The Knowledge Test: Study for this test as if your life depended on it

March 13, 2019

Preparing for and passing the ICBC knowledge test are the first steps toward obtaining a driver’s licence. Before turning on the ignition, drivers need to show us that they understand the rules of the road and are thinking about safe driving behaviours and attitudes. And with hundreds of crashes happening every day, ICBC goes to great lengths to ensure that only competent and safe drivers are issued a licence.

Unfortunately, we sometimes catch people trying to cheat, as reported by CTV News. The repercussions could be far more serious if you decide to skip out on learning how to drive. It may sound dramatic, but a lack in driving knowledge could send you to the hospital. 

One-part rules, one-part common sense

The knowledge test is not designed to trick you. Here’s a brief overview: There’s 50 questions in total and customers need to answer 40 of them correctly to pass. On average, it takes 26 minutes to complete. For questions that seem difficult, a skip feature allows you to skip each question up to two times during the test. Worried about a time limit? Take your time, there isn’t one. Need better clarity? Staff can help explain a question you may not understand. Is it loud or distracting while you’re taking the test? Just ask for headphones, and you can either listen to or read the questions in 12 different languages.

Basic rules apply during the knowledge test – it is a test, after all. You can’t talk, refer to study materials or use any electronic devices. We use a variety of methods to prevent cheating – you’ll see one of these techniques in action below, when one person attempted to cheat on their test.

Come prepared. Study the Learn to Drive Smart guide thoroughly, then gauge your level of preparedness by taking the online practice knowledge test and signs test.

Smile, you’re on camera

Cheating attempts are uncommon during knowledge tests, but here’s one example of a person caught in the act. The one-minute video clip shows the customer using their phone to search for an answer before a staff member stops the test and asks them to leave.

Cheating isn’t limited to the use of electronic devices such as cell phones, smartwatches and Airpods. In another example, a customer was caught cheating using an "answer key."

Unknown to them, an answer key serves no purpose for the ICBC knowledge test. Randomized test questions are selected from a bank of questions and the sequence of answers changes each time. We also prevent cheating attempts through facial recognition technology and staff who monitor test sessions.

Cheating in any form results in serious penalties. A first-time occurrence nets a 30-day suspension from re-taking the knowledge test. If it happens a second time, cheaters are handed a 60-day suspension. All cheaters will be flagged in the ICBC system. That means every transaction you may have with ICBC in the future – like a claim – will be looked at with greater scrutiny. And you get to re-live your transgression by having to sit down with one of our officers, who will remind you of the consequences of cheating. As you can see, it’s just not worth it.

It’s a rules test, not a language test

Why isn’t ​it necessary to read and understand English to take the knowledge test? Why do we offer our passenger vehicle and motorcycle knowledge tests in 12​ languages?

Because, there’s an international agreement for countries to use the same signs and signals. That’s why when you’re vacationing in Paris or India, or even Montreal, you can rent a car and toodle around Mont Tremblant.

And we’d like to think that common sense spans across all languages.

Insight from a new Learner

Sixteen-year-old Anna recently took her knowledge test at North Vancouver’s driver licensing office and was surprised that some people try to cheat. “I don’t know how you could get away with it. It just seems strange,” she said, after completing her test.

“I probably wouldn’t want to be in the car with that person. If it was one of my friends who cheated on the test and they were really scared they wouldn’t pass, I’d probably tell them to go back and do it again,” Anna said.

She explained that encouragement from her dad helped her prepare for the knowledge test. “I got the book a year ago, and I read it a couple of times through. Two weeks ago is when I started to take the online practice test. My dad said to take the test twice every night, as well as the signs test.”

“During the actual test, the skip button was really, really nice. It let me skip the questions that I wasn’t really sure about.”

Anna successfully passed her test, only answering four questions incorrectly. “The questions I got wrong were me not fully reading the question or missing a couple of words, and the answer I chose was a slightly different wording of the correct answer.”

Her advice? “Just breathe. If you’ve done the work and put in the time, you’ll know what’s going on.”

Investing in the safety of all road users

Sitting in the driver’s seat is a privilege. Think of learning to drive like learning to become a surgeon. Sure, it’s a bit of stretch, but hear us out. A surgeon wouldn’t operate on a patient without mastering theoretical knowledge first, such as understanding human anatomy and how to safely perform surgical procedures, correct?

Just as drivers need to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the rules of the road, sharing the road with others, common hazards and safe driving practices. A simple mistake – whether you’re a surgeon or a new driver – can have deadly consequences.

Karen Nelson manages North Vancouver’s driver licensing office and wants new drivers to know it’s not worth it to cheat. “Be prepared and take the time to invest in your own safety and the safety of your family and friends,” she said.

“Someday, this test has the potential to save your life.”

ICBC has many resources to help you prepare for the knowledge test, including the Learn to Drive Smart guide and the online practice knowledge test. A passing grade requires 80 per cent or higher – what’s your score?