What is a Written Driving Test?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A written driving test is the first step in obtaining or renewing a driver's license. In the latter case, some regional motor vehicle departments require people to retake the written driving test after a certain period of time or if they want to get a different form of license. Names for this test can vary; in the UK the test is called a driving theory test and is usually administered by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). In the US, each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) administers and grades the test.

A prospective driver must first pass a written test before taking the skill test.
A prospective driver must first pass a written test before taking the skill test.

The first time people encounter the written driving test in places like the US, is when they apply for a learner’s permit. Without passing the test, people cannot practice actual driving. Study for the test could take place in a driver’s education class, or it may be possible to use DMV booklets and study alone. This may depend on age, as many states do not grant the same sort of license to drivers under the age of 18. In all states, it should be possible to pass the test by studying booklets produced by the DMV.

There are opportunities to retake the written driving test if a pass is not achieved. Sometimes DMVs may impose a waiting time between testings, which might get longer with each failure. Should continued failures occur, taking driver’s education classes could be helpful.

While DMV tests are solely written, the UK driving theory test involves a second part called hazard perception, which requires pointing out potential driver issues in a multi-media format. To prepare for hazard perception, people might get some initial driver training and may want to watch videos or DVDs produced by the DSA. Both parts of the test must be passed in order to meet standards imposed by the DSA.

A written driving test will test on knowledge of driving rules and could ask questions about speed limits in specific areas, such as school zones, appropriate maneuvers for passing another driver, and right of way issues. Such tests may also inquire regarding correct procedures in certain driving situations, such as when exiting or entering a major highway. To get a sense of what might be asked, people can often order practice tests or complete them online, though each test could ask slightly different questions. There are many private publishers that produce different study guides, but it’s typically best to first use DMV or other country resources for study.

People who move from one state to another may need to take a new written driving test. Driving laws can be different in each region, so it is not a good idea to assume that a current license means knowing the laws. At any time a person applies for a new license in a new state or country, they should get the appropriate booklet to study for the written driving test.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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