how to study for my cDL license

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

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how to study for my cDL license

How To Prepare For Your CDL Permit Test [CDL Study Guide]

To prepare for the commercial learner’s permit (CLP) exam, it’s important to understand what to expect before going in. You can take online practice tests and review our CDL study guide. Talking with people who have already passed the exam and asking for advice is also a good idea. Finally, make sure you have all the necessary documentation with you before you arrive to take the test.

Though a college degree or extensive experience isn’t required to become a big-rig truck driver, you must pass the CDL permit exam.

Browse a category below by clicking on one of these quick links:

  • What is the CDL Permit Test?
  • Why is the CDL Test Important?
  • What are the Specifications and Requirements for the CDL Permit Test?
  • Preparing for the CDL Permit Exam: The CDL Study Guide

What is the CDL Permit Test?

The commercial learner’s permit (CLP) exam is a three section, 100 question written test broken into general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles that must be passed in order to practice driving a semi-truck, bus, or any vehicle that is over 26,000 pounds. Like the Class C driver’s license test you have to pass in order to get your learner’s permit, the CDL permit test contains various multiple choice questions that are specific to commercial driving topics but doesn’t actually involve any driving. In 1992, the federal government and the U.S. Department of Transportation made CDL licensing a requirement for truckers and bus drivers.

Why is the CDL Permit Test Important?

Operating a heavy, oversized truck is nothing like driving a regular truck or car. In addition to navigating busy roadways, truckers face an array of additional challenges when it comes to things like bad weather, heavy traffic, poor transport infrastructure, and mechanical issues. Not only does this test help to ensure the safety of the truck driver, but it also helps to keep fellow motorists safe, too.

What are the Specifications and Requirements for the CDL Permit Test?

There are several eligibility requirements that prospective CDL applicants must meet prior to taking the permit test. Though specific requirements vary from state to state, there are several general prerequisites needed to be eligible for a commercial learner’s permit, including:

  • Have a current, valid driver’s license
  • Drivers operating within the state must be at least 18-years-old, while there’s a 21-year-old age requirement for drivers operating across state lines or hauling hazardous materials
  • Ability to pass a physical medical exam

In addition to these requirements, in order to obtain your CDL permit, federal law also requires you to score at least an 80% on the 100-question permit test.

Preparing for the CDL Permit Exam: The CDL Study Guide

Like most exams, the Commercial Drivers License (CDL) permit exam requires an adequate amount of studying and preparation if you hope to pass. Fortunately, this comprehensive CDL study guide can help make studying for the test much easier.

1. Read the Book

Each state has their own unique CDL handbook that includes a wealth of health information and answers to common CDL test questions. Subjects found in a state’s CDL DMV handbook include:

  • Applying for a CDL
  • Transporting cargo and passengers
  • Air Brakes
  • Combination vehicles
  • Towing trailers
  • Tank vehicles
  • Transporting hazardous material
  • On-road driving exam

Be sure that all the information you read is accurate by being sure to get the most up-to-date handbook. Take notes on important concepts and other information you find interesting as you read through the book.

2. Have the Necessary Documentation

As a new applicant for the CDL, you’ll have to apply in person at your local DMV. It’s here that you’ll be required to take the CDL and provide specific documentation including a proof of ID via either birth certificate with a raised seal, passport, or naturalization documents or current immigration document. Once your identity has been verified, you’ll need to show proof of residency or proof of legal presence in the form of one of the following:

  • Tax records
  • Lease agreements
  • Mortgage documents
  • W-2 form
  • Current weapons permit
  • Current utility bills

Lastly, remember that federal law also requires you to have had a regular drivers license in the past. If you’ve never been licensed, you won’t be applicable for a CDL.

3. Review the CDL Study Guide

Because state requirements and regulations vary, it’s important to get an accurate study guide that’s specific to your particular state. CDL study guides can make taking and passing the test significantly easier. Available in digital and paper form, study guides offer a wealth of valuable information that doesn’t just provide you with answers to CDL test questions, but that also helps prepare you to be a safe, capable driver. Go the extra mile when you’re studying by taking notes and review these notes prior to taking the test.

4. Commit to Taking the Exam

Once you decide to pursue a CDL, make an appointment or commit to taking an exam. Review your local DMV policies to determine if you can simply walk in and take the test, or if you need to make an appointment ahead of time. By making an appointment in advance, you’ll know exactly how much time you have to study for the test and what steps you need to take to be fully prepared. Even if you don’t have to make an appointment, commit to taking the test on a specific date.

The CDL test covers several different topics, each of which has their own study guide that features questions and answers that are listed on the real written test. These different categories can make studying easier because it allows you to access the specific information you need.

5. Complete an Online CDL Permit Course

Online CDL permit courses are designed to prepare you for the CDL exam. The first part of this three-part exam tests your knowledge of vehicle parts, systems, and terminology. The second part tests your control of the vehicle. The third part is the road test. You’ll have plenty of time in the vehicle to prepare for the skills portions, but the DMV also wants to know that you know the terminology and parts and systems. An online permit course will help you review what you need to know for that part of the test. Check your state DMV’s website for study materials for your state. There are also many sites with study materials, including our practice tests.

6. Take a CDL Permit Practice Test

Test yourself throughout your studies to get used to the type of verbiage and questions that will be on the actual exam. There are many free online resources you can use for a CDL permit practice test and you can also stop by your local DMV to inquire about any practice tests or additional resources they might have to offer.

7. Create Your Own Study Kit

By compiling all of the notes from your reading, graded practice tests, and other study materials, you can create your own personalized CDL test prep kit that can be incredibly useful prior to taking the CDL. As an added measure, you can even make your own flashcards and get a study group together to help you prepare.

8. Talk to Others

One of the best ways to prepare for your CDL permit test is to talk to others who have previously taken the exam. Whether you call on friends who have experience with the exam or connect with others via online message boards or forums, connecting with others who share your same goal or who have had first-hand experience with the process is a great way to help you properly prepare for the test.

9. Take Breaks

Studying for hours on end won’t benefit you in the long run. Not only have breaks been shown to help maintain productivity, but they also give your brain some time to digest the information you’ve learned and come back to the content with fresh eyes.

10. Explain What You’ve Learned to a Friend

Reiterating the information and content you’ve learned is a great way to go over all the information you’ve learned thus far, and it can also act as a reassuring strategy to help you feel more confident in your knowledge. Whether you find a friend or family member to talk to, repeating information out loud should be a must for your study process.

11. Focus on Unfamiliar Topics

Focusing your studies and doubling down on subjects you’re not as comfortable with can be a deciding factor of passing the CDL exam. Find topic-specific study guides for weaker subjects and make sure to use and create study materials that help you gain more confidence. You can also reach out to other CDL licensees for help and guidance on specific topics, and make sure to touch on these subject when talking with a friend or during a study group.

12. Confirm the Location of Your Test

The last thing you want to worry about on your test day is getting lost or not knowing the location of the DMV. Prior to your test, make sure you know where you’re taking the test and consider driving the route once or twice to ensure you know where you’re going and how long it takes you to get there.

13. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

The day before your test, take some time to review all your study guides, practice tests, and study materials one last time. Eat a healthy dinner, drink plenty of water, and get to bed earlier than normal. Taking these steps helps your brain and body get the nutrients and rest needed to perform at its best.

14. Eat a Good Breakfast

Taking a test on an empty stomach can greatly affect your ability to focus and remember important information. Be sure you give yourself enough time to eat a good, healthy breakfast that includes balanced amounts of protein, fats, sugars, and starches. A decent breakfast is brain fuel for testing.

15. Arrive Early and Do Your Best

After giving yourself time to eat a good breakfast, head to the testing center early. Whether you use the time prior to taking your test for some last minute studying or to just decompress, having extra time ahead of the exam will help decrease stress and nerves that could hinder your testing performance. More than anything, encourage yourself to do your best and believe that the studying and preparation you’ve done will result in nothing short of success.

16. Prepare for After You Receive Your CDL Permit

After you score more than 80% on your permit test, you’ll be qualified to begin driving big rigs. Federal law requires you to hold a CDL permit for a minimum of 14 days before applying for the final CDL skills test. In order to prepare for the skills test, you’ll need to be able to provide a vehicle that’s the same model as the truck you’ll be driving once licensed. The skills test is comprised of three parts:

  • Vehicle inspection
  • Basic controls exam
  • Road test

In addition to the skill test, some states might also require you to complete a CDL training course prior to getting officially licensed.

When getting your CDL, you’ll be joining thousands of trucking professionals who’ve mastered the same exam. And just like these individuals succeeded, you can, too, thanks to all of your hard work and preparation.

Prepare for your upcoming CDL permit test with our online Commercial Learner’s Permit course and practices quizzes here.

what are the 3 tests for CDL permit

Commercial Learner’s Permit [CLP] – CDL Practice Quiz

Getting on the road is more than just earning a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Just as you have to get a learner’s permit before getting your regular driver’s license, you need to earn a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) before you can earn your CDL. You’ll also need to pass a general knowledge test. The sooner you are able to both pass the test and earn your CLP, the sooner you will be able to earn your CDL and be on the road earning money. 

To help you get on your way, we have made a few CDL practice tests that work a lot like DMV tests in content and format. These tests cover topics that are necessary to know, like general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles.

The CDL and CLP practice tests we provide are completely free, and are available to you to use for review at any point. We want you to feel confident when you take the official DMV CLP and CDL permit tests, and if you use these quizzes you will be able to feel confident and comfortable when you are at the DMV. 

To get started, study your CDL Manual and then choose from any of our free CDL practice quizzes, listed below. 

Practice Quizzes

Practice quizzes are made to give you a sample of what to expect on the CLP test. Each quiz gives you a random selection of 15-20 questions from a larger pool of questions. This makes it so that every time you take a quiz, you’ll get a different set of questions. The larger question pool varies from quiz to quiz as well for even more diversity of questions for you to practice on.

There is no time limit for our practice quizzes, so take your time and do not rush. You can use the time to go back through your CDL Manual to find the correct answer and learn more in preparation for your test at the DMV.

Correct and incorrect answers are shown instantly. To review answers and learn more from the explanations provided for some of the questions, use the “back” button before reaching the end of the quiz. 

General Knowledge

CDL Practice Tests

Once you have practiced with the CDL Practice Quizzes above, it’s time for you to practice with something that’s a bit more like the real thing. The CDL practice tests are samples of the real tests that you will see at the DMV. Each test will provide you a random set of 25-50 questions from a large pool of questions. This will make it so that each time you take the test, you will be presented with a different group of questions in a different order. Correct and incorrect answers are shown instantly, but unlike the quizzes above, explanations are not offered.


What is a CLP?

A CLP is a Commercial Learner’s Permit. It allows you to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while supervised by a valid CDL holder. It is valid for up to 180 days, but you are not permitted to take the driving skills test until at least 14 days after getting the CLP. 

How do I get my CDL learners permit?

To get your CDL learner’s permit, or the Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), you have to:

  1. Be at least 21 years of age (or 18-20 to drive intrastate).
  2. Submit your state’s CDL application and pay the appropriate fee.
  3. Provide identity and social security number verification (make sure to check your state’s requirements for this). 
  4. Provide proof of state and US residency.
  5. Submit a complete Medical Examination Report Form and Medical Examiner’s Certificate Form.
  6. Pass a vision test.
  7. Pass a knowledge exam.

Once you pass the knowledge exam, you will be issued your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). 

Can you drive with a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)?

If you have a CLP you must drive with a CDL holder. 

How long is a CLP good for?

Your Commercial Learner’s Permit will be valid for up to 180 days. 

What are the 3 types of CDL license?

Class A

A Class A commercial driver’s license is required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. 
With a Class A CDL and proper endorsements, you may drive:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Truck and trailer combinations
  • Tank vehicles
  • Livestock carriers
  • Flatbeds

Class B

A class B commercial driver’s license is required to operate a single vehicle with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, or a tow vehicle not heavier than 10,000 pounds. 

With a Class B CDL and the appropriate endorsements you may drive:

  • Straight trucks
  • Large passenger buses
  • Segmented buses
  • Box trucks
  • Dump trucks with small trailers
  • Tractor-trailers

Class C

A class C commercial driver’s license is required to operate a vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more occupants (including you, the driver) or transport hazardous materials, materials that are classified as hazardous under federal law. 

With a Class C CDL and the appropriate endorsements you may drive:

  • Small HazMat vehicles
  • Passenger vans
  • Combination vehicles not covered by Classes A or B

What are the 3 tests for CDL?

The three areas that you will be tested on for your CDL are general knowledge, combination vehicles, and air brakes. 

What is a CLP license?

A CLP license is a Commercial Learner’s Permit license. It allows you to drive and practice for your skills test, with a CDL holder with you. 

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