Most first-time drivers in Texas must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TX DPS) to obtain a driving permit or a drivers license. Fortunately, it’s not difficult going through one of these courses, and there are plenty available to choose from.
Steps to Getting Your Texas License
If you’re looking to get your Texas 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.
No matter your age, getting your license can be an exciting, scary, and confusing time, sometimes all at the same time. First off, let’s clear up some Texas DPS terms. In some cases, it seems they’ve gone out of their way to make it confusing.
Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:
- Classroom Driver Education—A.K.A. “drivers ed.” A state-approved course that will cover driving law and basic driving skills.
- Instruction Permit—A.K.A. “Learners Permit” or “Driving Permit.” This permit will allow you to practice drive legally before applying for your license.
- Class C License—The license you’re shooting for, allowing you to drive any vehicle besides a motorcycle or commercial vehicle.
- Knowledge Test—A.K.A. “Written Driving” or “Permit” Test, it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get a permit.
- Driving Skills Test—A.K.A. “Road Skills Test” or just plain ‘ol “Driving Test,” it’s the one you’ll have to pass to get your license.
- GDL—A.K.A. “Graduated Drivers License”—A.K.A. “Provisional License.” A “Class C” with some restrictions. These restrictions will apply if you are under 18.
See? I told you they made it confusing!
Who Must Take Texas Drivers Ed?
No matter your age, it’s probably not a bad idea for anyone to take a drivers ed course before getting their first license. However, Texas only requires teen drivers ed for driving candidates younger than 18. Teens can enroll in drivers ed at age 14.
If you are age 18-24, you must complete adult drivers ed. If you fall into that age bracket, we invite you to head here for better answers.
The Path to a Texas License in a Nutshell
The quick and dirty looks like this:
- Take drivers ed
- Get a learner’s permit
- Complete 30 hours of practice driving
- Pass a road skills test
Now let’s take a look at what it’ll take to get those four steps done.
Step 1—Take Drivers Ed
A Texas drivers ed course is comprised of:
- 32 hours of classroom instruction
- Seven hours of behind the wheel instruction
- Seven hours of in-car observation
The classroom portion teaches topics like:
- Texas traffic laws
- Meanings of road signs, signals, and markings
- Your responsibilities as a licensed driver
- Alcohol safety and drug abuse awareness
- Motor vehicle operation fundamentals
- Driving in hazardous situations
- Driving in emergency situations
The classroom portion of Texas drivers ed can be completed online, at an approved driving school, or, if it is offered, your high school.
At the end of your course, you will receive a certificate of completion. Hold on to it! You’ll need it when you apply for your license.
Perhaps the easiest way is to complete the classroom portion of drivers ed is online. Taking drivers ed online means you can complete this portion at a pace and on a schedule that works best for you.
Another great advantage to completing drivers ed online is that the test you’ll take to complete the course will double as your permit exam. You’ll just need to complete your course, get your paperwork together, and grab your permit!
If you think completing a course online might be a good fit, here’s a list of some great Texas online drivers ed providers.
Best Texas DPS Approved Online Drivers Ed Course Providers
If you (or your folks) would prefer a traditional driving school experience, check out our guide to selecting the best driving school.
Texas also lets teen drivers complete their driver training requirement by completing a Parent Taught Driver Education course. This course falls under the authority of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). You can visit them for more details.
Step 2—Getting Your Permit
In Texas, you can apply for your permit when you turn 15. The journey to your permit looks a lot like the journey anyone would take to get a Texas drivers license:
When you arrive, be sure to have the following:
- A Completed “Texas Driver License or Identification Card Application” (Form DL-14B)
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Evidence of Lawful Presence
- Two Proofs of Texas Residency
- Proof of Identity
- Proof of Social Security Number
- Proof of Enrollment (or Completion) of Driver Education
- Verification of Enrollment and Attendance (VOE)
- Proof of Passing the Knowledge Exam, unless you’re planning on taking it there
Check out the DPS list of “What to Bring” to know exactly what they will accept for each of these. We’ve also provided links to all of the documents mentioned on the “What to Bring” list at the end of this post.
- You’ll also need to bring
- Your eyeballs (for a vision test)
- Your thumbs (for ID purposes)
- Check, cash, money order, or credit card to pay your application fee.
After you have shown all of this to the folks at the DPS, hold on to it! You’ll need much of it again when you apply for your license.
Now it’s time for your written permit test
The test will include questions about:
- Driving laws and their penalties, including traffic, liability insurance, alcohol-related, pedestrian, and implied-consent laws
- Various kinds of driving skills, such as turning, signaling, lane changing, and parking
- Differences between highway driving and city driving, including speed limits
- Procedures to be used in accidents or emergencies
- Distinguishing various signs and their meaning based on color and shape
- Meanings of pavement markings on both highways and streets
To pass the 30-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:
- Study the Texas Drivers Manual
- Take a driver prep course, a great way to get you ready for your license. (Learn more)
- Quiz yourself with a Texas permit practice test
A permit practice test has everything the “real” test does, except the pressure. That’s because practice tests feature questions taken from actual DMV 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 DPS will give you two more chances, but there are some rules.
- You will have to wait until at least the next day for another attempt
- You will have to pay a fee for each retest
Once you finish the permit dance at the DPS office, you will receive a temporary permit. Your new permit will arrive in the mail in 2-3 weeks. You can check on the status of your permit through the DPS mailing status page.
Step 3—30 Hours of Practice Driving
Now it’s time to put that learners permit to good use. Before you can apply for your license, you are required to use it for six months, unless you turn 18 during that time.
Before you can take a driving test, you’ll have to complete 30 hours of practice driving, and at least 10 of those will need to happen after dark.
Your permit does come with some restrictions, namely, that you cannot drive without a licensed driver age 21 or older in the front seat with you.
While you might be nervous at first, do your best to enjoy this time and always pay close attention to what’s going on around you. You never know the kinds of things, good and bad, that you might learn from the drivers around you. Take time to learn all you can from the licensed driver who is with you.
Also, do yourself the favor of driving in as many conditions as you can, places like:
- On the highway
- In neighborhoods
- On winding or hilly roads
- In downtown areas
- In bad weather
It’s better if you don’t see these things for the first time on your own.
Since you’ll be using your permit as long as six months, there’s no reason not to drive WAY more than 30 hours! It can only do you good.
BTW—If you are planning a family road trip, you may get the chance to do some practice driving in another state. Check this out to see if you can.
Step 4—Pass a Driving Test
Finally, the last hurdle, your driving test. It’s all good. You got this.
You must be at least 16 to apply for a full license. You must also have:
- Held a valid instruction permit for at least six months
- Completed both the classroom and driving instruction components of drivers ed
- Completed the Impact Texas Teen Driver Program
IMPORTANT NOTE: The ITTD program is a two-hour course designed to impress upon new drivers the importance of being safe and responsible on the road. The course is free and available to complete at Impact Texas Drivers. but, be advised. The course is only available to be viewed on a desktop or laptop computer. It is NOT compatible with phones or tablets. There are a number of other “known issues” detailed on the Impact Texas Drivers site. It is unclear how long these problems will exist, so visit the site early in your driving test planning process to determine if and how these issues may affect you. ITTD may not only impact your driving; it may impact your scheduling, too.
When you arrive for your appointment, be sure to have the following with you:
- Completed Driver License Application (Form DL-14B)
- Evidence of Lawful Presence
- Proof of Identity
- Drivers Ed Certificate of Completion
- Verification of Enrollment and Attendance (VOE) (not needed if you used one to get your permit)
- Proof of Passing the Driving Test, unless you’re planning on taking it there
- Impact Texas Driver Program Certificate of Completion
Told you that you wanted to hang on to all the stuff from when you got your permit!
You will also need to provide:
- Your signature
- Your eyeballs (for a second vision test)
- Your thumbs (again with the thumbs!)
- Your smiling face (for your drivers license pic)
- Check, cash, or credit card to pay your application fee
- A vehicle to take the test in. The vehicle must:
- Be insured
- Be properly registered
- Be able to pass a visual safety inspection
As for the test itself, you should spend a little time with the DPS publication “How to Prepare for a Drivers Test.” It paints a very clear picture of what you’ll need to (and can’t) do if you want to pass your driving test.
The long and short of it is this.
During the test, you will be observed (and graded) on your ability to:
- Back the vehicle in a straight line
- Parallel park
- Approach intersections
- Turn the vehicle
- Stop in regular traffic conditions
- Control the vehicle
- Observe traffic
- Use signals
- Maintain vehicle position while turning, stopping, etc
If you were to fail your driving test, what happens next depends on where you took it.
- If you took it at the DPS—You will get two more chances within 90 days.
- If you took it with a third-party provider—Retake rules at these alternate locations are determined by the individual location. You may want to ask about their policies before scheduling an appointment.
Like with your permit, after you successfully passed your driving test, you will receive your official Provisional License in the mail in 2-3 weeks. This Provisional License will expire on your 18th birthday.
Using Your New License
Per the rules of the Texas Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program, your new Provisional License will come with some restrictions concerning when you can drive and who you can have in the car with you.
With a Provisional License, you can’t drive from midnight to 5 A.M. except when driving:
- To or from work
- To or from school or a school activity
- In case of emergency
With a Provisional License, you may not transport any more than one passenger under age 21 who is not a family member
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 Texas DPS
Information about testing in other languages
Direct link to the Impact Texas Driver Program
Links to items you may need from the “What to Bring” list
Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240)
Certificate of Birth Abroad (FS-545)
Certification of Report of Birth of a U.S. Citizen (DS-1350)
A Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550 or Form N-570)
A Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560 or Form N-561)
Permanent Resident “Green” Card (Form I-551)
Employment Authorization Card (Form I-766)