DRIVING TEST TIPS

How to Pass Your Driving Test in 2021: 15 Driving Test Tips

Zutobi
by Zutobi · Updated Nov 26, 2021

Understanding exactly how to pass your driving test the first time can be a major source of anxiety for beginner drivers. Contrary to popular belief, passing the driver’s test is fairly simple as long as you are prepared, which can introduce complications for many students.

Don’t be fooled – there aren’t any “secret” tips that will guarantee you success on your test. You need to understand that you will have to practice a lot before taking the exam. Students often experience immense pressure during the actual road test due to lack of experience, and that’s why you need to come prepared.

With that out of the way, there are certainly a few tips that can drastically increase your chances on the day of the exam.

15 Tips on How to Pass Your Driving Test

In this article, we’ll cover our best road test tips to help you prepare for, as well as learn what to expect on the actual exam.

  1. Remember your pre-drive checklist
  2. Always stay within 5mph of the speed limit
  3. Practice behind the wheel as often as you can
  4. Keep your eyes on the road and your mirrors
  5. Slow down before turning
  6. Be cautious when approaching traffic lights
  7. Check your surroundings when reversing
  8. Brake gently
  9. Inspect your vehicle beforehand
  10. Know your basic maneuvers
  11. Learn to parallel park 
  12. Don’t assume that your mistakes are critical
  13. Pay attention to the road, not the examiner
  14. Take DMV practice tests 
  15. Don’t take the test too early

Tip #1. Remember your pre-drive checklist

As soon as you enter your vehicle, there are a few tasks that your instructor will expect you to perform. While this list will vary from state to state, making sure you remember how to operate these systems in your vehicle will put you on the right track to success.

  • Operating your seatbelt safely
  • Adjusting your side and rear-view mirrors
  • Controlling your air conditioning and heating systems
  • Turning on your headlights, taillights, and high beams
driving instructor looking at student driver

Tip #2. Always stay within 5mph of the speed limit 

Traveling at high speeds is a common reason many students end up failing their road exams. It is easy to lose track of your acceleration when you’re nervous and not paying attention to the speedometer. You should also keep a smooth, constant speed throughout the duration of your test. 

To do this, try and train yourself to always stay within 5 miles per hour of the posted speed limit every time you practice driving. This is one of our best driving test tips for anxious student drivers – you don’t want to fail your test just because you haven’t made this a driving habit.

Speed limit 30 mph
Actively look for speed limit signs and drive within 5mph of the posted speed limit.

Tip #3. Practice behind the wheel as often as you can

There is no substitute for simply getting behind the wheel and practicing your main driving maneuvers. Whenever possible, you should ask a parent or close relative to accompany you on a supervised drive.

This will allow you to gain a certain level of comfort on the road, which will help you a lot on the driver’s test. Also, try to choose an experienced supervisor that constantly gives you tips when practicing, as it can be difficult to see your own mistakes.

Tip #4. Keep your eyes on the road and your mirrors

Many students often make the mistake of keeping their eyes laser-focused on what’s going on ahead of them during the exam. While this may sound like the right thing to do in theory, it is very dangerous and can result in an automatic fail on your driver’s test

Your side-view and rear-view mirrors contain vital information about what vehicles are doing behind and around you. The driving test examiner will look closely at how you use your mirrors to scan your surroundings. Also, remember to check your blind spot to identify any vehicle that may be adjacent to yours. This way, you’ll have a 360-degree view of the road and never be surprised by the presence of vehicles next to, or behind you.

Tip #5. Slow down before turning

Accelerating into a turn is a bad practice that could result in a dangerous accident. It is important to take your turns very slow, especially as a beginner. When turning, be sure to slow down and complete the maneuver before reapplying force to your accelerator. Observe your surroundings to avoid striking pedestrians or debris that may be in your path.  

Tip #6. Be cautious when approaching traffic lights

Traffic lights are one of the more obvious driving rules for people of all ages to understand. We’re taught at a very young age that a green light means ‘go’ and a red light means ‘stop’. However, there has been some discrepancy in what you should do at a yellow light. 

In the majority of instances, especially during the behind-the-wheel exam, you should prepare to stop when approaching a yellow light. This way, you’re not caught running a red light, which is an automatic fail.

intersection with yellow lights
You should always prepare to stop when approaching a yellow light.

Also, make sure to look both ways before beginning to accelerate after a green light. Some drivers speed through intersections when the light has just turned red, which can result in an accident. This is not just a great road test tip, but something you should always do.

Tip #7. Check your surroundings when reversing

Although many modern vehicles are equipped with backup camera technology, their use is prohibited on the DMV road exam. Your administrator will either have you turn the system off or require you to cover its screen with a clipboard. 

Therefore, it is imperative you remember to observe your surroundings before you put your car into reverse, and while steering your vehicle to its destination. If you do not make your movements obvious, your test administrator may deduct points for failing to check your back side when reversing.

check your surroundings when reversing

Tip #8. Brake gently

Aggressive braking is another common reason for missed points on the road test. It can be tempting to immediately hit the pedal with force, but you should practice slowly applying pressure about a quarter-mile before your destination. Your vehicle will have ample time to come to a stop.

Another great way to avoid aggressive braking is to look well ahead of your vehicle –  that way you will be able to spot potential hazards and react in time.

Tip #9. Inspect your vehicle beforehand

The DMV requires your test vehicle to be road legal in order for it to be used on the road exam. Your test instructor will check for the following items prior to administering the test.

  • Valid registration in your state
  • Current insurance and inspection
  • Functional speedometer, horn, and windshield wipers
  • Functional interior safety equipment (seatbelts, airbags, rear view mirror)
  • Functional doors and exterior mirrors
  • Working head and tail lights, as well as brake lights and emergency lights
  • No check engine or other service lights present on dashboard

Doing an inspection of your car up to a week before your exam will prevent you from running into surprise headaches on test day.

You can read our full checklist here.

Tip #10. Know your basic maneuvers

Having a solid grasp of your basic maneuvers will be necessary to pass the driver’s test. Even knowing how to properly perform simple tasks such as stopping and accelerating smoothly can be the difference between passing and failing your test. 

Make sure you are comfortable demonstrating the following maneuvers:

  1. Three-Point Turns
  2. Complete Stops
  3. Steering Control
  4. Reversing

Tip #11. Learn to parallel park 

Parallel parking has always been a difficult maneuver for students to understand. While it can be frustrating to master, it is a vital skill for those living in densely populated urban areas. Many argue; however, it is not as pertinent for suburban and rural drivers. In fact, there are a few states that have eliminated parallel parking from their road test altogether. 

If you live in one of the states that test parallel parking on the driving test, it is definitely something you need to practice. Parallel parking is considered to be one of the most difficult maneuvers for learners.

Parallel parking is a handy driving maneuver to comprehend, regardless of your geographic location. Even if it won’t be tested on your road exam, you will certainly face a parallel parking situation at some point in your future driving endeavors.

car parallel parking on road
Parallel parking is a handy driving maneuver to comprehend and you will certainly find yourself in situations where you need to parallel park.

Tip #12. Don’t assume that your mistakes are critical

You may notice that you make a mistake and assume you have failed the test. Don’t. Your mistake may be a non-critical mistake, which means you may still have a chance of passing.

  • Critical mistakes are errors that show a lack of control of the vehicle or errors that are dangerous to others on the roadway. They result in an instant fail on the driving test.
  • Non-critical mistakes are all other errors or mistakes you make during the exam. Depending on where you live, you may accumulate a few non-critical mistakes without failing the test.

At the end of the road test, the driving instructor will review your score and point out areas of improvement. You’ll be told about your critical or non-critical mistakes.

Tip #13. Pay attention to the road, not the examiner

As you’ll no doubt have learned early on, any distraction will severely impact your safe driving skill and concentration. While you may feel anxious to know what the examiner is doing and writing down, it’s completely irrelevant to know during the test. 

learner driver looking at driving instructor

Instead of focusing on the examiner, focus on the road and the area around your car to ensure you drive in the safest and best way possible. This, if anything, will ensure the examiner only writes positive things about your driving and help you get a passing grade.

Tip #14. Take DMV practice tests 

You will never know how to pass your driving test if you don’t even know what you’ll be tested on! That’s where DMV practice tests come in! As you study, be sure to periodically include practice tests in your regimen to ensure you’re properly absorbing the information you’re intaking. 

This material will come in handy when practicing behind the wheel, as your DMV knowledge exam is designed to test your understanding of road signs and rules.

Tip #15. Don’t take the test too early

It’s understandable to want to pass the behind-the-wheel test and never think of it again, but taking the test before you are ready will inevitably lead to a failing grade. In fact, one of the most common mistakes, according to instructors we’ve spoken to, is taking the test too early. 

You won’t be able to “fake” your way to a driver’s license, so take your time to learn how to drive properly before taking the test. You’ll end up saving time and money in the long run.

Bonus Tip – Download Zutobi 

Looking for tools to help with passing the driver’s test? Well, today is your lucky day. 

Zutobi is the top driver’s test app currently available on both iOS and Android devices. The platform is full of tips, guides, and checklists to ensure you crush your driving test and permit test. All our courses contain a summarized version of the DMV handbook as well as practice tests.

Whether you’re trying to brush up on some knowledge right before your exam, or you’re at home getting prepared to start practicing, Zutobi is the perfect app to help you pass your road test.

That’s It

All in all, the DMV exam can be quite simple, as long as you’re willing to sufficiently study and prepare well beforehand. Be sure to practice, practice, practice your skills behind the wheel. After all, that’s where you’ll be taking your exam!

We hope that these tips have helped you, and that you feel more confident for your upcoming driver’s test. Otherwise, we can help you out. Good luck!

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