What Do You Need to Know to Pass a Test to Get a Driver License in English

Bodhi RamosRevisado porIryna Andrus / más sobre Proceso editorial11 min
Creado: Dec 22, 2022Última actualización: Feb 1, 2024
Driver License

In the modern world, driving skills are essential for many people, so most prefer acquiring a license quite early. And it’s effortless if you pass the test in your country as everything is familiar to you. However, doing it in other countries may be challenging due to different rules, traditions, and language barriers foreigners may face. Knowing driver’s ed vocabulary is a must to get the necessary certification successfully.

Don’t worry if you are planning to acquire a driver's license in an English-speaking country. Even though some points may be different, the scheme might be pretty similar for you: the learner has to attend courses for a certain time and then pass the exam proving they’ve received enough theoretical knowledge. And only after that can you get behind the wheel and gain practical skills.

Sometimes it’s not an easy task since you have to understand what they mean in English despite only learning the driving vocabulary. We want to help you with this issue, so take a look at the main rules regarding acquiring a driver's license and the most common expressions you would have to learn to start driving successfully. 

What Do You Need to Pass the Test?

Americans are allowed to get a license and drive when they are over 16 years old, so most prefer getting the necessary documentation when they are teenagers. Please be aware that if you want to drive anything other than cars and motorcycles, you must wait until you are of legal age. A person should meet special state requirements that depend on the region they reside in. After that, it’s necessary to get a medical certificate confirming that an individual doesn’t have any health issues and is eligible to drive a car. After that, only three steps should be done:

  • passing the Knowledge Test;
  • getting the necessary driving skills with a tutor;
  • passing the Behind the Wheel exam.

The learning process begins when all the required documents and permits are received. As a rule, driving schools allow students to choose the course duration and convenient days for lessons where they can learn driving vocabulary English. However, American laws do not oblige you to attend a driving school, and you can learn everything independently. And this is easier to do if you carefully learn all the terminology!

You can sign up for the test at any time convenient for you. We were surprised by the fact that no one asks for documents confirming that you passed an educational program at a driving school or with an instructor, as your knowledge and skills are what matter. Don’t give up if you fail to pass the test and receive your license the first time. The number of attempts is not limited; you can try the next day again!

It’s worth noting that American institutions allow passing tests in multiple languages. However, if you are going to drive in an English-speaking environment, you should better learn the driving vocabulary in English. Even though it might be difficult, you will experience no problems when trying to understand what’s going on while you’re behind the wheel. So, what are the most important things to learn when preparing for your exam?

The Structure of an Automobile: Basic Driving Terms to Learn

It would seem that this knowledge is not too necessary because most people bring their vehicles to a car repair shop in case of malfunctions. However, this information is basic, and you may encounter such questions during testing. Moreover, during the practical exam, you will be asked to alternately turn on the turn signals, wipers, headlights, and so on. The principle of their inclusion in different cars is the same, so it is essential to familiarize yourself with the information in detail. Some driving vocabulary words you may meet include: 

ABS (anti-lock braking system) to steer the auto;

  • break, the pedal to slow the auto down;
  • hazard lights, the signals that should be turned on if a driver suddenly stops on the road;
  • an accelerator is a special pedal controlling the speed;
  • carburetor, the car part mixing the fuel;
  • engine coolant is a liquid removing heat in the radiator;
  • jump leads, which are a cable allowing to charge the flat battery.

These are just some of the terms you will come across while learning to drive. We advise you to study everything in detail because a car is a complex mechanism, and you need to understand how it works. In addition, trips can be unpredictable, and you never know what will happen. That is why you need to be ready for anything!

Preparing to Acquire a Driver License: Practical Experience

Every newbie is nervous when they first get behind the wheel, and it's not surprising. A huge number of signs, countless cars around, pedestrians, bicyclists, and many other traffic participants are around and scatter attention. But do not worry since everything is not as complicated as it seems at first glance. Being attentive to details and developing concentration skills are the key factors to success.

Overall, driving a modern car is easy since technological advancement allows people to simplify many processes. For instance, there are only two pedals: gas and brake, because most cars now have an automatic transmission. The left foot rests, and the right foot presses the necessary pedal: everything is simple. Some people prefer to drive with both feet, but instructors do not recommend this method due to the high risk of confusion.

Once you're comfortable behind the wheel and have your seat and mirrors adjusted, it's time to consider a gearbox to help you change gears. You will see four letters: P (park), R (reverse), D (drive), and N (neutral). Even though the device's appearance may differ depending on the car, the functions are exactly the same. It is enough to learn how to quickly shift gears in one automobile, and you can automatically do it in any other. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just get as much experience as possible!

Knowing What to Do: Main Maneuvers You Must Know

Experienced drivers do everything automatically, but beginners have yet to learn all these skills. A person behind the wheel must perform a set of basic actions. MSPSL routine is the most common technique. This car vocabulary implies:

  • mirror: you should carefully check the interior, left-hand, and right-hand mirrors when getting ready for the maneuver;
  • signal: always turn on the necessary lights for other road participants to know your intentions;
  • positioning: to prevent accidents, placing your car on the road correctly is crucial (in the center of the lane);
  • speed: controlling the speed is essential not only during the test but also as you progress toward becoming a confident driver;
  • look: after you’ve performed the desired maneuver, ensure everything went smoothly and carefully look around.

Even though this technique was developed for successfully passing a driving test, it’s always useful when on a road trip. Learn every driving word mentioned above and always stick to these basic rules to get the best experience and minimize the possibility of car crashes and other accidents.

In addition, during any maneuver, you need to watch not only the surrounding cars. Any driver should be multitasking: pay attention to traffic lights, look at signs, and be attentive during the exam, but keep your vigilance high while driving after.

Vocabulary for Driving: Signs Important to Learn Before the Driving Test

Experienced drivers will tell you that only enough driving practice will help newcomers adapt to the road. However, you will still need your theoretical knowledge. One of the most significant aspects is learning the symbol signs to understand where and how you can drive. The basic classification with some examples is as follows:

  1. Warning signs: turn, winding road, intersection, crossroad, side road angle, circular intersection, merging traffic, entering roadway added lane, etc.
  2. Temporary Traffic Control Signs: shoulder work, workers ahead, utility work, road works next five miles, etc.
  3. Regulatory signs: multi-way stop, no turn, no parking, no U-turn, TOW-away zone for parking violations, weight limit, etc.
  4. Pedestrian and bicycle signs: no pedestrians, no bicycles, pedestrian crossing, handicapped crossing, bicycle crossing warning, etc.
  5. Mandatory Movement signs: intersection lane control, right turn only, left or through, two ways left turn only, etc.

And this is not the full list of signs you can meet on roads! It is quite difficult to remember everything after the first reading, so it is important to focus on learning signs. Try to pay attention to them even when just walking down the street, and then it will be easier for you to pass the driving test.


Helpful Tips to Successfully Pass a Driving Exam

We are all nervous when something important is happening in our lives, and a driving test is no exception. However, the main point is to prepare for it properly and ensure that you’ve perfectly learned driver’s ed vocab. Other tips from those successfully driving for many years include:

  • Set aside enough time for learning. Do not try to prepare for the test overnight because it is simply impossible.
  • Practice in any weather. Beginners are often afraid to drive in the rain or snow, which is a common mistake.
  • Take mock tests: you can find a lot of options online and learn the necessary driving words even better.
  • Familiarize yourself with the car before the exam. Training on the same machine that you will take the test on is a great solution.
  • Take your time and carefully consider each action.

Practice, practice, and practice! Experienced drivers are confident it’s the only way to become successful in driving and perform all maneuvers automatically. Experts recommend paying attention to those actions you do not like since you will still have to face them during your car trips. For example, you may not like parallel parking or driving through a roundabout. Do this as many times as you can to get the most experience.

And, of course, you won’t become an excellent driver without learning the DMV dictionary perfectly. At first, memorizing all the necessary terms seems impossible, but there are not so many of them. Those who drive regularly may say that they do not even know the necessary signs and rules, but this is not true. They just memorized all the information a long time ago and don’t even concentrate on remembering what one or another object means.

Exciting English Driving Idioms to Take a Rest While Learning

English speakers seem to invent idioms on every topic, and driving is no exception. It’s impossible to avoid using these phrases if you want to look like a native. So, let’s explore some expressions and their meanings!

  • “In the driving seat” means that a person can fully control the situation.
  • “Drive up the wall” helps explain an annoying situation.
  • “To drive home” implies that you have to repeat something several times so that your interlocutor understands you.
  • “Drive the price up/down” means that the product cost changes depending on the customer demand.
  • “What are you driving at” is used when a person hints at something, and you want to find out what they mean.
  • “A backseat driver” is a person who loves giving out pieces of advice but doesn’t want to take responsibility for what they’ve told.
  • “The driving force” describes motivation and inspiration for actions.
  • “Driving blind” is used when something unusual is happening in the person’s life, and they only use their intuition for further actions.
  • “Asleep at the wheel” describes an inattentive person who often gets into trouble.
  • “My way or the highway” implies that a person has made their choice and doesn’t want to follow other people's pieces of advice.
  • “Put the brakes on” means slowing down due to external circumstances (this idiom is frequently used when talking about business and economics).
  • “U-turn” means that someone has suddenly changed their mind.
  • “Put the pedal to the metal” is a way to hurry a person if they do something too slowly.

Idioms make your speech richer, so pay attention to these interesting phrases in addition to driving vocabulary. You will look like a native speaker and will have the possibility to understand others better when traveling or moving to other countries. 


Those planning to pass the driving exam in America should concentrate on learning English and memorizing all specific driving test vocabulary. Promova online school is where you can get all the details at once. You can choose a professional tutor according to your preferences and requests and enjoy the learning process. We provide our students with individual programs that allow focusing on the aspect that is most relevant to them. Contact us, and we will gladly share our knowledge and techniques!


How much time will it take to pass the driving exam?

As a rule, the whole process doesn’t take more than 20 minutes. The result is announced immediately after the test, so you won’t have to stay nervous for many days waiting for the verdict. However, don’t be disappointed if you fail since you can take the next try whenever you want.

How to prepare for the DMV written test in English?

The exam consists of two parts: a Knowledge Test and a Behind the Wheel session. The first one implies that you should show you’ve learned the required vocabulary and theory for driving. After that, you can go to practice. Overall, it’s enough to take time to learn all the necessary rules on how to perform in one or another situation. And then just get a lot of practice driving.

Is it possible to pass the driving test in other languages?

Over ten different languages are offered, but it’s anyway recommended to take an English test and learn the driver license vocabulary. The inability to communicate with native speakers can create problems during the practical exam because it is unlikely that you will be matched with an instructor per your requests. And if you don't speak English, you just won't understand each other.

Do I need to attend school before the exam to learn vocabulary for driving test?

This procedure is optional since only your knowledge matters. You can learn everything yourself and get some practice before passing the test. However, many people still attend special courses as they receive structured information and comprehensive training in one place.


PromovaOct 11th, 2023
English language requirements vary depending on the state or country where you're applying for a driver's license. In some places, the test may be available in multiple languages, including English. It's essential to check the specific language requirements of your local DMV.
Roy ReillyOct 11th, 2023
are there specific english language requirements for the driver's license test?