Your First-Time Illinois Drivers License Guide for Drivers 18-20

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: August 6, 2023

Many states, including Illinois, have graduated driver license programs that require drivers under the age of 18 to complete a driver education course before they can apply for a license. In July of 2014, the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) expanded the drivers ed requirement to include first-time drivers aged 18, 19, and 20. Fortunately, it’s not difficult going through one of these courses SOS-approved courses, and there are plenty available to choose from.

Getting Your Illinois License with Adult Drivers Ed

If you’re looking to get your Illinois drivers license, we’re here to help. Welcome to our step by step guide to get you off of your couch and out onto the road. We know you have a lot of questions, so let’s get going.

Before we start this dance, you’ll need to make sure you meet all eligibility requirements listed in the Illinois Rules of the Road.

Steps to Getting Your Illinois License

The quick and dirty looks like this:

Now let’s take a look at what it’ll take to get those four steps done.

Step 1—Complete Adult Drivers Ed

The purpose of any driver education course is to equip you with the skills and knowledge you will need to take to the road safely and confidently. Courses of this type are a good idea and strongly recommended for first-time drivers of any age.

An Illinois drivers ed course will provide valuable information on topics like:

Unlike Illinois teen drivers ed (which includes 30 hours of classroom instruction and 8-12 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction), Illinois Adult Drivers Ed is only six hours in length and can be completed at an approved driving school or online.

For most busy young adults, an online course is the best option. Instead of giving up an entire Saturday to get the course done, you can finish an online course a piece at a time, whenever you have the time. Flexibility and convenience like that are hard to beat!

If you think completing a course online might be a good fit, here’s a list of some great Illinois online adult drivers ed providers.

Best Illinois SOS Approved Online Adult Drivers Ed Course Providers




Register NOW!

I Drive Safely


#1 Choice

Aceable Drivers Ed




American Safety Council


Drivers Education

of America



Top Driver


Advanced Driving School


Step 2—Complete the License Application Process

Completing this step could potentially be the most frustrating of the four. Illinois requires a LOT of paperwork during the application process, and things only get more complicated if you are not a U.S. citizen. The only bright side here is that steps three and four can be completed on the same day you submit your application. At least you’ll be walking—or, even better, driving—out of the SOS facility with a license at the end of the day.

Application for a license will happen at your local SOS facility

When you arrive, be sure to have the following:

Check out the SOS “Required Documents to Obtain a Drivers License” to know exactly what they will accept for each of these. We’ve also provided additional information for non-U.S. citizens at the end of this post.

If the examiner determines that your paperwork is good to go, it’s time to move on to Steps 3 and 4.

Step 3—Pass a Written Driving Knowledge Test

The test includes questions about:

To pass the 35-question multiple-choice test, you’ll need to score 80%. Here are some suggestions on how to prepare.

Another way to give yourself a leg up on passing the permit test is to consider one (or more) of the following:

A permit practice test has everything the “real” test does, except the pressure. That’s because practice tests feature questions taken from actual DPS exams. It’s like seeing all the answers before the test even begins! Don’t head for your test without a dress rehearsal, you want to pass the first time.

What If Your Test Didn’t Go Like You Planned?

What if you get to the testing center and, despite all your best preparation, your nerves get the best of you, and you wind up failing the test? First, don’t panic. Nearly 1 out of 3 test-takers fail on their first attempt.

If you do happen to fail, the SOS will give you two more chances, but there are some rules.

Step 4—Pass a Driving Skills Test

Finally, the last hurdle, your driving test. It’s all good. You got this

Before you attempt your driving skills test, you should spend a little time with Illinois’s “Rules of the Road.” Pages 14 and 15 paint a very clear picture of what you’ll need to (and can’t) do if you want to pass your driving test.

On the day of your road test, you’ll need to provide your own car and be sure you are driven to the SOS facility by a licensed driver. Don’t drive yourself! They’ll be checking the license of your “chauffeur” when you get there.

As far as the car you bring. It must:

Here are a few of the skills and maneuvers you’ll be asked to perform during your driving skills test:

Display confidence and make good choices during your test. Any action that would result in a ticket while driving in the “real world” will result in an automatic failure of your driving test.

By the way—Illinois doesn’t take well to monkey business on driving tests. Here’s a word from their drivers handbook on how they feel about what they call “Cheating and Bribery.”

During the written exam, applicants will be warned if they are observed doing something that could be considered suspicious. This could be, but is not limited to, an open book within the applicant’s field of vision, looking around, or checking a cellphone or other wireless device while taking the exam. Any applicant found cheating will fail the exam and be prohibited from retaking it for 30 days. Taking any part of the driver’s license exam for another person is a criminal offense punishable by a fineand a mandatory minimum seven days in jail.

A Final Note

Any licensed driver will tell you that you will never face a driving situation as complicated, nerve-wracking, and time-consuming as getting your license. By no means should you let your guard down once you’re behind the wheel but, rest assured. You’ll never face anything on the road that will compare with the process it took to get you your license.

Good luck as you work your way through this. Can’t wait to see you out on the road!

A Final Final Note

If you’ve made it this far, may we suggest you bookmark this page? You’ll probably be coming back to it often as you work your way through this!

A Few More Helpful Items from the Illinois SOS

Illinois “Rules of the Road

Illinois “Rules of the Road” Workbook

Illinois license application information for non-U.S. citizens