, you must pass a vision exam and a written knowledge test.

When you got your permit you must practice driving with an adult and usually log a certain number of hours behind the wheel. The rules are different in different states, but you should get as much practice as possible before you apply for your unrestricted driver’s license and book the final road test.

The Content of the Driver’s Manual

When preparing for the DMV written test, you must familiarize yourself with the content of the Driver’s Manual. Make sure you have the latest version for your state. Read it at least once.

Questions on your final written DMV test can be drawn from any part of the handbook, but details about different types of licenses and the application process is rarely seen on a real DMV exam.

Don’t Take Shortcuts

Teenagers often use cheat sheets or flash cards to prepare for their driver’s license or learner’s permit exam. Just memorizing questions and fixed answers is not a good idea. Safe driving practices and rules of the road often require a different kind of knowledge. If you don’t know how and why, you will probably fail the DMV knowledge exam.

Even if memorizing things have dominated education for many year, teachers and researchers nowadays know that this method is very ineffective.

How to Build up Real Knowledge

Two good and effective techniques are known as self-interrogation and self-explanation. When you read something in the manual, stop for a second and ask yourself why this piece of information is true or why it will work. Then, try to provide an explanation with your own words. This will have a big impact on how well you will remember things from the manual on the DMV written test.

This is also known as critical reading, which researches and most teachers always recommend for deeper understanding of a subject.

The Most Effective Techniques

Combine the above with the two most effective study techniques; distributed practice and practice testing.

You will always be better off, if you spread your studies over time. You should try to learn a subject by small chunks, instead of cramming everything in just a few days. Then, test yourself.

Taking a practice test at the end of each a study session, is the best thing you can do. The feedback from a practice test will let you know what you learned and what you missed. In most cases, it will also boost your confidence. With confidence, it will be easier to take on the next session.

This is also what we suggest to be by far the best method to pass you DMV written knowledge test and to be a safe driver in the future.

Before the Real DMV Test

As always, try to get a good night’s sleep before the day of your DMV written test. Eat before you go to the DMV office, there could be a long wait. You don’t want to be hungry and/or thirsty during the test.

Questions you are Likely to Miss

Most test takers fail on question that they actually know the answers to. They just don’t take enough time to read everything. It is easy to jump to conclusions on a computerized test. Even if there is a time limit, you will have enough time to read everything carefully.


  • Familiarize yourself with the manual.
  • Use critical reading
  • Take practice tests
  • Study over a longer period
  • Use your time wisely during the real DMV written test.

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