How To Study For The CDL License Exam

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The best way to prepare for your CDL licensing test is to study for it. Sounds pretty cliche and boring, yet it’s a necessary step if you want to pass it. You’re antsy to get driving and start earning a living as a trucker. So, raise your chance of success: Taking the following steps will help you easily pass your CDL license exam the first time.

Inspect a general CDL manual to get an idea of what you’ll be dealing with.

Top Tips For Studying For Your CDL Licensing Exam

You probably took a ton of tests all throughout your primary school education. Studying for the CDL exam is really not all that different. To pass the CDL licensing exam, you must get at least 80 percent of the questions correct. And hey, before you even sign up for a CDL program, you could pick up the study manual from the DMV and start retaining the information presented. The more familiar you are with it, the less nervous you’ll be when it comes time to really learn it and take the licensing exam.

Whether you’re just starting to look for a CDL class, in the middle of your program, or getting ready to take the exam, here are some pointers to help you be successful:

  • Study, study, study: It may only take a few weeks to go through your CDL training course, but there’s a lot of information you’re going to be expected to learn. Some of it may come easily, while other parts may take a bit longer to register. If that’s the case, then take extra time to really study those areas until the information sticks. Make flash cards. Read and reread your handbooks. Yes, they are super thick and filled with information. But it’s everything you need to know in order to drive a truck. Use your family as students, and teach them. Sometimes saying the information out loud to someone else makes it easier to remember. Keep going at it until you can recite the information backward and forward. Also, go through all your material and skim the information, then go back and read it, then highlight the really important stuff. Do it often.  

  • Use free practice tests: There are many you can find on the internet just by hitting up Google (or Bing, if that’s the search engine of your choice). One thing to remember is, although there are many, not all are updated. All the rules, laws, and regulations pertaining to trucking are constantly changing. CDL Career Now has practice tests that are always updated with the most current information. And they are completely free to use (And use. And use). Also, keep in mind that despite the practice tests being free, the real test has a fee involved. Every state has a different cost, so check with your state to find out how much you’ll need to pay.

  • Stay focused: Study when you are energetic; you won’t retain the information as easily if you study while tired. Study during a convenient time, when you don’t feel rushed. Also, study during lunch breaks if you work. Keep distractions, such as your phone or television, to a minimum. If it’s possible, lock yourself away from the rest of your family, if only for a couple of hours. When taking the practice tests, train yourself to thoroughly read each question and answer. There will always be those trick questions or answers thrown in to confuse you if you don’t know the material as well as you should. So take it slow, read each word carefully and thoughtfully, and pick the best answer.

For more tips, check out this article: Studying Tips for Trade School

What To Study

Your study guide will probably be drilled into your head during your training. But it’s easy to get thrown off track while you’re in the midst of panicking, worrying, or procrastinating. Because hey, many of us do all those things when we know there’s a big thing coming our way. So, to reiterate what you may already know, here are the main topics you’ll need to study and know front and back:

  • General trucking knowledge

  • Driving safely

  • Transporting goods safely

  • Air brakes

  • Combination vehicle to pull a trailer

  • Pre-trip inspection

  • Communicating with other drivers

  • Night driving

  • Controlling skids

  • Accident procedures

We have study guides for every skilled trade you could imagine, including many for trucking.

Passing The Road Test

Studying for the general knowledge test is pretty straight forward. You just read and test yourself on the information in your manual. Studying for the actual road test is an entirely different beast, but one that doesn’t have to be intimidating if you’re prepared. This is the section that causes anxiety in many drivers. Before you take the exam, you need to know the three things that your driver instructor will definitely fail you for so you can be aware enough to avoid doing them.

Three things considered a “fail” during your road test are:

  • Hitting a curb

  • Rolling backward during a stop

  • Changing lanes without checking your mirrors

And one more that is equally important: An instructor will not pass you if you’re acting erratic, insecure, or any other type of wreck. So, make sure to breathe and pretend you’re calm and secure in what you’re doing.

Some tips to remember:

  • Pay attention to any bridge clearances; your instructor may ask you allowed heights

  • Have your pre-trip inspection down pat

  • Always come to complete stops

  • Always stop before a stop sign, not right at it or a little past it

  • Follow the speed limit, and if there’s one specific for trucks, then follow that one

  • If you find out the test route prior to the test, then practice on that exact route

  • Hit the brakes before going over any railroad tracks

  • Remember to not shift on the tracks

  • Learn your offsets

  • Know how to turn in intersections and remember to look both left and right

  • Don’t just glance in your mirrors, actually look in them every 10 seconds or so; your tester will be watching you

  • Focus on your driving, not what the tester is doing

  • Relax and pay attention to what you’re doing

  • If you miss something during the pre-trip and you realize it, then you may be able to reclaim those points by informing your tester exactly what you missed

  • If all else fails, you can take the test again per your state

  • Try not to put too much pressure on yourself; you’ve got this!

The key to passing both the practical and road test portion of your CDL exam is to practice, study, rinse, and repeat. Take a deep breath, act confident, and pass that test!

More reading for you:

CDL license types and endorsements

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How to Get Your CDL and Become a Truck Driver

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