Texas Living

Tips for Passing Your Texas Driving Test

By Peter Simek 6.30.21

You’ve put in the hours, you’ve studied the rules of the road, you know the proper way to adjust your side-view mirrors, and you can nail a parallel parking job on your first try. Now, the only thing standing between you and your driver’s license is the test.

No matter how confident you may feel behind the wheel, passing the Texas driving test is still a scary last hurdle on the way to full, legal open-road freedom. But passing a driver’s test on the first try doesn’t have to become a source of major anxiety. In fact, if you keep a few simple best practices in mind, you should be able to ace the exam. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you pass with flying colors.

1. Practice a pre-drive checklist.

One of the first things your instructor will ask you to do after getting behind the wheel is run through a pre-drive checklist. This is a set of skills designed to show that you know the essential operational functions of the vehicle, including:

  • Engaging the emergency parking brake.
  • Demonstrating arm signals.
  • Operating the windshield wipers.
  • Activating the defroster.
  • Locating your hazard lights.
  • Switching on headlights and turn signals.
  • Sounding the horn.

2. Stay calm, cool, and collected.

Before you even turn the key in the ignition, keep in mind that your instructor is observing your behavior and demeanor behind the wheel as much as they are analyzing your driving skills. Try to stay cool and calm as you get underway.

3. Pay close attention to changes on the road.

These could include speed limit changes, the presence of pedestrians, and increased traffic. Err on the side of safe, defensive driving. This is always good advice — even after you get your license.

4. Focus on smooth maneuvering.

The test will target some key driving skills, but the instructor will also be looking to see how you handle general road conditions, particularly as they change or offer unexpected obstacles. That starts as soon as you leave the DMV; the instructor will observe how you navigate the parking lot, so be sure to follow all posted driving rules and don’t cut through empty spaces.

5. Practice these key driving skills.

The test focuses on some key skills that you can practice beforehand, so you can execute the maneuvers cleanly and with confidence. These include:

  • Turns: Your instructor will likely make you perform up to four left and right turns. During each, he or she will be looking for you to use your signals correctly, make full stops, stay within the limit lines, demonstrate steering control, maintain proper speed, and turn into the correct lane.
  • Safe lane changes: Be sure to use your signal, give yourself plenty of room, check your mirrors and blind spot, and maintain a safe speed.
  • Parallel parking: Some states no longer require parallel parking on the test, but to pass the Texas driving test, this classic challenge remains.
  • Demonstrating proper turns: This includes a U-turn and a three-point turn.
  • Backing up: Show that you are confident operating the car in reverse, maintain a safe speed, and know how to check over your shoulder for hazards.
  • Intersections: Your test may include crossing through up to eight intersections. Your instructor will be looking for how you handle speed, yields, traffic checks, braking, and limit lines.

Throughout the test, your instructor will be observing how you handle speed limit changes, road signs, and traffic signals. They will also have an eye on how you use your turn signals and mirrors. If you have practiced enough and know the rules of the road, then the best way to ace these portions of the exam is to stay calm and drive safe.

6. Avoid these common mistakes.

Most new drivers are afraid of making a big mistake — like a botched parking job — during their driver’s test, but it’s often the little mistakes that can add up to failure. Avoiding a few common mistakes will help reduce the chances that you don’t make the grade. These include:

  • Nervous or unconfident driving.
  • Making overly wide turns.
  • Not observing bike lane restrictions by driving in or too close.
  • Not properly obeying a road sign or signal. (An estimated 11% of new drivers fail because of this infraction.)
  • Speeding — or driving too slowly. Don’t go more than 5 mph below —  or above — the speed limit.
  • Overreliance on mirrors: Instructors will want you to use your mirrors properly, but that means not over-relying on them at the expense of turning your head to check blind spots.

Lastly, keep your eyes on the road, keep your hands at the correct 9 and 3 position, drive calmly and confidently, and you will be fine.

Never Stop Learning Safe Driving

The data is clear: Younger drivers are responsible for a large portion of traffic accidents and insurance claims. That is because the best test of safe driving is experience. But even if it has been years since you passed your driver’s exam, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from taking defensive driving classes.

Sometimes, these are mandated by courts if you have received a traffic ticket or been involved in an accident. But Kevin Skiles, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent in Abilene, says that if you take a defensive driver’s course on your own, you may be eligible for some insurance premium discounts. That could mean more savings than you think. Skiles says that, in recent years, underwriters of auto insurance policies have adjusted the way they price premiums based on age. It used to be that after the age of 25, premiums would drop. But not anymore.

“We have a new underwriting department, and now they analyze it every year,” Skiles says. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I’m 25, and my auto insurance is going to go down,’ and it might for some. But it’s dated.”

It makes sense. There is no magical difference between a 24- and a 25-year-old driver. Instead, premiums fall gradually over time. The best way to keep those costs down remains the same: Drive safely, calmly, and confidently.

One of the most common signs of dangerous driving is texting while behind the wheel. Here’s what our Agents have to say about this life-threatening behavior.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2021 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance