Understanding the CDL Test

Earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL) is the first step to starting a rewarding career in the trucking industry. In order to do this, you will need to pass a two-part exam. The first portion consists of multiple-choice questions and the second half requires actually driving a semi-truck. Both of these are broken down further into subsections that cover different aspects of trucking safety and operation. As a student at one of our CDL schools, we will help you understand the material for these exams and will give you the knowledge and skills you need to succeed.

More information about the CDL exam:

Written Test

The written CDL test is in a multiple-choice format. After you pass, you will receive your commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and any applicable endorsements.

General Knowledge Exam

The first part of the written exam is known as the general knowledge test and passing this is necessary to earn your CDL. It covers basic information about how to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Some topics you’ll need to know include regulations for different types of freight, the basic requirements for a pre-trip inspection, and definitions related to CMVs.


Endorsements are additional certifications added to your license. To earn these, you will need to pass additional written tests, which you will take at the same time as the general knowledge exam. Our schools all cover material from the hazardous materials (hazmat), tanker, and doubles/triples exams, and our Fort Bliss location also prepares you for the passenger endorsement test.

Air Brakes

A portion of the written CDL test covers material related to air brake systems. Passing this is necessary to remove the air brakes restriction. You will also need to pass the skills test with a vehicle that has air brakes.

Skills Test

In order to earn your full CDL after getting your CLP, you will need to pass the skill tests. This consists of three parts.

Pre-Trip Inspection

During the pre-trip inspection portion of the skills test, you will need to complete a full internal and external inspection of the CMV you are driving. This involves identifying and checking over 100 different parts of the vehicle.

Basic Vehicle Control Skills

For this portion of the exam, the evaluator will use off-road tests to evaluate your basic semi-truck maneuvering skills. They may choose to test straight-line backing, offset backing to either the left or the right, parallel parking (conventional or driver side), and/or alley dock backing.

On-the-Road Driving

The final part of the skills test requires you to drive your CMV on the road while the examiner evaluates your performance. If certain traffic situations don’t occur naturally on the test route, the administrator may ask you to describe how you would respond.

Prepare for Your CDL Test

While you can study for the CDL exam on your own, attending truck driving school is usually a better option. Many companies prefer to hire program graduates and you also have the advantage of working with experienced instructors who can help answer any questions you may have.

To learn more about how we can help you pass your CDL test, contact us today.

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