How Much Practice Should Go Into The CDL Skills Test

What could possibly go wrong if you don’t practice for the CDL skill test? Everything! You would probably be trembling like a leaf on a windy day due to lack of confidence, sweating profusely like you’re in the Sahara desert without an A/C and you would be lucky to finish the test without the examiner kicking you out. The only way you can avoid such disgrace is by practicing for the CDL test as if your life depends on it; because let’s be honest, your life does depend on it if you’re job hunting with a commercial driving license.

How much practice should go into the CDL skills test? The short answer is at least 50 hours. It could be more or less. The long answer? Well, let’s just get into the technicalities. What exactly should you do to get ready?

Study The Vehicle’s Manual Book

CDL Skill TestFirst and foremost, the examiner will test you to see if you know them inside and out of the commercial vehicle you will be responsible for. It’s called a pre-trip vehicle inspection test! It does seem like a lot trying to inspect every crucial part of your truck, bus, trailer, or ambulance like a well-seasoned mechanic, but the trick is to study the manual book from cover to cover.

Better yet, you can take it a step further and pretend the examiner is walking beside you while he or she instructs you to inspect your vehicle. Analyze all the basics and leave no stone unturned. Of course, a school bus and a trailer have different components, but most likely the pre-trip test will involve you checking whatever part of the vehicle is visible.

A little bit concerned that is too much? Don’t worry, most examiners will just want you to visually scrutinize the parts of your vehicle rather than explain complicated mechanical jargon. So, remember these words whenever you identify a part that is good to go; “Not cracked, broken, or damaged”. It could be changed depending on the context, but just make sure it is easy to understand.

It’s not just knowing the parts of your vehicle like the back of your hands that will get you through to the next stage, but you must prove to the examiner that you can perform an in-cab inspection, light check, and a brake test. What are you waiting for? Start practicing already!

Learn The Art of Backing Up

Okay, we get it. Even the most experienced truckers can find it hard to parallel park a 65 feet trailer. But for the skills test, you need to demonstrate your competency to back up and park like a professional. Sorry, the examiner won’t hear any excuses.  

Anyway, apart from parallel parking, you have to practice how to back up straight, alley dock, and offset reverse. There is usually a rhythm to it; the more you practice, the better you improve your backing up skills. For some candidates, it can take a week to learn how to back up comfortably, but for others, it can even take a month or two. Whichever the case, just go at your own pace and ask for help from the instructors whenever necessary.

Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with CDL skills test rules during a backing-up maneuver. For instance, you can do an outside vehicle observation when you’re reversing but there are specific limits.

Do a Trial Test

Do you forget to switch your signals, or you hit the curb? Good! The trial test should be your chance to pinpoint such mistakes and rectify them before the real test. Spoiler alert: Some mistakes can get you an automatic failure (like running a red light or rolling backward), but what better way to avoid it than doing a trial test?

The trial test should be tailored to almost resemble the CDL skills test. A good idea would be to ask other CDL holders who took the skills test in your local area to inform you of the test route they took. Another option would be to inquire with those who are rescheduling for a retry. Otherwise, you can do your own research: Most probable, the examiner will take you to a nearby busy highway, intersection, and railway crossing.

As per the law in most states, you’re required to be accompanied by a qualified instructor during a practice trial test session. The good thing is, you can do the trial test as much as you want, but until both you and the instructor think you’re ready, don’t take the CDL skills test yet.

Work On Your Confidence

Think of it like this: Confidence is like the glue that keeps you together. Without it, nervousness starts to creep in and everything comes crumbling down like a house of cards. No wonder, you’ve probably heard stories of candidates that did everything by the book but when the CDL test finally arrived, they forgot everything or messed it all up.

Believe it or not, most examiners will give you marks based on your confidence aura. It could be the way you talk, walk or change that gear. Just don’t tremble! Want to know the secret? The more hours you spend practicing, the more you improve your confidence.

However, sometimes you can’t help it when your hands become clammy, your heart starts racing and your voice becomes shaky during the CDL test. What should you do? It may seem insignificant but it’s the little things like slowly breathing in and out and thinking positively that aid to reduce nervousness. Besides that, you ought to enough sleep, eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid too much caffeine before the CDL skills test.

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