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How Difficult is the CDL Test?

Getting your CDL is one of the first steps to starting your trucking career, and it does not come without challenges. The state has two stages of examination for getting your CDL—the written test to get your permit (CLP) and the CDL Skills Test. You might be wondering how hard it is to pass the CDL exams...let’s talk about it!

Written Exam (CLP Test)

How many questions are on the CLP test?

The written test for obtaining your Commercial Learner’s Permit for a Class A CDL has 3 primary sections, these include:

  1. General Knowledge

  2. Air Brakes

  3. Combination Vehicles

Each state may vary, but typically, there are 50 to 100 questions in total. States usually allow you to take the tests one at a time or all at once.

How many can I get wrong?

You must receive an 80% or higher to pass the CLP test! You can fail the CLP test and retake it as many times as you need, but the cost varies from state to state. For example, North Carolina charges a $43.25 fee to take the knowledge test. This fee affords the payer 3 attempts to pass the knowledge test.

Example Questions

You can typically find several practice test resources online to view example questions and answers to prepare for the CLP test. We have also created a practice test guide including 40 questions and answers (plus 5 bonus questions!) covering general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicle tests. You can download that product here.

Tips for Passing the CLP Written Test

The best thing you can do to prepare for your CLP test is to get your hands on your state’s CDL Manual! Your state will have a CDL Manual that you can obtain online here or at your nearest Secretary of State’s Office or State Driver License Agency. The CDL Manual will have testing information and other resources, such as safe driving practices, to help you study for the three tests required to obtain the CLP. Some states offer study guides.

Here's a few more tips to consider:

  • Use study strategies that work best for you, such as using flashcards and taking practice exams (like the one we mentioned above!)

  • There is no time limit for the exams! Take as much time as you need.

  • Only study what you NEED to know – if you aren’t getting any endorsements, don’t study for them.

  • Set goals for studying and working through the materials (e.g., number of pages to read per day)

  • Don’t cram for the test the night before. Spread out your study time over a few days or weeks.

  • Avoid distractions while studying. Create an environment where you can stay focused. Some people focus better when it is completely quiet, while others need a little music or soft background noise to concentrate. Do what works best for you.

  • When you study, choose a technique that best suits your learning style: reading/Writing, Auditory, Visual, or Kinesthetic (learn by doing).

  • Stay relaxed! Do your best to take a deep breath and shake off those nerves. It is easier said than done, but it will ultimately improve your performance.

  • After you complete your first exam the agency representative will ask if you are ready to take the next one – it is often advised that you say “no” and take some time outside of the testing area to review the next sections material in between each test. You want to make sure the information is fresh in your mind.

  • Keep an eye out for tricky questions. The exam may feature questions with similar answers or slightly more detail that could answer the question more thoroughly.

CDL Skills Test

The second portion of testing for acquiring your CDL includes the CDL Skills Test.

What’s involved in the CDL Skills Test?

There are 3 major parts of the CDL Skills Test. These include:

  • Vehicle Inspection Test

  • Basic Vehicle Control (Maneuvering) Test

  • Road Test

To read more about each of these parts in further detail, read our blog here.

Tips for Passing the CDL Skills Test

Here are some tips to help you avoid failing the CDL Skills test:

  • Watch videos on how to perform a pre-trip inspection, how to back up and maneuver a tractor-trailer.

  • Do not stall. Stalling the vehicle leads to an automatic failure of the exam.

  • Do not hit anything. Hitting or touching a curb during turns leads to an automatic failure.

  • Do not roll back. Rolling back on a hill is an automatic failure.

  • Use turn signals. Forgetting to use a turn signal can result in a failure.

  • Check your mirrors. Not checking your mirrors when preparing to change lanes can result in a failure.

  • Demonstrate you can downshift. You must down-shift a minimum of two times.

  • Do not miss a shift. Missing shifts are normally not a major issue.

  • Ask about being able to practice the day of the skills test. Then get there early to practice (if allowed)!

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare! Study, study, study! Practice, practice, practice!


These strategies have the most success in helping people study and prepare for taking the CLP and CDL tests.


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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. Contents may not be relied upon as a substitute for the FMCSA's published regulations. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.


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