Tips on Passing the Drivers License Drive Test in Washington

by Robert Schrader
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Whether you're 16 and have never driven before or are older and just haven't needed a license until now, you'll take the same "road test" to get your Washington drivers license. Not surprisingly, you'll need to earn a certain score---a minimum of 80 out of 100---which will suggest to the examiner that you're a safe, capable driver. You can make a number of preparations in advance of the test to increase your likelihood of passing.


Even after you've filled out your license application and scheduled your appointment to take your driving test, there are a few procedural preparations you need to take. First and foremost, you'll need to pass a written driving test, known in Washington as a "knowledge" test. This test will assess your knowledge of road signs, state laws and driving terminology---and you'll need to answer at least 20 of its 25 questions correctly in order to pass.

The absolute most-important thing you must do prior to taking your driving test is to practice (with a licensed driver over the age of 21 in the car) as often as possible. In addition to any specific competencies being tested for, the officer scoring your driving test will want to make sure that you're a confident, capable motorist---something that comes only with experience. Try and balance your practice between highways and city streets.

During the test

When you arrive at the testing center, present the officer with your proof of vehicle liability insurance. After he or she verifies it---and that your vehicle is in good working condition---the test will begin. Broadly-speaking, the test will measure your ability to control your vehicle, drive as a member of traffic, obey traffic signals and signs, drive through intersections, stop, back-up, judge distance and respect others' rights, including bicyclists, pedestrians and fellow motorists.

You'll further need to demonstrate parking ability, both on a hill and in a "parallel parking" situation, which is when you park between two cars on the side of a street. The officer will not expect you to be perfect, although he or she will expect that you possess basic competencies, like being able to obey the speed limit, move with the flow of traffic and drive with some confidence. When in doubt, go slowly and be too careful rather than careless.

If you fail

The officer will assess your test based on a grading rubric, the result of which he or she will pass to you at its completion. If you score greater than 80 out of 100, you pass and will receive your license. Otherwise you'll need to re-take your test at a later date---after one week the first time you fail, up to three weeks later if you fail a second time and three months after the third time you fail.

If you do fail, don't get discouraged. Instead, pay close attention to the officer's remarks on the grading rubric. For example, if you were unable to parallel park but did a good job moving with the flow of traffic, you might want to spend a couple afternoons practicing parallel parking between cones. Each driving test assesses the same competencies, so you're likely to do well on your strong areas, regardless of the situation.

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