You’ve put in the hours, studied the material, and done all your homework. You’re finally set to test for your driver’s license or permit! How you perform during your driving exam will determine your eligibility for your permit, so it’s important to keep a cool head and treat it as seriously as any major exam. Here are five valuable tips that will help you prepare (and pass!) your driver’s exam, whether you’re taking it tomorrow, next week, or in the coming months.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice!
The hard truth is that nothing can replace lots of practice. Your best bet is to be prepared in as many ways as you can. Start by getting comfortable with the vehicle that you’ll use for the exam. Practice driving, turning, and parking as much as you need to. It’s worth it to spend a few hours perfecting your mastery of these basic techniques, which will help you be successful on the big day.
With a trusted adult, take a drive around the exam area. Familiarize yourself with what speed limits, road signs, and potential hazards there are. Your helper can give you tips and reminders to sharpen your skills and boost your confidence. He or she will also be able to guide you through foggy, slippery, or icy conditions if present. Then, you won’t be tripped up if it’s rainy on the day of your exam! Of course, refrain from driving in severe weather conditions.
Always remember: Never drive (even if it’s just for practice) if you’re sick, angry, or tired. You’re more of a danger on the road than you may think!
2. Review Theory and Defensive Driving Habits
You’ll definitely want to brush up on core knowledge like road rules, traffic signals, and parking guidelines. In addition, below are some safe and defensive driving habits that should be key qualities of all smart and responsible drivers.
Check for safety and reduce distractions before you start the ignition. Walk around the vehicle and examine it for any potential safety hazards before entering it. Once your start the vehicle, make sure the dashboard isn’t showing low gas or other critical signals. As you prepare to drive, check that the trunk is shut, the doors are locked, and every passenger is wearing his or her seat belt. Adjust your seating distance and/or height, make sure you can clearly see the rear-view mirror and both side mirrors, and check that your headlights are on. Finally, set any electronic devices to silent to remove the potential noise distraction and you’re ready to roll.
After you’re finished, you’ll want to check that you’ve completely turned the vehicle off, shut and locked all the doors, and that no damage has been done during operation.
3. Demonstrate Your Knowledge on the Road
This is one of the most critical portions of your exam. It’s really worth it to review correct road behavior and be able to apply it correctly when it’s time to do so.
First, be aware or your surroundings at all times. It’s extremely important to maintain proper following distance and always get a “big picture” look on the road. Is there an accident or other hazard down the road? Is there a speedy, swerving, or otherwise dangerous driver around you? Create a plan to handle these situations so you can avoid accidents and continue traveling safely.
Next, be able to recognize and adhere to all types of road signs, especially speed limit ones! While you can be penalized for driving too slowly, you’re actually breaking the law if you cross the speed limit. Limits change often and are different on main roads, highways, near residences, and in construction zones. Watch out! Stop signs are also extremely common and missing one of them can automatically fail you. Come to a short but complete stop behind the line, look both ways, and check your mirrors before proceeding. Yield signs are less common and only require you to slow down, but you must yield to other approaching vehicles even if they motion for you to go ahead. Understanding right of way rules is extremely important during your exam, even if they’re not exactly followed by others. Remember, you’re trying to demonstrate correct driving behavior to your instructor.
Finally, use proper signals to indicate your intentions. When making a turn, make sure you’re in the correct lane before turning and know which lane you’ll be turning into. Turn on your signals early and slow down to a safe speed to complete your turn. When changing lanes, turn on your signal first to let others know your intention. Then, check your mirrors and check over your shoulder for a safe opportunity to move. Remember, only complete a turn or lane change if it’s 100% clear and safe for you to do so.
If your area has railroads, roundabouts, or other special situations (i.e. a “Michigan Left”), make sure you recognize the signs and know how to handle them.
4. Know How to Park
Parking is one of the largest and most critical portions of a driver’s exam. Since it’s important to get it right on your first try, you should practice all types of required parking as much as you can. Your driver’s education center will usually have cones and spaces you can use to help you. If you master these techniques, you’ll be able to score a huge chunk of points (and a huge chunk of confidence!) right away.
For most parking tasks, you’ll want to properly position your vehicle, take your time and take it slow, and generally finish with your vehicle straight. With classic (forward) parking, the instructor is looking for proper distance between your vehicle, the parking block, the parking lines, and any vehicles to your sides. These requirements are mirrored in reverse parking (backing into a parking spot), except that you’re dealing with the other end of your vehicle. During both, make sure you keep an eye on the space you’re moving into to ensure that nothing gets in the way. Parallel parking involves a lot of gear shifting and close proximity to other vehicles. You’ll want to show that you can judge the size of your vehicle, how close you can park to the curb without hitting it, and how smoothly you can slide into the parking slot. Parking generally tests your mastery in maneuvering your vehicle, so it’s important to do your very best.
Some exams include uphill and downhill parking. The key for both of these situations is to angle your wheels properly (away from the curb for uphill and towards it for downhill) and engage the parking break when you’re finished positioning your vehicle. If your curriculum includes this type of parking, make sure to review it because it does involve a few different techniques from the other types.
5. Be Comfortable and Confident!
Even if you’ve practiced a lot, it’s completely normal to feel nervous with the instructor in your vehicle. Remind yourself that you need to dedicate your full alertness to the road and that uncontrollable nerves can lead to simple mistakes or even accidents. Focus on your driving performance and not your stress! Help yourself to be your best on the big day.
Before anything else, eat and sleep well! It’s dangerous and distracting to drive when hungry or fatigued. Quality food and sleep will help you be calm and alert. During the exam, speak aloud to your instructor about your actions. It’s a good way to show that you understand what you’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor for help if any instructions were unclear, you momentarily draw a blank, or you come across an unfamiliar situation. Remember, instructors want you to succeed. Conveniently, they also have the final say on your exam and it pays to demonstrate that you can remain calm even when things don’t go as planned.
Good luck in preparing for your driver’s exam! Acquiring your permit grants you an adult responsibility, a privilege you should be proud of but one that can be taken away at any time. Do your part to keep the road safe and you’ll be able to enjoy the satisfaction and utility of driving for years to come!
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