Comprehensive Guide to the DMV Drive Test | Part 3

Written By | Doreen Almirol | 20+ years CA DMV Licensed Driving Instructor


Embarking on your DMV drive test can be a nerve-wracking experience, but understanding the critical errors that may lead to a failed test is crucial.

Let’s delve into the scoring criteria and common mistakes to ensure you’re well-prepared for a successful drive.

See Driving Perfomance Evaluation Score Sheet sample to follow along with our guide. (Provided by California DMV)

BACK: DMV Drive Test: Check In & Vehicle Inspection | Part 1
DMV Drive Test: Scoring Criteria | Part 2
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This criteria is used to evaluate your action or inaction during a driving test that would result in a driving test failure. AVOID these errors:

Intervention by Examiner 

  • Any action or inaction that requires physical or verbal intervention by the examiner. An example of a verbal intervention could be the examiner loudly stating, “Stop.” 
  • After making 3 attempts to back your vehicle.

Strikes Object/Curb

  • Making contact with another vehicle, object, bicyclist, pedestrian, or animal when it could have been safely avoided. 
  • Driving over the curb or on the sidewalk.

Disobeys Traffic Signs or Signals 

  • Going through or exceeding a brisk walking speed (4 mph) at a: Stop sign, Flashing red light, Right turn on a red light. 
  • Not stopping and waiting for a green signal at a red light,  (NOTE: after making a full and complete stop at the red light, you may make a right turn when it is safe to do so and there are no posted signs prohibiting a right turn on a red light.), or at a red freeway-metered ramp signal. 
  • Making an unnecessary stop at a green light or on a freeway-metered ramp. 

You Disobey Other Traffic Signs and/or Lane Marking, such as

  • A lane drop (lane merges). 
  • Painted arrows. 
  • A painted island. 
  • Curb markings (red, blue, etc.). 
  • Traffic cones, etc.

Disobeys traffic safety personnel or safety vehicles 

  • Passing a school bus that has flashing red lights. 


Traffic in both directions must stop unless driving on a divided highway, with a barrier in the center divide.

  • Failing to pull over and stopping for an emergency vehicle.
  • Disobeying any safety personnel, law enforcement officer, or firefighter.

Dangerous Maneuvers

  • Taking any action or inaction that causes another driver or pedestrian to take evasive action.
  • Not moving your head and eyes to make a traffic check at an uncontrolled intersection when a hazard is present.
  • Blocking an intersection at any time with your vehicle so that it impedes cross traffic.
  • Not looking in your mirror(s) or over your shoulder to check the rear or blind spot when: Making a lane change, Merging, Backing, Making a right turn with a bike lane, Pulling from the curb or side of the road.


  • You drive 10 mph:
    • OVER the speed limit.
    • UNDER the speed limit when the road, pedestrians, bicyclists, and/or traffic conditions do not warrant a lower speed.
  • You drive too:
    • Fast for safety.
    • Slow for safety.

Auxiliary equipment use

  • Failure to use the windshield wipers, defroster, or headlights when weather conditions or darkness requires the use of auxiliary equipment.

Lane violation

  • Driving further than 200 feet in a bike lane or two-way center left turn lane, straight ahead while in a designated turn lane, unnecessarily in the oncoming traffic lane at any time, or turning from a designated forward (straight) lane.
  • Making a turn from the wrong lane.


For right turns with a bike lane, you must enter the bike lane only after ensuring there is no bicycle traffic and then enter where the solid white line of the BIKE LANE breaks up into dotted lines.

What Happens Next?

With the California Learner’s Permit, individuals have the opportunity to take the driving test up to three times before the permit expires. Following the third attempt, applicants must start the driver’s license process again to acquire a new permit.

For drivers under 18 years old, there is a mandatory waiting period of two weeks plus the number of failed attempts (a total of 15 days) before they can retake the driving test. However, there is no waiting period for adults seeking to retest. It’s important to note that the DMV charges a fee for retesting only, excluding the initial test. As of the latest update, the retesting fee stands at $8.

Remember, re-testing is always easier than taking it the first time.  Most people pass on the second try, so don’t be discouraged and TRY IT AGAIN!


BACK: DMV Drive Test: Check In & Vehicle Inspection | Part 1
DMV Drive Test: Scoring Criteria | Part 2

Not Quite Ready for the Drive Test?

Enroll in our driving lessons for expert guidance on mastering scoring criteria. Practice diligently, stay alert to traffic checks, and prioritize safety. Your journey to becoming a skilled and responsible driver starts here.

Express Driving School has driving lessons to help you prepare for the DMV drive test.