Novice Driver

Illinois Driver License Exams Guide

When applying for a driver’s license, individuals may be required to complete a vision screening, as well as written and driving exams. Vision screening and a written test are required for the issuance or renewal of all permits. Applicants must also pay the appropriate fees.

Applicants are allowed three attempts to pass each of these exams within one year from the date the application fee is paid.

Vision Screening

It has been recommended by the medical community to have a physical and eye exam every year. All driver’s license applicants must have a vision screening or submit a Vision Specialist Report completed by a licensed optometrist, ophthalmologist or physician dated within six months of a facility visit. This form is available at any local Driver Services facility or at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.

Vision requirements include:

  • Minimum visual acuity of 20/40 with or without corrective lenses. A driver with acuity between 20/41 and 20/70 is limited to daylight driving only.
  • At least 140 degree peripheral vision (the ability to see to the side) with or without corrective lenses.
  • Applicants wearing glasses or contact lenses will have a restriction noted on the license requiring they wear glasses or contact lenses when operating a vehicle.
  • Applicants wearing telescopic lenses must meet special requirements and undergo additional vision testing to receive a license.

Written Exam

The basic written exam requires driver’s license applicants to:

  • Identify traffic signs by shape, color or symbol.
  • Identify signals and pavement markings.
  • Answer multiple choice and true/false questions about traffic laws, safety rules, crash prevention and vehicle equipment.

The exam requirements for motorcycles, trucks and buses vary. Applicants should consult the appropriate operator’s manual for these types of vehicles.

Driving Exam

New drivers are required to take a driving exam in a vehicle representing the same size and weight classification as the driver’s license for which they are applying. Every driver must take a written exam every eight years, except a driver having no traffic convictions.

A new driver age 75 and older and any driver turning 75 or older who is renewing their driver’s license must take a driving exam in a representative vehicle. If applicants have a traffic crash or other moving violation on their driving record, they may be required to take the written and/or driving exams.

If the applicant is age 21 or older and driving for the first time, enrollment in a community college or commercial driving school for adults is suggested prior to applying for a driver’s license. More information is available by calling a local community college or commercial driving school.

To take a driving exam, the vehicle used must:

  1. Be properly licensed and equipped for the driver’s license classification the applicant is seeking.
  2. Comply with Secretary of State vehicle condition standards. To meet this, all the required equipment must be working properly.
  3. Be properly insured. Proof of insurance must be provided prior to the exam.
  4. Display valid front and rear Illinois license plates and a valid registration sticker. If the vehicle is registered outside of Illinois, it must meet the registration requirements of the respective state.
  5. Be driven to the facility by a driver who has a valid driver’s license/permit.

Only the examiner is allowed to be with the applicant during the driving exam. Children or pets are not allowed in the vehicle during the exam and cannot be left unattended in the facility while the driving exam is underway. If an applicant brings children or pets, the applicant must bring someone to take care of them.

During the driving exam, the driver and the examiner must wear safety belts, as required by law. Applicants will automatically fail the exam if any traffic violation occurs or the applicant commits any dangerous action while taking the exam.

Driver license exam grading

Applicants are graded on their ability to perform several driving tasks and maneuvers including the following:

  • Starting the vehicle by checking the vehicle controls, including the parking brake and mirrors. The applicant must make all adjustments to seats, safety belts, mirrors and other equipment before the vehicle is put into motion.
  • Backing the vehicle approximately 50 feet at a slow speed, straight and smoothly. Applicants should turn their head to the right and watch to the rear when performing this maneuver.
  • Performing a turnabout using an alley on the left side of the street. Applicants should turn their left signal on before turning into the alley, back the car out of the alley and stay on their side of the street.
  • Parking uphill on the side of the road.
  • Starting uphill from a parked position.
  • Parking downhill on the side of the road.
  • Starting downhill from a parked position.
  • Controlling the vehicle by obeying all traffic signs, controls devices, rights of way, lane markings and properly using turn signals.

See our Rules of the Road category for more information about safe and legal parking, turning, passing, signaling and more.

Cheating and Bribery

During the written exam, an applicant will be warned if they are observed in a situation that could be considered suspicious.

Suspicious activity could be, but is not limited to, an open book within the applicant’s field of vision, looking around or checking a cellphone or
other wireless device while taking the exam. Once warned, any applicant found cheating on any portion of the written exam will be failed for that portion of the exam and prohibited from retaking the written exam for 30 days.

An applicant directly observed cheating will not be warned, but will be failed for that portion of the exam and prohibited from retaking the written exam for 30 days. Taking any part of the driver’s license exam for another person is a criminal offense punishable by a fine and a mandatory minimum seven days in jail.

The Secretary of State’s office may deny the issuance of a driver’s license and/or instruction permit to any person who attempts to influence any act related to the issuance of any driver’s license or instruction permit. This includes attempting to bribe or otherwise influence an employee of the Secretary of State’s office, the owner of a commercial driver school or any individual authorized to give driving instructions or administer any part of a driver’s license examination.

Special Services

The Secretary of State’s office provides the following special services for senior citizens, persons with disabilities and veterans:

  • Free Rules of the Road Review Courses.
  • License plates and parking placards for persons with disabilities.
  • Reduced-fee license plate renewal fees for seniors age 65 and older and persons with disabilities who meet income criteria through the Benefit Access Program (formerly known as the Circuit Breaker Program). For more information, individuals should contact the Illinois Department on Aging.
  • Interpreter service for the deaf or hard of hearing when obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. Applicants needing interpreter service should make the request in advance of their visit to the facility by calling 312-814-5683 or 888-261-5238 (TTY, NexTalk).
  • Illinois driver’s license/ID cardholders may register with the Illinois Emergency Contact Database. The program allows a person to provide emergency contact information for law enforcement or emergency responders in the event of a crash or emergency situation. Information may also be provided concerning disabilities or special medical needs. More information is available by visiting www.cyberdriveillinois.com.
This article about Illinois Driver License Exams Guide was last updated in 2018. If any of our information is incomplete or outdated please let us know. Thank you!