How to Get a CDL: Study Tips for Passing the CDL Test

Solve this problem: A tractor-trailer truck leaves Chicago traveling east at 65 miles per hour, and a horse trailer leaves New York traveling west at 55 miles per hour: find X.

If that sounds like every test you remember from school—like so much confusing nonsense—and it makes you nervous to read, you may have test anxiety. Are you anxious about taking and passing the CDL exam? Helping you to pass the CDL test is the goal of every reputable CDL truck driving school. Here are some tips and facts for getting through it. And, to reassure you, X is right here: X. See? That wasn’t so hard.

Are You a Good Test Taker? Of Course You Are.

Many adults are not good test takers. This could be because of bad memories from high school, or language barriers. It can also be that most real-world events do not seem to require you to take tests. If you really consider your day, though, you do take tests constantly:

  • Choose between grocery items based on cost and weight
  • Select the correct (faster) line at the bank
  • Put in correct order the steps to assembling your kid’s bicycle
  • Budget your income and expenses each week
  • Recall the names of three people to whom you have just been introduced

Taking the CDL test fresh out of CDL truck driving school, you may feel nervous. Test-taking skills on the written portion have not changed much since you were in 8th grade Algebra:

  • Study
  • Do not rush
  • Read the question and every answer choice before selecting the best answer
  • Carefully re-read two answers that are very similar, because one will have more information than the other
  • One answer will be correct
  • For questions you cannot answer immediately, skip them and return later
  • Eliminate wrong answers

What to Study for the CDL Test

A good CDL truck driving school will provide you with a thorough course of study to prepare you for your state’s CDL test at the DMV. They are all available online for download. Print several copies, even if that means paying for the printing. You are working for your future, so that printing cost should be considered an investment.

Take Virginia’s CDL manual for example. It’s available online in 150 pages of detail. This is not something to pick up an hour before taking the written test. You need to study its many sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Driving Safely
  3. Transporting Cargo Safely
  4. Transporting Passengers Safely
  5. Air Brakes
  6. Combination Vehicles
  7. Doubles and Triples
  8. Tank Vehicles
  9. Hazardous Materials
  10. School Bus
  11. Vehicle Vehicle Inspection (yup, the state manual has that typo, and has had it since 2005!)
  12. Basic Vehicle Control Skills Test
  13. On-Road Driving

With so many sections, and so much detail, you may feel completely overwhelmed. When you break up the material, though, and consider the common-sense driving you have done with your own passenger vehicle for years, the many facts and rules are manageable.

How to Study for the CDL Test

Suppose you are going to take the CDL test two weeks after graduating CDL truck driving school. You have worked hard in the school, and the material is fresh in your mind. You have 13 areas in Virginia’s manual to study. Many people may feel like one section a day is the way to study, but that is not efficient. By the time you reach Chapter 13, the day before your exam, you will have largely forgotten Chapters 1 and 2. Instead, imagine a helix, like a spring, always coming back around to the same spot, only a little further along. This is how to study:

  1. Skim a chapter, to take in the basic structure and understand its parts
  2. Read the chapter
  3. Skim the next chapter
  4. Read the next chapter
  5. Take a break
  6. Go back to the first chapter you studied, rereading and highlighting important ideas
  7. Go to the second chapter you studied, rereading and highlighting its important ideas
  8. Write down what you can remember of the first chapter’s highlighted material
  9. Check to see if you recalled the important ideas
  10. Take a break
  11. Write down what you remember of the second chapter’s highlighted material
  12. Check your work
  13. Review the first chapter
  14. Review the second chapter
  15. Take a break
  16. Move on to the next chapter, repeating the skim, read, reread and highlight technique
  17. Always review earlier work as you move into new material

The goal is to keep every section constantly fresh in your mind, so that with each review, the individual details group themselves into one larger idea. This is called chunking; it turns many short-term memories into a few long-term memories. It can turn you from a fresh graduate of a CDL truck driving school into a licensed CDL operator.

I enjoyed my time here at ATI I learned a lot of good information from a lot of good people. The staff there is great and they really care about you the craft. I find that that’s the greatest way to go.

Posted by Josh Green on Friday, August 14, 2015

Help Yourself: Enroll in CDL Truck Driving School

Help yourself earn that CDL by attending Advanced Technology Institute’s Tractor-trailer Driving program. ATI can prepare you thoroughly, giving you the confidence you need to pass that CDL test. Contact ATI online today to learn more or call us at 800-468-1093.

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