The DMV Written Test: What's Your States Pass Rate?

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by Lisa on November 11, 2016
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Many people assume that the DMV written test is easy and they don’t really need to study. I mean, after all, even if you are a first-time driver, you’ve still spent lots of time in a car, even if it’s just as a passenger. So, in theory, everyone should pretty much know the rules of the road, right? Well, a review of each state’s pass rate shows this is not the case at all.

Some states do have pretty stellar pass rates, but others, like California, have an abysmal 45% pass rate. California releases the state’s pass rate on a monthly basis. Most state’s release the data once a year or after a test has been updated, and some states do not track (or at least do not publish) the pass/fail rate at all. Florida updated the test to make it more challenging in 2015 and pass rates plummeted.

Interestingly, Utah changed the test to make it more challenging and to cover topics related to accidents in 2012, but also made the test open book. Utah encourages drivers to study before taking the test, but we have to wonder how many test takers of an open book test really take that advice to heart? Still, while Utah is a state that doesn’t publish it’s pass/fail rate, we are hopeful they are pretty close to 100% pass, even if fatality rates have increased.

Below are failure rates for the DMV written test. Estimates are a 35% to 55% failure rate for most states, but as you can see below, many states are outside of this estimated range. If a state isn’t listed, that means we couldn’t find the pass/fail rates for that state.

  • Alabama – 55% fail rate
  • Alaska – 50% fail rate
  • Arizona – 60% fail rate
  • Arkansas – 46.6% fail rate
  • California – 55% fail rate
  • Colorado – 31.8% fail rate
  • Connecticut – 30% fail rate
  • Florida – 58.1% fail rate
  • Idaho – 35% fail rate
  • Illinois – 55% fail rate
  • Iowa – 20% fail rate
  • Kentucky – 30% fail rate
  • Maine – 35% fail rate
  • Maryland – 52.7% fail rate
  • Massachusetts – 20% fail rate
  • Minnesota -46% fail rate
  • Mississippi – 60% fail rate
  • Missouri – 61.4% fail rate
  • Nebraska – 50% fail rate
  • Nevada – 41.6% fail rate
  • New Hampshire – 25% fail rate
  • New Mexico – 20% fail rate
  • New York – 22.5% fail rate
  • Oregon – 46% fail rate
  • Pennsylvania – 55% fail rate
  • Tennessee – 50% fail rate
  • Utah – Open Book test
  • Vermont – 30% fail rate
  • Washington – 50% fail rate
  • Wisconsin – 28.3% fail rate

Of course, if you fail the test, it’s not the end of the world. Every single state will let you return and take the test again. But, what can you do to avoid the hassle and frustration of having to return to the DMV? Well, study!

As anyone who has ever driven up to a four-way intersection at the same time as another vehicle knows, many, many people out there don’t REALLY know the rules of the road. Plus, each year laws in many states change. Child seat rules, seat belt laws, speed limits, and cell phone restrictions are just some of the topics that states are routinely updating. Many people miss these new laws in the news, so reviewing the manual is a good idea.

Most states do administer the test on a computer. If you think taking a test on a computer might throw you off, then it’s definitely worth taking practice tests on a computer. DMVCheatSheets.com offer online practice tests that simulate the computer test at the DMV. And, if you are someone who prefers to study efficiently and have a quick review of the important points and frequently asked test questions, they also sell a printable “Cheat Sheet” study guide.

Even after looking at the failure rates, still think you can wing it and don’t need to study? CarInsurance.com did a study and found that of 500 drivers they tested, over 50% couldn’t pass the written test. Nasdaq.com spoke to the experts and found that “poor preparation and overconfidence as the culprits behind failure.”

In many ways, this is a road safety issue. To be a safe driver, drivers need to know the rules of the road. They need to know who has the right-of-way and what to do if an emergency vehicle approaches. So, in a way, picking up a driver’s manual and reviewing it every few years even if you don’t have to take the written test, seems like a good idea.

FREE DMV Test Question:
Here’s your FREE DMV question and answer. FREE DMV Question (answer at bottom of page):
You enter a designated turn lane to make a left turn at an upcoming intersection. There is oncoming traffic. You should: A. Move to the center of the center lane B. Signal before you arrive at the intersection C. Turn your front wheels to the left to be prepared to turn

Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for DMVCheatSheets.com DMVCheatSheets.com, making the roads safer one test taker at a time.

FREE DMV Question and Answer: A is the correct answer.

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