Taking your on-road DMV driving test can be a stressful affair. Even though you can always retake the test, having to pay the not insubstantial fee again is not a very comforting prospect. So if you want to make sure you pass your on-road test the first time around, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Study up on street signs
Chances are your examiner will want to make sure you are able to recognize and follow basic traffic signs, so expect the route you take to have at least a few. Aside from obvious ones like stop signs, be on the lookout for yellow traffic signs indicating that you need to go slower than the posted speed limit due to something like a sudden curve or a school zone. And of course, always keep an eye out for yield and pedestrian signs!
Mind the speed limit even if there is no sign
While checking for signs should be second nature by the time you take your on-road test, you should also make sure you are paying attention to the implicit speed limit if there are no signs posted. Typically, a residential road has a limit of 25 mph and a non-residential road has one of 55. As with the signs above, there is a good chance the examiner will take you to an area without a posted speed limit to make sure you know this.
Keep three to four car lengths between yourself and the car in front of you
It is only too easy to get distracted and fail to notice that you are creeping up on the car in front of you. Three to four car length is the standard distance you need to keep, but you should increase this distance at higher speeds. If you can't quite picture the length of your car, keep enough distance that, if the car in front suddenly stopped or slowed down, you would be able to avoid hitting them - otherwise known as the two-second rule.
Brake as smoothly as possible
Poor braking is one of the things that test examiners commonly mark people down on. Make sure you smoothly transition from decelerating to gently applying the brakes. You need to use your own judgment based on your speed, but you generally want to start braking several seconds before you come to a complete stop.
Do not go over the line at an intersection
There are often marked lines or crosswalks at intersections that you need to stop behind. There may be times when you will not be able to see the intersecting road due to a crosswalk, in which case you need to first stop before the line then slowly inch forward just enough for you to be able to see the road and no more. Also note that, while it is not ideal to stop a few inches before the line, it is much better than stopping over it.
Steer smoothly and with the right hand positioning
While you may have let yourself get a little lax with your hand positioning during your hours of practice driving, your examiner will still expect you to have your hands in the proper position, at 8 and 4 (as on a clock), or just above the midway point up on either side. In general, make sure your turns are smooth and gradual, not sudden and jerky.
Stay in the correct lane
Keep your car in the appropriate lane. In general, the left lane should be reserved for passing, not for driving regularly on. However, if you are about to make a turn, you should select the lane depending on the direction you will be going in. If you need to switch lanes for a turn, make sure you do so a bit in advance in case another car tries to pass you in the lane you need to move into.
Always use your turn signal
Even if you think no pedestrian or other driver will see it, you need to show your examiner that you are in the habit of using your signal whenever you make a turn. Good practice is to turn on your turn signal 5-10 seconds before you are turning.
There are about a thousand things that can happen at any moment on the road, and this includes during your on-road test. Make sure you have your eyes peeled for things like pedestrians or obstructions. Chances are that nothing unusual will happen, but you need to show you can react well before a dangerous situation even arises.
As mentioned at the beginning of these tips, an on-road test can be stressful. Nevertheless, if you are a nervous wreck, chances are you will not be able to even get the car out of the parking lot. Be watchful and aware, but recall that getting too stressed out is the easiest way to make simple, obvious mistakes. Take a few deep breaths and stay calm during the test!