The California Driver’s Performance Evaluation can be a daunting practical test for first-timers. Managing everything necessary to ensure both your and others’ safety on the road is a lot of pressure. Don’t worry, though! We’ve compiled everything you need to know to pass on your first try.
The California DPE (or Driver’s Performance Evaluation) is a 20-minute practical test given to drivers before a license is issued to them. During the exam, you will drive on the road and demonstrate various safe driving methods for your examiner.
The purpose of the driving test is to make sure you know how to practice safe driving in real-life situations. If you have a physical condition like poor vision or a lost limb, it also lets you demonstrate that they do not affect your ability to drive safely.
The DPE (Driver’s Performance Examination) is the standard driving test that everyone takes when they first get their license. Unless you have a condition that can impair your driving, this will be the test you can expect to take.
The SDPE (Supplemental Driver’s Performance Evaluation) is given to those with physical, mental, or other disabilities that might impede their ability to drive normally and consists of extra conditions. For example, you will be tested on your ability to drive while distracted by conversation. You might also be asked to reach a destination without help or instruction by your examiner.
The ADPE is similar to the SDPE, but it is only applicable to certain areas and regions. The driver’s license issued only applies to the areas in which you were tested. This allows you to have limited mobility traveling in your neighborhood, commuting to work, or other tasks you might not need a full license for.
The DPE covers the information in the California Driver’s Handbook and puts the information within the practical test. The test lasts about twenty minutes and goes over common actions drivers can expect to encounter, such as:
Make sure you read and study your handbook carefully! You can also make use of amazing study aids like our California summarized handbook and practice tests.
You should also have a general understanding of the anatomy of your car. You will be asked to locate essential mechanisms of the car, such as headlights, defrosters, parking brakes, and windshield wipers.
Most importantly, you need to practice behind the wheel! You can find everything they will score you on the California DMV Website. Here is an example of the official scoring sheet they use during the exam!
If you are under 18, you have extra criteria to prepare you for the road. You will need:
To complete the California DPE, you will need to provide your own vehicle and vehicle proof of insurance that lists you as the insured driver. If the vehicle is deemed unsafe to drive, you will have to reschedule your road test (you can find the full pre-driving checklist here).
It must have:
If you use a rental car, you have to have papers that state you are allowed to use it for the driver’s test, and it has to be insured under your name.
Your examiner will keep track of any mistakes you make during the driving test. Don’t sweat it if you see them make a mark on your scoresheet. You can miss up to 15 points before you automatically fail.
However, there are some things that will result in an automatic fail on the driving test. In general, this refers to things that could cause a fatal crash or force the examiner to intervene. Try to avoid these six errors in particular:
These things create openings for serious accidents. If you do them while an instructor is watching, you’re almost sure to do them when you have a license. The examiner will protect you and others on the road by failing your exam on the spot!
If you avoid dangerous moves like above, you are well on your way to passing your CA behind-the-wheel test! Just stay calm, be attentive, and put your handbook into practice.
The DPE can seem daunting, but you will be a pro driver long before the test if you study and practice! It doesn’t have to be dull and boring either. Check out Zutobi’s practice tests to master all the road safety rules!
Many people only have to take the California behind-the-wheel test when they first apply for their license. However, you may need to retake the test at the DMV’s discretion if: