Q: It seems as though I’ve been renewing my driver’s license by mail forever, and now I have a notice that the current renewal must take place at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Why? Also, I’m sure I’ll be required to take a written test, and to say the least I’m nervous. Do you have any suggestions for success?

A: Very few people look forward to taking any kind of test, so you are not alone in your concerns. You’ve asked two very good questions that I’ll try to answer.

Many of us have enjoyed the luxury of renewing our licenses by mail. However, according to the DMV, several conditions preclude a person from having that opportunity.

If you have a probationary license or if you have a “failure to appear” on your record within the last two years you will not be issued a renewal by mail. If you have been suspended from driving because of an illegal blood-alcohol content level within the last two years or if your record has a total violation point count greater than 1 you will be invited to the DMV office.

You will also be asked to renew your license in person if you are older than 70 or have received two consecutive four- or five-year extensions.

When renewing your license in person be prepared to take an eye test and the written traffic law test. You will also be required to have your picture taken and give a thumb or fingerprint.


Whether you want to believe it or not, the DMV wants you to pass your test. However, you have the responsibility to be prepared.

You may be asking how you can prepare for the eye test. If you are due to have your regular vision checkup, make sure you arrange to do it before it is time to renew your license. If you do need new glasses to improve your vision you’ll be wearing them when you take the test. A word of caution: Make sure you are used to your new glasses before taking the test. On the day of the test make sure the glasses are sparkling clean and properly fitted.

Now let’s talk about studying for the written test. To start, get the current California Driver Handbook from your local DMV office. Everything you will be tested on is in this manual.

Study the entire handbook. I found the answer to one question on page 3 and another on page 74. So don’t think any of the material is fluff. Read it all.

When you are studying, it may help to make notes in the margin or to underline certain points. Sometimes reading aloud can also help.

After reading the book, take a sample test or two. For questions missed, go back and review that section in the book. Also, a second reading of the handbook is very helpful.


Don’t attempt to study while doing another task that requires concentration. Don’t attempt to study for long periods. After about 30 minutes your mind is saturated. Take a break and come back to it later.

Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test and arrive in plenty of time for your appointment. Make sure you have your license, a working writing instrument and your glasses, if applicable. Also if you wear a hearing aid, make sure the batteries are good.

Go in with a positive attitude and you’ll do just fine.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email