Prepare for Your CDL Permit Test
To prepare for the commercial learner’s permit (CLP) exam, it’s important to understand what to expect before going in. You can take online practice tests and review our CDL study guide. Talking with people who have already passed the exam and asking for advice is also a good idea. Finally, make sure you have all the necessary documentation with you before you arrive to take the test.
Though a college degree or extensive experience isn’t required to become a big-rig truck driver, you must pass the CDL permit exam.
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The commercial learner's permit (CLP) exam is a three section, 100 question written test broken into general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles that must be passed in order to practice driving a semi-truck, bus, or any vehicle that is over 26,000 pounds. Like the Class C driver's license test you have to pass in order to get your learner’s permit, the CDL permit test contains various multiple choice questions that are specific to commercial driving topics but doesn’t actually involve any driving. In 1992, the federal government and the U.S. Department of Transportation made CDL licensing a requirement for truckers and bus drivers.
Operating a heavy, oversized truck is nothing like driving a regular truck or car. In addition to navigating busy roadways, truckers face an array of additional challenges when it comes to things like bad weather, heavy traffic, poor transport infrastructure, and mechanical issues. Not only does this test help to ensure the safety of the truck driver, but it also helps to keep fellow motorists safe, too.
There are several eligibility requirements that prospective CDL applicants must meet prior to taking the permit test. Though specific requirements vary from state to state, there are several general prerequisites needed to be eligible for a commercial learner’s permit, including:
In addition to these requirements, in order to obtain your CDL permit, federal law also requires you to score at least an 80% on the 100-question permit test.
Like most exams, the Commercial Drivers License (CDL) permit exam requires an adequate amount of studying and preparation if you hope to pass. Fortunately, this comprehensive CDL study guide can help make studying for the test much easier.
1. Read the Book
Each state has their own unique CDL handbook that includes a wealth of health information and answers to common CDL test questions. Subjects found in a state’s CDL DMV handbook include:
Be sure that all the information you read is accurate by being sure to get the most up-to-date handbook. Take notes on important concepts and other information you find interesting as you read through the book.
2. Have the Necessary Documentation
As a new applicant for the CDL, you’ll have to apply in person at your local DMV. It’s here that you’ll be required to take the CDL and provide specific documentation including a proof of ID via either birth certificate with a raised seal, passport, or naturalization documents or current immigration document. Once your identity has been verified, you’ll need to show proof of residency or proof of legal presence in the form of one of the following:
Lastly, remember that federal law also requires you to have had a regular drivers license in the past. If you’ve never been licensed, you won’t be applicable for a CDL.
3. Review the CDL Study Guide
Because state requirements and regulations vary, it’s important to get an accurate study guide that’s specific to your particular state. CDL study guides can make taking and passing the test significantly easier. Available in digital and paper form, study guides offer a wealth of valuable information that doesn’t just provide you with answers to CDL test questions, but that also helps prepare you to be a safe, capable driver. Go the extra mile when you’re studying by taking notes and review these notes prior to taking the test.
4. Commit to Taking the Exam
Once you decide to pursue a CDL, make an appointment or commit to taking an exam. Review your local DMV policies to determine if you can simply walk in and take the test, or if you need to make an appointment ahead of time. By making an appointment in advance, you’ll know exactly how much time you have to study for the test and what steps you need to take to be fully prepared. Even if you don’t have to make an appointment, commit to taking the test on a specific date.
The CDL test covers several different topics, each of which has their own study guide that features questions and answers that are listed on the real written test. These different categories can make studying easier because it allows you to access the specific information you need.
5. Complete an Online CDL Permit Course
Online CDL permit courses are designed to prepare you for the CDL exam. The first part of this three-part exam tests your knowledge of vehicle parts, systems, and terminology. The second part tests your control of the vehicle. The third part is the road test. You’ll have plenty of time in the vehicle to prepare for the skills portions, but the DMV also wants to know that you know the terminology and parts and systems. An online permit course will help you review what you need to know for that part of the test. Check your state DMV’s website for study materials for your state. There are also many sites with study materials, including our practice tests.
6. Take a CDL Permit Practice Test
Test yourself throughout your studies to get used to the type of verbiage and questions that will be on the actual exam. There are many free online resources you can use for a CDL permit practice test and you can also stop by your local DMV to inquire about any practice tests or additional resources they might have to offer.
7. Create Your Own Study Kit
By compiling all of the notes from your reading, graded practice tests, and other study materials, you can create your own personalized CDL test prep kit that can be incredibly useful prior to taking the CDL. As an added measure, you can even make your own flashcards and get a study group together to help you prepare.
8. Talk to Others
One of the best ways to prepare for your CDL permit test is to talk to others who have previously taken the exam. Whether you call on friends who have experience with the exam or connect with others via online message boards or forums, connecting with others who share your same goal or who have had first-hand experience with the process is a great way to help you properly prepare for the test.
9. Take Breaks
Studying for hours on end won’t benefit you in the long run. Not only have breaks been shown to help maintain productivity, but they also give your brain some time to digest the information you’ve learned and come back to the content with fresh eyes.
10. Explain What You’ve Learned to a Friend
Reiterating the information and content you’ve learned is a great way to go over all the information you’ve learned thus far, and it can also act as a reassuring strategy to help you feel more confident in your knowledge. Whether you find a friend or family member to talk to, repeating information out loud should be a must for your study process.
11. Focus on Unfamiliar Topics
Focusing your studies and doubling down on subjects you’re not as comfortable with can be a deciding factor of passing the CDL exam. Find topic-specific study guides for weaker subjects and make sure to use and create study materials that help you gain more confidence. You can also reach out to other CDL licensees for help and guidance on specific topics, and make sure to touch on these subject when talking with a friend or during a study group.
12. Confirm the Location of Your Test
The last thing you want to worry about on your test day is getting lost or not knowing the location of the DMV. Prior to your test, make sure you know where you’re taking the test and consider driving the route once or twice to ensure you know where you’re going and how long it takes you to get there.
13. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The day before your test, take some time to review all your study guides, practice tests, and study materials one last time. Eat a healthy dinner, drink plenty of water, and get to bed earlier than normal. Taking these steps helps your brain and body get the nutrients and rest needed to perform at its best.
14. Eat a Good Breakfast
Taking a test on an empty stomach can greatly affect your ability to focus and remember important information. Be sure you give yourself enough time to eat a good, healthy breakfast that includes balanced amounts of protein, fats, sugars, and starches. A decent breakfast is brain fuel for testing.
15. Arrive Early and Do Your Best
After giving yourself time to eat a good breakfast, head to the testing center early. Whether you use the time prior to taking your test for some last minute studying or to just decompress, having extra time ahead of the exam will help decrease stress and nerves that could hinder your testing performance. More than anything, encourage yourself to do your best and believe that the studying and preparation you’ve done will result in nothing short of success.
16. Prepare for After You Receive Your CDL Permit
After you score more than 80% on your permit test, you’ll be qualified to begin driving big rigs. Federal law requires you to hold a CDL permit for a minimum of 14 days before applying for the final CDL skills test. In order to prepare for the skills test, you’ll need to be able to provide a vehicle that’s the same model as the truck you’ll be driving once licensed. The skills test is comprised of three parts:
In addition to the skill test, some states might also require you to complete a CDL training course prior to getting officially licensed.
When getting your CDL, you’ll be joining thousands of trucking professionals who’ve mastered the same exam. And just like these individuals succeeded, you can, too, thanks to all of your hard work and preparation.
Prepare for your upcoming CDL permit test with our online Commercial Learner’s Permit course and practices quizzes here.