Passing the permit test is your first major step toward a driver's license, and all of the freedom that comes with it. Understandably, that pressure can make the test itself a source of real stress. The questions you'll face on the test come from your state's driving manual, so mastering that is essential. The actual questions fall into a relatively small handful of categories, typically including road signs, speed-limit laws, turning and intersection behavior, and safe driving habits. Many states have laws specifically for new or young drivers, and you may see questions about those as well.
Driving-related laws vary between states and so do permit tests, but most follow a similar pattern. You'll face a limited number of questions drawn from different sections of your state's driving manual, in multiple-choice format. Some questions may have more than one correct answer, so take your time and be sure to read each question carefully rather than ticking the first correct answer that catches your eye.
Signs play an important role in on-road safety, so you have to understand their meaning before you get behind the wheel. Their shape and color — like the familiar red hexagon of a stop sign — tell you their purpose even before you get close enough to read the lettering. Questions about signs can crop up throughout the test, or may occupy their own section, like they do in Pennsylvania.
Speed limits are usually conveyed by signs alongside the road, but state and municipal laws often provide a "default" speed limit in certain areas, even if you don't see a sign. These may include limits on secondary or rural roads, in residential areas, or near schools, churches, playgrounds or other areas where children and pedestrians congregate. You're expected to know these, and they are questions you'll often see on the exam.
Turning and intersection behavior
Some questions may also test your knowledge of turning behavior. This can include a number of related topics, from right-of-way in intersections and traffic circles to entering and exiting a freeway. Questions may address how and when to signal, pedestrian safety, or who moves first at a four-way stop.
Safe driving habits
The rules of the road aren't always strictly limited to highway laws. Some are matters of road safety and common sense, the kind of things that are typically learned through experience. Questions in this category might include how to cope with a blowout while driving, how to drive safely when visibility is poor, or — in states with harsh winters — how to recover after you've lost control on a patch of ice or slippery pavement.
New driver laws
If you live in a state where special laws apply to teen or new drivers — usually described as 'graduated licensing' — you will probably find questions about those laws on your test. Depending where you live, for example, you might face restrictions on how many passengers you can carry or how late you may legally drive.
Practice, practice, practice
To get a feel for the kind of questions on your state's permit test, try a few practice exams. Your state's DMV probably offers one or more on its website, and numerous third-party organizations offer practice exams as well. If you use a third party, be sure the test you take is specifically intended for drivers in your state.
- Pennsylvania Department of Transport: Driver's Manual Chapter 2 Review Questions
- Kentucky.gov: Driver's Permit Practice Test
- State of California Department of Motor Vehicles: Samples of Driver License Knowledge Tests
- Permit-Tests.com: Free permit Practice Tests
- Driving-Tests.org: Free DMV Practice Tests