Pass the CDL Written Test

Blue pen on paper

The next step in your journey to become a truck driver is to pass the written portion of the CDL test. Once you have passed the CDL written test, you earn your CDL permit, also called the Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP).

After earning their CDL permit, drivers can get behind the wheel and start developing the necessary skills to haul cargo on the open road.

What is the Written CDL Test?

Man filling out multiple-choice CDL written test
Obtain your permit by passing the written CDL test.

The General Knowledge portion of the written CDL test consists of 50 randomly-selected questions. These test questions can cover any of the following topics:

  • Shifting gears
  • Basic semi-truck controls
  • Safety
  • Road regulations
  • Hazards
  • Emergency procedures
  • Communicating with fellow truck drivers
  • Maintaining specific speeds
  • Managing space between vehicles

The information you are tested on is covered in the CDL manual. Because regulations vary from state to state, each state has its own CDL manual. To obtain a copy for your state, click here.

Knowing this information like the back of your hand is crucial to passing the exam. Many of the multiple-choice questions are written specifically to make sure you’re paying close attention. It’s a lot of memorization, so you’ll want to go over the CDL manual several times.

We’ve created an entire section dedicated to the written CDL test, where you can take challenging practice tests until you’re ready for the real thing.  You can find all the CDL practice tests here.

What If I Don’t Pass the CDL Written Test?

To pass the exam, you need to answer at least 80% of the questions correctly for each test you sign up for. If you don’t get 80%, you can take the test again in 3 days. This time period may vary by state.

The limit on being able to retake the test is 6 times in a 12-month period. After that, you can’t take the CDL permit test again for a year.

Should I Get My Endorsements?

Just passing the General Knowledge CDL written test won’t let you to drive every type of freight and every type of truck. There are other written exams for HAZMAT, tanker, doubles & triples, and other vehicles. These are the endorsement tests.

People wait patiently at the DMV
Take your written CDL test at the DMV.

We encourage drivers to take all of the endorsement exams in addition to the General Knowledge CDL written test for two reasons:

1. Endorsements make it possible to earn more money.

2. Failing the endorsement written does not prevent you from earning your CLP.

Any truck driver that wants a HAZMAT endorsement must also go through a TSA background check before professionally hauling any hazardous cargo.

For a complete breakdown of the CDL test (with practice exams), click here.

What Should I Bring to the CDL Written Test?

Check with your local DMV because requirements vary by state.

For ID, you will need to bring your driver’s license, but you may also need to bring a social security card, birth certificate, or passport for alternate forms of identification.

New applicants should expect to spend approximately $70 to cover the non-refundable test fee.

Can I Take the CDL Written Test Before Trucking School?

Some rookie drivers decide to study the CDL manual and get their CLP before they even begin truck driving school. This gives you the ability to concentrate all your attention at school on the skills test and behind-the-wheel training.

It’s not necessary to take your CDL written test before trucking school.  If you learn easily on your own, this path might appeal to you. If not, your instructors at trucking school will help prepare you for the written portion of the CDL test.

Where Do I Take the CDL Written Test?

Once you’ve studied enough, go visit or call your local DMV to set up an appointment. We recommend making an appointment to take your CDL written tests because you gain priority over walk-in applicants.

After earning your commercial learner’s permit, you must hold their CLP for 14 days before taking the next test. That next step to become a truck driver is to pass the CDL road and skills test.


About The Author
Contributor: Jessica Cottner (Experienced writer with a background in travel and transportation).

Expert Review: Luke Nold (Experienced truck driver for 5+ years and published writer for Fleet Magazine).