The 10 Most Common Mistakes People Make on the CDL Permit Test

Professional white big rig industrial semi truck transporting commercial cargo

The journey to becoming a truck driver, begins with a fundamental first step — acing the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) permit test. Failing to prepare for this test is like venturing onto a minefield blindfolded; you’re bound to trip and fall. This article aims to share the common mistakes people make on the CDL permit test and how SAGE Truck Driving Schools, an industry leader with over 30 years of experience, prepares you to avoid them.

Renowned for its comprehensive, one-on-one professional training, SAGE Truck Driving Schools has empowered more than 40,000 students across the nation with the skills and knowledge needed to become safe and proficient drivers. The school offers an array of resources, including access to ProDriverU, a tool for CDL training and testing. The mission at SAGE is clear: to turn each student into the safest and most knowledgeable driver they can be.

1. Not Studying All Sections of the Manual

While some sections may seem less relevant or overwhelming, skipping over them will leave you with blind spots in your knowledge. The CDL manual covers many topics — each contributing to the comprehensive skill set required to excel in the commercial driving industry. SAGE Truck Driving Schools offer a curriculum grounded in the completeness of the CDL manual. Our instructors ensure that you understand even the most complex sections, making you a well-rounded driver.

Comprehensive Strategies:

  • Balance Is Key: Divide the manual into sections and allocate a set time to study each. Prioritize sections based on their weightage in the test but don’t completely ignore the lesser ones.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Create flashcards or summaries for each section, making sure you’re equally well-versed in each area.
  • Interlink Topics: Sections are often interconnected. Understanding one thoroughly can give you insights into another, so try to weave them together in your mind.

2. Misunderstanding the Questions

Sometimes the questions in the CDL test can be confusingly worded or present complex scenarios. Misinterpreting the question could easily lead to a wrong answer. SAGE instructors are trained to guide students through the confusing language and help them understand difficult industry-specific terminology.

Detailed Recommendations:

  • Read Twice: Make a habit of reading the question twice before you consider the options.
  • Process of Elimination: Start by ruling out the most unlikely answers, then make an educated guess from the remaining choices.
  • Question Log: Keep a log of questions you find confusing and analyze why they tripped you up. Understanding the trap can help you avoid it in the future.

3. Overthinking

The questions may not always be as complicated as they appear. Overthinking can make you second-guess yourself, wasting precious time and mental energy. The one-on-one road time SAGE provides allows you to develop confidence, which helps reduce the overthinking that comes from lack of certainty.

Guidelines for Success:

  • Time Each Question: Use a stopwatch to give yourself a set time for each question. If it’s taking too long, mark it for review and move on.
  • Gut Feeling: Trust your first instinct. Generally, your first choice is often correct.
  • Break Patterns: If you find yourself lost in thought, take a quick 10-second break to shake it off before re-engaging with the question.

4. Ignoring Weight and Dimension Limitations

Not understanding the weight and dimension regulations for commercial vehicles can severely frustrate your test performance. SAGE offers actual road-time training with an emphasis on the real-world implications of weight and dimensions, equipping you with knowledge that goes beyond the textbook.

Preparation Steps:

  • Real-World Application: Whenever you see a truck while not studying, mentally note its size and dimensions. Familiarity aids memory.
  • Use Mnemonics: Create mnemonics for weight and dimension figures to help them stick in your mind.
  • The Math Behind It: Understand the rationale behind these limitations, as understanding the “why” often makes the “what” more memorable.

5. Poor Time Management

Failing to allocate time wisely during the test can result in unfinished questions and unnecessary stress. SAGE’s training emphasizes the importance of quick decision-making and efficiency, skills that can easily translate to better time management during your test.

Coping Mechanisms:

  • Initial Scan: Quickly scan through the entire test, solving the easiest questions first.
  • Pomodoro Technique: Work in short bursts of intense focus with brief breaks in between to keep your mind fresh.
  • Final Sweep: Always save a few minutes at the end for a final review, ensuring you haven’t missed anything.

6.  Failing to Review

It’s easy to feel overconfident or simply overlook the importance of reviewing your answers. Both can result in avoidable mistakes, costing you precious points. SAGE’s curriculum, which includes reviews and mock tests, instills the habit of double-checking your work, a skill that’s valuable not just for the CDL test but for your entire trucking career.

Takeaways for Effective Examining:

  • Spaced Repetition: Reviewing the material at spaced intervals over time enhances retention.
  • Mock Tests: The more you simulate the exam environment, the less intimidating the real test becomes. Make sure to review your answers.
  • Peer Reviews: Explaining what you’ve learned to a friend or family member can reveal gaps in your understanding that you might have missed.

7. Lack of Real-World Knowledge

The CDL permit test doesn’t just focus on theory; there are questions that draw on practical, real-world knowledge. Lack of this experiential understanding can catch you off guard. SAGE’s training includes a combination of classroom learning and on-the-road experience, ensuring that you’re not just book-smart but road-smart as well.

SAGE’s Approach:

  • Watch and Learn: Videos on real-world trucking can give you a different perspective and help solidify bookish concepts.
  • Talk to Experts: Spend some time chatting with experienced drivers. Their real-world tips can be invaluable.
  • Field Trips: If possible, visit a trucking facility or logistic site. Physical observation can add a new layer to your preparation.

8. Forgetting Basic Road Rules

By concentrating only on the commercial vehicle-specific rules, many students forget the basic rules of the road, such as signaling or right-of-way. SAGE takes you back to the basics and builds from there, ensuring a full understanding of all road rules, both general and commercial.

Road Rule Reinforcement:

  • Rule Refresher: Take an hour or so to refresh basic road rules. You’d be surprised what you may have forgotten.
  • Simulate Scenarios: Imagine different road situations in your mind and think through the best actions based on road rules.
  • Quiz Yourself: Create or find mini quizzes focused exclusively on basic road rules.

9. Not Using Available Resources

Many students overlook the wealth of resources available, both online and offline, that could help them prepare for the CDL permit test. SAGE Truck Driving Schools offer full access to ProDriverU, a resource that supplements the classroom and on-the-road training.

Resourceful Strategy:

  • Compare Sources: Different resources often provide many tips and approaches. Cross-reference to build a comprehensive understanding.
  • Community Help: Join online forums or social media groups where you can ask questions and share advice.
  • Multi-format Learning: Use a mixture of videos, podcasts, and interactive quizzes to reinforce learning.

10. Letting Anxiety Take Over

Test anxiety can be stressful, causing you to forget what you’ve learned and make careless mistakes. The one-on-one, personalized training that SAGE provides can significantly ease anxiety by boosting confidence through familiarity and repeated practice.

Mental Readiness:

  • Deep Breathing: Before and during the test, deep breathing can help to lower stress levels.
  • Positive Visualization: Imagine yourself passing the test with flying colors. Visualization can calm nerves and improve performance.
  • Chunking Strategy: Don’t think about the test as one giant task; break it into smaller, manageable chunks.


Embarking on the journey to secure a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) permit is more than just a test — it’s the gateway to a fulfilling career in the trucking industry. Many aspirants hit roadblocks simply because they aren’t fully prepared or become anxious. Don’t let that be you. Equip yourself with the right resources and the correct mindset to transform this challenge into a straightforward task.

The path to trucking excellence is loaded with opportunities to learn and improve. It’s not just about academic knowledge but also about developing practical skills and a roadworthy mindset. SAGE Truck Driving Schools offer an unparalleled blend of classroom instruction and on-road training, setting you up not just to pass a test but to thrive in your ensuing career. With a tailored, one-on-one training approach, SAGE ensures that your learning curve is as individual as you are, sharpening your strengths and turning your weaknesses into new skill sets.

For a deep dive into everything you need to know to succeed in the CDL permit test and beyond, explore the SAGE Truck Driving Schools homepage. Discover in-depth CDL training programs that are thoughtfully designed to make you a competent, confident driver. If location is a concern, worry not; we have various locations to cater to your needs. Ready to steer your way to a lucrative and rewarding career? Reach out now and let’s get the wheels rolling!

What is the passing score for the CDL permit test?

The passing score for the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) permit test generally requires a score of 80% or higher. This percentage is a common standard, but it can vary slightly by state. The CDL permit test is designed to assess knowledge of general trucking laws, driving safety, and other topics relevant to commercial driving. It’s advisable to consult your local DMV or the testing authority in your state for the exact passing score required.

How long does the CDL permit remain valid before needing to take the full CDL exam?

A CDL permit typically remains valid for 180 days (about 6 months) after issuance. Some states allow for a one-time renewal or extension, but this can vary. During this period, the permit holder is expected to complete their skills training and take the full CDL exam to obtain their Commercial Driver’s License. Because regulations can differ between states, confirming with your state’s DMV is recommended to understand the specific validity period and any renewal options.

Are there any specific medical or physical requirements to qualify for a CDL permit?

Yes, there are specific medical and physical requirements for obtaining a CDL permit. Applicants must pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination, which certifies that they are medically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. This exam includes checks on vision, hearing, blood pressure, and overall physical fitness to ensure the safety of the driver and others on the road. Additionally, there are restrictions regarding certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy or insulin-dependent diabetes; however, exemptions or waivers may be available for some conditions. It’s important to consult the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines or your local DMV for detailed information on medical requirements and potential exemptions.

Remember, while these answers provide a general overview, the specifics can vary by state, and regulations may have been updated after my last knowledge update. Always verify with your local authorities for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for general informational purposes and may not be applicable to every situation. Always verify any information and consult with professionals for your specific needs.