Failing Permit Test: Steps to Retake Your Written Exam

OCT 13, 2021

Failing Permit Test: Steps to Retake Your Written Exam -
Are you one of those unlucky applicants who fail to pass the knowledge test?


Step 1. Learn Your Time Limits

First, you need to check out when it is permitted to retake the test in your state. You will hardly be surprised to learn that the requirements vary across states. In some states they allow people to take a second try as soon as the next day (if it is not a holiday or weekend), while in other states you have to wait a certain period before trying to obtain your learner permit again. It seems like in some states they don’t admit the very idea that you might fail because of nerves rather than due to the lack of knowledge, so they set a timeframe for you to study up on theory.

For example, in California you have to wait a week after your failure to get a second bite of the apple. In as the states of Alaska and Alabama you are free to try again the next day after your failure. However, in this case most states specify a timeframe within which applicants have to undergo the test and the number of tries they have to complete the procedure of application for the instruction permits.

For example, living in Alaska, you have 90 days and 3 attempts to get a passing score. If you use only one try within the period, you are allowed to use the two remaining attempts, but only with a one-day break between them. When all the attempts are spent, you have no choice but to start the process of application over from the very beginning.

When living in Washington, DC, you are given 6 tries within 12 months, but you have to wait at least 3 days until you are permitted to retake the exam after your latest failure. As you can see, some states can combine restrictions on the number of attempts and time limits for an interval between your tries.  

Step 2. Find Out About Fees

Keep in mind that different states have different approaches to fees, even when they have a similar scheme for retaking permit exams. In particular, in Alabama you need to pay $5 each time you want to retake the exam, while in New York you are not required to pay any additional fee at all (maybe, this can be explained by the fact that in New York the lowest application fee for a Class D license is twice higher than a DL fee in Alabama).

In some states like California you are given three attempts free of charge – or, strictly speaking, you have already paid for these three attempts by paying your application fee prior to taking the exam. If all the attempts are not successful, then you can continue trying further, but you have to pay the fee again for another three attempts. Naturally, after each triple failure you need to file a new application. It is also obviously that along with the application you need to provide all documents normally required when applying for the first time – i.e., unlucky applicants have to start all over again. However, within those three paid attempts no other documents are required except those needed for identification, as well as it is not necessary to bother about all the stuff like photos, prints, and vision tests.

Step 3. Summarize Your Local Requirements

All those differences in fees and timing described above make it rather difficult to understand who requires what and when. Thus, prior to planning your second try, you need to find out:

  • how many attempts you have before they make you start the process of application over again;
  • what timeframes are specified for your attempts;
  • whether retaking is included in the application fee you paid, and if not, how much you need to pay for your second chance.

Sure, most of this information can be found either in your local operator’s handbook or on the pages of official DMV websites. However, with some states you can find it rather difficult to find the answers to your questions about retaking permit test. For example, WA DMV website says: "If you don't pass, there may be a waiting period before you can retest" – sure this is not that kind of information we hope to find on an official webpage. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to call your local DMV’s office to get a clear answer.

Step 4. Learn the Test

Well, if you failed your written test, this means that you were either too nervous to think clearly and find correct answers in your head or just ill-prepared for the exam and there were no correct answers in your head at all. In both cases, you should gather your strength and plunge head-first into learning and training.     

If you are sure you were well equipped with knowledge and the problem was that your nerves failed you, maybe it will be helpful to focus on training rather than on cramming. With so many online sample tests, you can get the necessary real-life experience that will make you more confident and thus help you overcome the stress associated with testing. The fact is that even learning the driver’s handbook by heart doesn’t make you familiar with the way questions are posed on the knowledge exam. As a result, you may be thrown off-balance by the framing of the questions, though actually knowing correct answers.

That’s why even DMVs bother to make applicants familiar with the written tests by publishing examples of exam questions in the driver’s manuals or on websites. The problem is that there are usually too little of them, like on the Washington State Department of Licensing website. To get great training with the help of practice and marathon tests, you would be better off going to The website covers all possible topics from states’ handbooks and provides tests based on real-life questions from DMV exams. It is a fast and efficient way to refresh your memory before taking a second try, and it will make you comfortable with the real testing.  

However, the reason for your failure may lie in the fact that you just underperformed in learning. And this can be the result of ineffective learning. Did you try to cram? Or did you simply read the manual several times? Both methods are not good at all. Change your approach to learning and use effective study techniques for improved results:

  • Choose the right way of learning depending on your preferred style.
  • Take notes (write down figures, terms, facts) and use various means to mark out the most important information (underline or highlight it in different colors), while arranging it in a clear way.
  • With the help of flashcards make memorizing the information fun and easy – even more so since you don’t even have to make them by yourself. All you need to do is get the best of Driver Start’s flashcards learning tool!
  • Try to explain traffic rules to your friend or test yourself with the help of our sample test – both ways are good for repeating the facts, while revealing possible gaps in knowledge.
  • Case study – since you may have a couple of days between your attempts, use them to see how rules from the handbooks work in real life.   

There are many different methods you can use when studying for your second testing. So don’t rush yourself and try several of them to improve both your knowledge and chances of passing.

Step 5. Relax And Do It

Now it is time for final preparations, and they are not about your knowledge, but about your mood.

  • Get a good night’s sleep before your exam.
  • Eat high-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods on exam day.
  • Drink enough water during the day.
  • Think of the test as a kind of challenging game, not an execution.
  • If you are still too anxious, take 10 minutes to write down your worries to unburden your brain.

Well, you seem to be ready and we wish you good luck!