How to Ace your Written CDL Exam and Become a Truck Driver

End of a yellow pencil

Passing the written CDL exam is the key to getting your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), getting practice on the road, and becoming a truck driver. This article will explain the best test-taking strategies to help you pick the right answers and ace the exam.

Stay Focused

Focus is crucial, even before going into the exam. Make sure that you are free from any and all distractions. Shut your phone completely off. Don’t let any vibrations take your mind off the task at hand.

DMV office in the snow
It’s the DMV. Get comfortable.

Leading up to the written CDL exam, visualize your success.

Once you are in the testing facility, take a deep breath and imagine what getting your CLP (and eventually your CDL) will feel like. Have confidence in yourself. You are about to ace this test!

Arrive with enough time to familiarize yourself with the testing facility. The DMV isn’t always the most welcoming place.

Get comfortable with your seating. Take a few moments to adjust to your comfort level. It is important to be comfortable to allow yourself to focus on what matters at this moment: the CDL test.

Read the Question Carefully 

Pay careful attention to every word on your exam. In fact, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the test before you begin. Read the directions carefully and make sure you fully understand each question before you answer.

It’s easy, especially when you’re nervous, to scan a question and miss important details.  Make sure to read the whole question carefully and identify key terms.

Be careful of words like “not” or “except” in the question. These words are used to radically change the meaning of a question.  Compare these two questions:  “Which answer is correct?” and “Which answer is *not* correct?” A tiny difference can make or break the right answer.

When you read each question, see if you can predict the answer before looking at the choices.  If your answer in your head matches one of the choices, that is probably the right one.

Read the Answers Carefully

Read each multiple-choice answer just as carefully as you read the questions. Watch out for absolute terms.  Terms like “always” or “never” speak to absolutes that may have exceptions.  

When choosing your answer, be aware of any grey areas.  Sometimes questions will use words like “almost,” “sometimes,” and “most.”  These words indicate that the answer has a bit of a grey area and may require specific details.  Answers that use words like “almost” are more likely to be correct because the writer is being very careful to stay accurate. 

There are no patterns with the answers.  You’ve probably heard all the tips and tricks in the book when it comes to test-taking, such as “Always answer C.” or “Spell out ABACADABA with your multiple-choice answers.”  These are urban myths, and they don’t work. Do not go by the multiple-choice letter. Go by the best answer.

Pick the Best Answer

Use your predictions. ​If you’ve predicted the answer after reading the question, and then you see that answer, that’s great.  If the answer you predicted is part of the multiple choice options, then you are probably correct.

If there’s not an exact answer that matches your prediction, go with the one that is most similar. If you are not 100% sure of the answer, that is okay.  You still have a shot.

If you really feel lost, don’t panic. Just answer the question to the best of your knowledge. There are some things you can do to try to figure out the best answer:

  • Eliminate the wrong answers first. Simplify multiple-choice by immediately getting rid of the choices you know to be wrong.  Even if you don’t know the correct answer, you can reduce your chance of getting it wrong if you can guess between two answers instead of four.
  • Go with your first instinct.  Many test-takers complicate things by over-analyzing and reading into questions.  If you have an instinctual answer, go for it!
  • Answer every question. There are no penalties for guessing, so don’t leave any question blank.
  • Don’t get too hung up on a question. If you are having trouble, mark it and come back to it. Don’t let one question slow you down and keep you from moving onto the rest of the test. Marking questions and coming back later can save you time and stress. Just don’t forget to answer those questions to the best of your ability after you have finished the rest of the written CDL test.


Review all your answers once you’ve finished the written CDL test. Read through every single question, and your answer, to ensure that you have made the best choice. Give your best guess for any questions you’ve left for the end. Again, there’s no penalty for guessing!

Taking a test can be stressful. But if you prepare, study, and follow these test-taking strategies, you can ace your CDL exam, get your permit, and start driving.

To make sure you are completely prepared, take some of our free CDL practice tests.


About The Author
Contributor: Priscilla Santos (Transportation coordinator and load planner with multiple years as a writer).