How to Prepare for the CDL Written Test

When obtaining your CDL, you have to pass a written exam as well as a driving test. The learner’s permit test and the written components of the CDL Class A or B are extremely important because they cover areas that pertain directly to your job as a truck driver. From vehicle inspection points to the state’s traffic laws, there’s a nominal amount of material to cover, and by following our tips for preparing for the written test, you’ll be sure to pass with a high score. Read on to learn more about prepping for this test so that you can move on to the next step toward a successful career as a driver.

Understanding the CDL Written Test

The CDL written exam tests your knowledge of how to operate a large, commercial vehicle safely on the highway and on designated bypasses as well as in areas where loading and unloading take place. This test also assesses any specialty skills or advanced knowledge related to commercial vehicles and the laws and safety regulations related to a driver’s daily duties. Once you pass this test, you’re eligible to drive a vehicle that weighs 26,001 pounds or more (which includes both the cargo and the vehicle itself) or a vehicle that carries passengers. Moreover, you have two CDL classes to choose from which are Class A and Class B. Keep in mind, however, that Class A requires more extensive training since you’re operating larger, more complex vehicles. Plus, depending on which type of CDL you train for, you can take the written tests for any endorsements such as hazmat, passenger, double and triple trailer, and air brakes. For Class B, you’ll be eligible to test for the passenger, school bus, tanker, and hazmat endorsements. Each type of CDL and each endorsement comes with its own written exam and study manual.

Research Your State’s CDL Requirements

Since laws regarding licensure and safety regulations for commercial vehicles vary from one state to the next, you must become familiar with the CDL requirements in your state.

Fortunately, you can readily access informational resources to find out more about how to apply to get a CDL and how much you may have to pay for testing and other related fees. Also, you’ll need to know what age you would be eligible to obtain a CDL. You can get answers to these questions from your local Department of Motor Vehicles either by visiting their website or the office nearest to you. Likewise, when you enroll in a driving school, the instructor will pass that information along to you in addition to any tips for reviewing the material and practicing for the driving and skills sections.

Gather Study Materials

Once you have gained a firm grasp of what is covered in the written test, along with a clear understanding of your state’s requirements, you can then gather your test prep materials. The most important item is the CDL study manual. You can download a copy from your state’s DMV website or obtain a hard copy from their local office. You might also purchase a CDL test prep book which has review exercises and practice questions. Or you can download a test prep app to your phone. Plus, you’ll find many “cheat sheets” online which are review pages that cover specific questions and are accessible for a quick study session while you wait to take your test.

Create a Study Plan

One vital tip is to come up with a structured plan for studying which involves scheduling study time every day (as opposed to cramming the night before). Usually, 40 minutes to an hour each day gives you adequate time to review your manual and test prep book. However, varying your study tactics will keep you more engaged in your preparation, so try asking a friend or family member to quiz you on different concepts by using flashcards. Also, your test prep book might come with practice quizzes, or you can take some online.

Identify Weak Areas

Ideally, you will have either taken a CDL practice test at your school or home online or in a test prep book. So another important tip is to use the results to identify which areas you need to focus on more in-depth. That’s not to say that you should ignore the other concepts, but you can do a quick review of the questions that were correct while giving more attention to the weak points. Again, your manual, test prep info (or test prep app), and flashcards will help.

Truck driver giving thumbs up

When you go to take your test, you’ll need to bring the following documents (originals, not copies):

  • Your current driver’s license (and your CLP)
  • Birth certificate (or proof of legal residency if you’re not a U.S. citizen)
  • The application for the CDL
  • Social Security card
  • Proof of self-certification
  • A valid medical examiner’s certificate
  • Issuance fee

Plus, you might need to bring your scores for your skills test, or at least they need to be verified electronically.

Additionally, the DMV representative or test proctor may instruct you to leave your cell phone in the car, or they might have a holding spot for it while you take your test. Most states have the written test online, so you shouldn’t need any writing utensils. Otherwise, the proctors usually provide the Number 2 pencils if the test is on paper. Moreover, make sure you dress comfortably but not too casual. And if you’re taking multiple tests that day, you might keep some light snacks and water in your car just to keep your energy up.


Basically, preparation is key to successfully passing the written test. Just remember to familiarize yourself with the content of the test and your state’s requirements, designate daily study time during the weeks leading up to the test, improve on your weak points, and show up on test day, well-rested, with the necessary documents hand. Zenith Institute of Logistics has different CDL courses that provide the knowledge and hands-on experience you need to obtain your commercial driver’s license. Remember to stay the course even when the process takes a long time. You’re so close to passing your exams with flying colors and getting a start to a great career in driving.

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