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Dr. Melanie's son after passing his driving test

Are you gearing up to take your DMV driving test? Orthodontist Dr. Melanie Wang knows firsthand how stressful passing your driver’s test can be because…Drum roll, please…Her son just passed his and is now the proud owner of a California driver’s license!  And she now considers herself an expert due to the number of times her son has had to retake both the permit and the behind-the-wheel test.  

In honor of this big achievement, we’re sharing 10 tips for acing your own driver’s test. 

How many mistakes are allowed on a driving test?

To pass your driver’s license road test, you must make no more than thirty errors and no critical driving errors, which results in an automatic failure. Examples of common critical driving errors are driving too fast or even too slow, hitting a curb, or failing to look over your shoulder when you turn right to check for bicyclists (even when you know there isn’t one).  

Your examiner will be scoring you on your general driving behavior and specific driving maneuvers. Don’t forget the basics! Wear your seatbelt, shoulder check, obey all traffic signs, and keep to the speed limit — don’t let them catch you driving too fast in a school zone. 

If you’re getting your driver’s license in California, you’re allowed a total of three attempts to pass your vehicle inspection test, basic control skills test, and road test before having to reapply.

What do I have to do during my California driver’s license test?

Knowing what to expect will help you feel more comfortable and confident. Your driving test is about 15 minutes long and consists of basic vehicle maneuvers such as:

  • Right turns
  • Left turns
  • Lane changes
  • 4-way stops 
  • Backing up in a straight line

Study the California Driver’s Handbook for more detailed information. Don’t forget to take a few deep breaths, focus on the road, and simply do your best! 

How to pass your driving test

  1. Take your test in the middle of the day during the middle of the week. This ensures that you don’t need to deal with rush hour or weekend and afterschool traffic. When the roads are quieter, you’ll feel calmer.
  2. Get to your test early! The last thing you need is to be rushing into the DMV moments before your driver’s license road test. Arriving early will allow you to relax, collect your thoughts, and mentally prepare.
  3. Make sure you know your test vehicle. The first part of your test is knowing the basic parts of the car, including horn, hazard lights, brakes, windshield wipers, etc. It might seem simple, but it is so important to know, because these are easy points on the test! 

If it starts to rain (as it did for Dr. Melanie’s son), you should know how to use your wipers and turn on your low beams and defogger. If you are taking your test when it is dark out, you should know how to turn your headlights on and off. Using your car’s controls with confidence will show your examiner that you know what you are doing and are ready to drive alone.


  1. Take a vehicle you are comfortable driving. This tip goes hand in hand with tip 3. It’s easier to pass your test in a car that you’ve had plenty of practice in.
  2. Adjust your mirrors and seat before your test. Make sure your car is modified to fit you so when you climb in it on test day, it is perfectly set up. Having to adjust your mirrors during the test may be distracting.
  3. Use the appropriate blinker when turning! Anyone else get mixed up with their left and right when stressed? Flick your signal up for right hand turns and down for left hand turns. A great way to remember is to think of the word “upright!”
  4. Your examiner is rooting for you. Your DMV examiner wants you to pass your California driver’s license test. Remember that everyone is in your corner rooting for you (even your Rancho Sante Fe and San Diego orthodontist, Dr. Melanie!).
  5. Pretend that you’re driving with someone less intimidating. Most people feel nervous when under the close supervision of authority. Not to mention when that authority figure is testing you! Pretend you’re in the car with your mother, grandmother, or best friend — whoever is the most calming presence to you.
  6. Study your hand signals. This is one of the first things the examiner will ask you to do before pulling out of the DMV, so start your test on a high note!
  7.  As a parent, be supportive whether they pass or fail. Driver’s tests can be overwhelming and nerves can get the best of any of us. There are many teen patients who come into Dr. Melanie Orthodontics that talk about how they failed their test the first or second time around. Encourage your kids to keep practicing and not get too discouraged; it happens!

Dr. Melanie is in your corner!

The team at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics wishes all of our teen patients luck on their DMV road tests! Not a patient yet? Let’s change that! Schedule a complimentary consultation with our San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe orthodontist today.

Dr. Melanie

Author Dr. Melanie

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