It’s time to take your permit test! You’re probably nervous, but we’re here to help. Many applicants fail their first attempt at the California permit test, and if you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic. Let’s talk about the commonly overlooked questions on the California permit test.

What is the California Permit Test?

Obtaining a California learner’s permit is the first step to receiving your official CA driver’s license. The permit test has a total of 46 questions, 38 of which you must answer correctly to pass the test.

Although the questions on the permit test are not released by the CA DMV, you can complete different online tests to get a general idea about the questions that will be asked on the test. It will cost $33 to take the test, and you are given 3 attempts to pass the permit test within 12 months.

Why Do Many Applicants Fail the California Permit Test?

Individuals can fail the CA permit test for different reasons. More than 50% of applicants fail the CA permit test, but why? Research conducted by the CA DMV discovered that some of the test questions were poorly worded.

Another reason an applicant may fail the test is due to a language barrier. Foreign language applicants experience more difficulty passing the CA permit test than non-foreign language applicants. Many states experience a high permit test failure rate. One of the best ways to increase your chances of passing the permit test is to study.

What Are the Most Commonly Missed Questions on the California Permit Practice Test?

The CA DMV doesn’t release the exact questions that are on the test, so you won’t know which questions will be on the test and which questions will. However, the good news is that the topics remain the same, so we’ve included the questions that applicants have the most trouble with.

Seatbelt Use

The question can be worded something similar to, “Seatbelts must be used by…” The answer is by the driver and all passengers above a specific age and height. A question regarding seatbelts may sound easy, but the question can easily be missed because a lot of drivers overlook the regulations and requirements for seatbelts.

The California Vehicle Code Division 12 (Equipment of Vehicles) prevents auto dealers from selling vehicles that do not have adequate safety equipment, such as airbags in cars that were manufactured after 1968. This code remains valid even if the vehicle is used and the auto dealer informs the buyer.

When it comes to the seatbelt question, you must pay attention to how it is worded on the permit test. On the test, there will be different answers as to when a seatbelt must be worn, such as the following:

  • By everyone
  • Only the passenger and driver
  • Only the driver
  • Only the passenger
  • Only children

California law states that seatbelts must be worn by the driver and passengers, as well as children who are at least 8 years of age or at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Individuals who do not meet these requirements must be in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.

Blood Alcohol Content

There’s also a question about blood alcohol content (BAC). You may be asked a question similar to, “What is the illegal blood alcohol concentration?” The answer is 0.8% for drivers who are over the age of 21.

You must know the legal limit for blood alcohol content in California. In CA, it’s illegal for any individual over 21 years of age to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or more. Drivers who are under 21, as well as individuals who are on DUI probation, can’t have more than a 0.01% BAC.

BAC limits apply to states across the U.S. However, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to the age differences and Enhanced Penalty Limit. In this instance, the latter refers to a BAC level that could lead to more severe penalties and fines. In the state of California, this level is fixed at 0.16%.

BAC questions on the CA permit test can include ones that relate to the penalties for operating a motor vehicle with a BAC at or above the legal limit, which has a more straightforward answer, which is an offense that is punishable by paying a fine and jail time.

You may have a question regarding how to “sober up.” Answer options can include the following:

  • Drinking black coffee
  • Getting fresh air
  • Giving yourself a few minutes to become sober (time)

Getting fresh air or drinking a cup of strong black coffee to become sober is a myth. Although a cup of coffee can offset some of the effects of consuming alcohol, it won’t instantly make you sober. The answer is time. Only time allows the effects of alcohol to leave your system and reduce your BAC level to a safe and legal level.


Road and traffic signs can be tricky. On the CA permit test, you may see a question that’s similar to, “this sign means…”, and the answer isn’t what you think it means. The CA permit test has different questions about traffic and road signs. Since this part of the exam is visual, you’ll need to know your state traffic signs and what they mean. There’s no way to cut corners here, so spend a little time familiarizing yourself with these signs. Not all traffic and road signs are self-explanatory.

Tire Blowouts

You may also have questions about how to handle tire blowouts. The question may be something similar to, “What should you do if you have a blowout?” The answer is to slow to a stop.

If one or multiple tires blow, you must slow to a gentle stop while tightly gripping the steering wheel to remain in control of the vehicle and avoid swerving off the road. Avoid hitting the accelerator, and don’t turn quickly. Once you’ve come to a complete stop in a safe area on the side of the road, you can call for help.

Vehicle Distance

Vehicle distance questions can also be tricky. You may see a question that’s similar to, “How far should you be from the vehicle in front of you?” The answer is 1 car length per 10mph or 3 seconds of space, which is known as the 3-second rule.

The CA DMV permit test will likely have more than 1 question that asks about proper stopping distances. Remember that tailgating is not advised since you won’t have enough time to react if the driver in front of you slams on their brakes.


Proper parking is another topic on the CA permit test. You may come across a question that is similar to, “How should you park on a hill?” The answer is to park so the car rolls into the curb. If you’re parking on a hill, the first thing you need to do is use the parking brake. Some parking questions on the CA permit test indicate the direction of the wheel, and sometimes they don’t, so pay attention to how the question is worded.

Remember, you must park so that if your vehicle rolls, it will roll into the curb, and not down the street. If you’re uphill, turn the wheels away from the curb. If you’re downhill, turn the wheels into the curb.

How Can I Prepare for the California DMV Permit Test?

Proper planning, time management, and studying will help you pass the CA DMV permit test. Check out these different tips that can help you prepare for your CA permit test.


Studying is probably not one of your favorite things to do, but if you want to pass your permit test, it’s something that has to be done. You can use the California Driver’s Handbook to help you better understand what’s expected of you as a driver and to learn about everything you will be tested on.

Complete a Practice Test

Once you feel confident, take a practice test. Practice tests will give you a general idea of what to expect on the official permit test. You probably won’t have the same questions, but it’s a great way to test how much you know and which topics you need to study more about.

Take the practice test a few times before you go to your local CA DMV to take the official permit test. As you study and complete practice tests, your score will improve. Hard work pays off! Even if you get a great score on the practice test the first few times, keep going.

A lot of applicants make the mistake of not continuing to practice after they receive a good score. Remember that the questions will change, and you need to know as much as you can. Even if you don’t have a large number of mistakes, missing one question can be the determining factor of your passing or failing the exam.

Study the Road Signs

Determining the meaning of certain road signs can be harder than others. Some road signs have a meaning that is more obvious than others. Some road signs have abstract images that can mean something other than what you interpret the symbols to represent. The only way to ensure you don’t get caught up on road sign questions on the permit test is to study them and know what they mean.

Ask for Help

Ask friends and relatives to help you study, especially if they already have a CA driver’s license. You can also help yourself! Make flashcards with the road signs and different questions as a study method. The more you review the flashcards, the easier it will be for you to remember the correct answers.

Prepare the Night Before

The night before the test, you may feel nervous and anxious, and this is common, so there’s no need to worry. However, you need to make sure you’re prepared to take the permit test. Studying the night before the test will help you retain the information so it stays fresh in your mind. You also need to get a good night’s rest, so don’t stay up all night studying.

California Permit FAQs

Many applicants have questions about the CA permit test, so we’ve provided answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Q. Is the California Permit Test Hard?

  1. Statistics show that over half of teenage applicants fail their initial test, and these results, make it seem like the permit test is difficult. However, the CA permit test is only as difficult as you make it. Spend time studying, and you’ll be surprised at how easy the permit test can be.

Q. How Old Do You Have to Be to Apply for the California Permit Test?

  1. You must be at least 15 ½ years of age to apply to complete the CA permit test.

Q. How Long is the California Permit Test?

  1. The CA permit test will take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.

Q. What Happens If I Fail the Permit Test?

  1. If you fail the CA permit test the first time, no worries! Study a little more and complete a few more practice tests before re-applying to take the test. You must wait at least 7 days to retake the CA permit test.

Obtaining your California permit is exciting! It’s the first step you’ll take to get your official CA driver’s license. However, this time can also be frustrating and stressful. Use the tips above to help you pass the CA permit test and on your way to getting your driver’s license. Good luck and happy driving!