How to Retake Your Permit Test

by Driving Guide | Last Updated: March 1, 2021

So you got all excited about taking your permit test, and then when the big day arrived, you panicked a bit. You didn’t study quite as much as you should have, or the answers just weren’t coming into your head, and you wound up failing! Don’t panic; it’s not the end of the world, and you are certainly not alone

In every state, it is possible to retake your written knowledge test and still get your permit. Over a third of all test takers fail the written test on their first try. Put this misstep behind you and get ready for your next shot. Being successful on your retake will come down to two things: preparing properly and having a good understanding of your state’s retesting policies.

Preparing Properly

If you failed the permit test on your first try, ask yourself a question before diving back into your drivers manual and notes—Did you not prepare well enough, or were you prepared but blew it anyway? Your next steps will depend on your honest answer to that question.

If you went into the test well-prepared, a case of nerves might have been your downfall. On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t the information that tripped you up, but the format of the test itself. If that was your problem, there is a solution, take a practice test.

Practice tests can be found all over the internet. Some of these tests can be taken online for free; others can be purchased for a small fee. Some practice tests are generic driving knowledge exams. Others are state-specific, with questions taken from the actual tests from your state. These, of course, are the ones that cost money, but they can certainly be worth it!

Practicing your permit test in advance is a great way to “train your brain” to focus all the knowledge you already have into a format that the state will approve.

If the answer to the question was, “I kinda blew off getting ready,” then it IS time to hit the books. Here are a couple of suggestions to help you get the information you’ll need to be successful next time.

Study Your State’s Driver Manual

It never hurts to go back to the source. Find your manual, blow the dust off it, and dig in. If you can’t remember where you put it, most states have a PDF version available on their websites. Some states, like California, have their manual available as a free ebook you can download right onto your phone so you can have it with you everywhere you go. After all, you’re not going to be tossing your phone in a drawer or a closet or under your bed, right? Search Google Play or iBooks to see if your state has a manual available.

Once in your manual, look for the subjects that gave you trouble on the test the first time you took it. If it’s all a blur and you don’t remember the things that tripped you up, double down on the topics that make up the majority of test questions in most states:

Consider Taking a Driver Prep Course

Driver prep courses are available online in many states. These courses (also known as “license prep courses” if you’re Googling) cover many topics that show up on written driving tests, things like:

Much of the information will seem like a repeat of drivers ed, but a refresher couldn’t hurt. If you are feeling less than confident about your retest, consider signing up for one of these courses. Poking around in one a while may just be the shot in the arm you need! 

Understanding Your State’s Retesting Rules

Every state allows retakes on permit tests, but every one of them seems to have their own rules as to how many times you can take it, how long you have to get a passing score, and how long you have to wait between each try. For example:

In California—

In Washington D.C.—

In Alabama and Alaska—

Some DMV’s limit the amount of time you’ll have to get your retakes done. In Alaska, you have three months to get in your three attempts. In D.C. you have 12. Maybe that’s because they also give so many chances…

In some states retests are free. Alabama is a notable exception. There you will pay $5 bucks for every try. But you’ll be paying big bucks in your state if you run out of attempts. Once you have exhausted all your tries, you get to pay (and go through the hassle) of starting the whole permit application process again.

Before you reschedule your retake, make very sure you understand your state’s rules about retesting.

Make sure you find out:

Most of these questions can be answered on your state’s DMV website, but it’s not always the case. Some state websites are difficult to navigate, use unfamiliar terminology, and are really unclear about some of their own driving rules. If you can’t find a satisfactory answer, don’t hesitate to call your local Motor Vehicle office.

(Re)Taking Your Permit Test

As your scheduled day approaches, do the pre-test prep you’ve been taught all your life.

Avoid worrying about the outcome as much as possible and instead just calmly read through the different problems. You are prepared to nail this test, so get it done and over with so you can start training to be an awesome driver!