There is a lot of information to get a handle on when you are preparing for your upcoming CDL test. A typical state CDL manual is over 180 pages long! If you try and memorize every piece of information from the manual, you will find yourself quickly overwhelmed and frustrated. Your best approach to preparing for the CDL exam is to study smart - not hard! Here are a few strategies to get you started:
- Understand what's on the test - know the specific areas that you will be tested on and concentrate on only that material. Don't study the material for endorsements that you are not seeking.
- Focus on the topics that you are weak on - you probably have a good feel for the info that you struggle with, if not, then take some CDL practice tests or review flash cards to help pinpoint your weak areas.
- Study smart - have a flexible study schedule and only study when you are alert. If you study when you are tired, you won't be able to retain as much as you should.
Use CDL Practice Tests
Becoming familiar with the types of questions you will be asked is a great way to prepare for your exam. Our free CDL practice tests help you get used to the types of questions you are likely to see on your exam. Even better, our exams will help you pinpoint your weak areas, and provide explanations for any questions that you got wrong.
To make the most out of our practice exams, consider using some of the following approaches:
- Take an exam “open book” by referring to the state issued CDL manual for help when needed
- Fully understand all the questions you got wrong by carefully reading the explanations you receive after you finish the exam
- Take exams with a time limit – this will help you insure that you know the material
Carefully Read The Entire Question
Before you even look at the answers, make sure to read each question twice. Likewise, before you choose your answer, read each answer choice two times as well. You can fall into the traps that question writers design into questions if you go through the question too fast. Another good approach is to not "over think" a question. Most of the questions on the CDL exam are straight forward.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
One of the most common traps for questions is that a "reasonable" answer may appear first in your answer choices. So if you just take a casual glance at the answer choices you may not see the "best" answer further down in your choices. Sometimes, there may even appear to be more than one correct answer. In this scenario, choose what you feel is the best answer based on only what is in the question (not on other knowledge you have or assumptions).
First Is Best
Your first answer is typically your best answer. If you have time to review your answers, don't change your responses unless you find an obvious mistake that you are positive about. For any questions that you are unsure about, your first choice is usually the best choice.
Time May Be A Factor
Even if your state does not put a time limit on your CDL exam, it is still important to keep a steady pace going. The best way to do this is to determine how much time you have to spend on each question. If there are 30 questions on the section and you have 1 hour to complete that section - your time budget is 2 minutes per question. To keep track of your time, check the clock after every few questions to see if you are on schedule. Another good approach is to not dwell on questions that you are unsure of - either skip them and move on or make a good guess and keep on going.
Know and Go
Answer all the questions that you are positive on first, and pass over the ones that you are unsure of. Don't dwell on questions that you do not know - mark them and come back to them later. When you have finished all of the questions that you are sure of, then go back and look at the ones that you marked. Often times other questions in the exam can provide clues to some of the questions that you are unsure of.
There are no penalties for guessing on your state CDL exam. Each and every question should have an answer. If you need to guess on a question, eliminate the obvious wrong choices (there are usually 1 or 2 of these) and pick an answer from the remaining choices. Then move on!
Use The Tricks Wisely
There are often some clues in the questions that can help you spot the right answer. Here are some things to look out for:
- Beware The Absolutes – Correct answers typically do not have absolutes such as never, greatest, always, must and so on.
- Watch for the “except” – If your question contains “except” or “which of the following is NOT true” you should pay more careful attention. Some people find it easier to answer these questions by choosing the answer that doesn't belong when you cover up the word "except" or "not".
- Valid information – As mentioned before, most of the CDL questions are pretty straightforward. The information contained in the question is typically there for a purpose - don't ignore it.
Your Attitude Matters
If you have confidence and a positive attitude prior to taking your exam, you will do better. Your attitude is an important factor that you can control. If you have prepared for the exam, then relax, be confident and you will pass! For more resources about the Commercial Driver's License, please see more of our CDL articles.