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Road Signs Test: 3 Ways to Get Prepared the Right Way

Last updated: October 6, 2021
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vector graphics image showing signs you would need to know for a road signs test

Getting your license is a modern rite of passage.

There are multiple steps to acquiring a driver’s license, and a road signs test is the first.

But many applicants underestimate the road signs test.

First-time testers often fail because they don’t properly prepare.

For example, you might be surprised that approximately 44% of first-time testers fail the road signs test.

That number is even higher in some states.

If you want to properly prepare and succeed on the first try, here’s everything you need to know about the road signs test.

What is a Road Signs Test?

A road signs test is a written exam.

A state licensing department or division conducts the exam.

Many know the department by its more popular moniker, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles).

While the name differs in some states, there is an equivalent institution in all states.

For example, Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, and Arizona have a Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).

Most road signs tests consist of 25 multiple-choice questions.

Each question includes a sign image accompanied by four descriptions, and the goal is to choose the correct description.

For example, an image of an orange diamond-shaped sign depicting a person with a shovel might trigger the following description:

  • Construction ahead
  • Pedestrian crossing
  • Yield
  • None of the above

After selecting “construction ahead,” the answer is marked as correct, and the applicant proceeds to the next question.

However, the test will automatically end prematurely if the percentage of incorrect answers is greater than correct answers.

While it can vary from state to state, the average DMV written test requires a score of 80% or higher to pass.

For example, in California, applicants need to answer 20 out of 25 questions correctly to pass.

Why Might You Need a Road Signs Test?

A road signs test is the first step to acquiring a driver’s license for the first time.

Passing this test grants a learner’s permit from the state, qualifying you for a behind-the-wheel or CDL exam for a complete driver’s license.

With a learner’s permit, you drive on all public roads and highways while accompanied by an adult who has obtained a full driver’s license.

You qualify for a driving or road test once you hold a learner’s permit for 180 days.

For drivers under 18, the license includes restrictions, such as passenger allowances and ages.

If your learner’s permit expires before acquiring an intermediate driver’s license, you will need to retake the road signs test.

The 3 Types of Road Signs

There are three main categories you need to know for your road signs test.

1. Regulatory Signs

Regulatory signs state regulations, rules, or conditions that drivers must obey.

Examples include “Do Not Enter” or “Wrong Way” signs. Drivers can recognize regulatory signs by white writing on a red background.

There are also white background signs featuring a red circle with a line through it.

For these types, the image depicts a prohibited action.

For example, if the sign pictured a right-angled arrow, that would indicate drivers can’t turn right.

2. Warning Signs

Warning signs caution drivers about something ahead.

Animal crossings, winding roads, and sharp curves are examples of this type of sign.

As hazards and road conditions are the primary subjects, warning signs are eye-catching yellow with bold images or black lettering.

Typically, the shape is diamond, but drivers will also see similar shapes, such as a square or rectangle.

3. Guide Signs

Guide signs help drivers navigate the area. From simple street signs to mile markers, guide signs tell drivers what’s ahead and how to get where they need to go.

The shapes and colors of guide signs vary, depending on what the sign indicates.

However, most guide signs will have a rectangular or square shape.

Green is the most common color for guide signs, but drivers will also see white or blue guide signs.

The writing is usually white, with exceptions, such as black writing on a white background.

3 Ways to Prepare for a Road Signs Test

Preparing the right way for your road signs test is possible with three simple methods.

1. Road Signs Test Study Sheet (Free)

Before you can start studying for your road signs test, you need access to the correct information.

You don’t need to scramble to Google or flip through an official manual with a study sheet.

All you need to know is in one place.

Use this free study sheet to start reviewing.

2. Traffic & Road Sign Test (Free)

Practice makes perfect, and with free online tests, you can practice until recognition becomes a reflex.

If you’re a nervous tester, it can be helpful to simulate the testing environment.

For example, you might try a few practice tests at a library or other public space with Wi-Fi access.

A public space can help simulate some of the unpredictable distractions and help you practice your concentration.

Check out this link for a free road signs test.

3. Buy a Test Prep Course (Paid)

A test prep course is another excellent way for rapid learning.

It allows preppers access to up-to-date information and additional resources.

It’s also helpful if you’re having trouble organizing time to study or if you lose concentration while reviewing.

Not only does a paid-for course offer an obvious incentive to pay attention, but it also creates an environment that allows you to focus on learning.

Click to link for a fantastic resource for a test prep course.

The site also offers a free road signs practice test.

Tips for Passing a Road Signs Test

Whatever preparation method you rely on, there are tips that everyone can use to improve their score.

It starts with practicing good habits.

Here are four tips for passing your road signs test.

vector graphics image showing signs you would need to know for a road signs test

1. Study Ahead of Time

Cramming is the worst way to study, as it often results in forgetting.

Instead, you should study ahead of time.

It’s best if you go over your signs guide more than once.

Evidence shows that information and skill retention improve when we review twice or more.

Give yourself plenty of time to read guides and use practice tests.

2. Create the Right Study Environment

Discovering the best environment for studying can be personal, but there are a few themes everyone needs.

Classical music has been a cliché go-to for background music, but you might find a different genre helps you focus.

Complete silence is rarely the right way to go.

It’s best to simulate the same distraction level you’d expect when writing an exam.

3. Come Prepared

Coming prepared is about more than stuffing your brain with sign knowledge.

You need the right amount of rest and fuel in your system to present your best self—plan to show up about 10 minutes before your road signs test.

Then, if you’re on time, rested, and energized, you remove any obstacles that might block your success.

If you require accommodations or proper corrective lenses, prepare before your test.

4. Don’t Overthink It

While reviewing in advance of your exam date will help you pass the first time, sometimes nerves get the better of us.

When you overthink it, your brain might draw a blank.

You’ve studied ahead of time, and you’ve utilized a few practice tests.

Calm down and carefully look over the questions.

Relax and do your best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few FAQs that review basic road rules.

What are blue signs called?

Blue signs are guides, mainly directing drivers to road user services, tourist info, or evacuation routes.

One notable blue sign is the interstate sign.

Interstate signs use a blue background, white numbers, and a red line along the top.

The sign displays the names of two or more states and includes directions and the route number.

What are road signs green?

Green road signs indicate traffic direction or permitted movement.

For example, a guide sign is green with white writing.

Guide signs might include mile markers, street signs, exit signs, toll road signs, and logo service signs.

They always appear before a destination or directing towards a location.

What lane is for slow drivers?

Technically, there is no lane for slow drivers. Instead, road courtesy designates the left lane for passing or faster drivers.

In addition, some states establish the left lane for turning left or passing only, which means no drivers should be cruising in the left lane.

That makes the right lane the de facto lane for slow drivers.

However, drivers shouldn’t ignore speed limits and slow down in the right lane.

The intention is that the left lane is speedier, not that the right lane is slower.

If you’re not passing or turning left, drivers should keep right.

Wrapping Up

No one likes tests, but you can make it easier by preparing the right way.

First, start by knowing the main sign types, as it can help you recognize a sign’s purpose, even if you don’t remember every sign.

Then, take advantage of free online tests and study sheets.

Have you tried any of our tips? Which works best for you?

Try them all, and you’ll be prepared for your road signs test and become a safer driver.

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