Just Released: 45% Pass/Fail Rate on CA DMV Written Test

The latest California AB 60 results have been released and they share some interesting information.

First, since the program inception on January 3, 2015, 513,000 AB licenses have been issued. This huge number shows exactly how badly this program was needed, given how many people are now driving legally in the state of CA.

The latest PR release also discloses a 45% statewide pass/fail rate for applicants for a new driver’s license. Some might immediately suspect the flood of AB 60 applicants is responsible for such a dismal pass/fail rate, however, in 2014 the pass/fail rate was 47%.

On the bright side, while Californians may have a very weak knowledge of the rules of the road, they have more acceptable driving skills. The pass/fail rate for the driving test is 69%. In 2014, the driving test pass rate was 61%. So, maybe some of those AB 60 applicants have actually helped the driving pass rate in 2015.

Why is it so hard to pass the CA written test? In 1998 the DMV completed research to understand why the pass/fail rates were so high. Two key findings were that many questions are poorly worded and that foreign language applicants have a harder time passing the test.

CA is not facing a unique problem. Florida recently announced dismally low pass/fail rates on their written test and is currently analyzing the problem to determine what to do. Boyd Dickerson-Walden, director of the division of motor services for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, has been reported as stating that Florida has been reviewing all questions since the overhaul of their written test and the subsequent decline in the pass/fail rate. The Tampa Bay Times reported that “DHSMV chief of staff Leslie Palmer told aides to Scott and the Cabinet that the agency has committed to reaching a passing rate of 70 percent on the new test this year.”

Nationally, pass/fail rates hover around 70%. No publicly available data shows the breakout of these results by applicant language, but it is reasonable to suspect that states with higher percentages of foreign language applicants have lower pass/fail rates. Many states now offer the written test in alternate languages, but not all do.

Some companies, such as DMVCheatSheets.com, offer study material for the DMV written test in a variety of languages. But, if the written test is not offered in languages other than English, then studying in an alternate language will not help applicants pass. Also, if foreign language tests are not written or translated well, then the tests themselves might be too confusing for applicants.

One thing is clear: Applicants should study before taking the written test. Not all of the rules of the road are intuitive, and applicants must study the rules to know them. Not studying for the written test can be an expensive choice, given most states charge a fee for each test attempt. Most importantly, not knowing the rules of the road makes for unsafe drivers.


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

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