CLP Prep Guide: How to Study for Your Permit Test

Your career in trucking starts with a learner’s permit. Before you can earn your Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you must obtain your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). The CLP lets you legally practice driving under a CDL instructor’s supervision. 

Drivers must obtain a permit in their home state before attending the Prime Training Program. You must pass a written exam to receive a CLP. 

Are you worried about passing the permit test? Follow these tips if you’re not sure what to expect or what to study for the CLP exam. 

What’s On The CLP Test?

The CLP exam is broken into three portions: general knowledge, air brakes and combination vehicles. Each of these portions is a written test. 

  • General knowledge. You’ll be tested on what you know about driving and transporting cargo safety on the general knowledge test. You could be asked questions about vehicle controls, driving in inclement weather, securing cargo and accident procedures, to name a few examples. 
  • Air brakes. Tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles use air brakes. This portion of the test is about air brake systems.
  • Combination vehicles. Since you’ll be driving a combination vehicle, you’ll need to pass this portion of the CLP exam, too. This test focuses on safe driving and inspections for tractor-trailers. 

Getting Other Endorsements

When you take the CLP exam, you can also take tests to obtain special endorsements. These endorsements allow you to haul specific cargo types or operate certain vehicles. Available endorsements for truck drivers include doubles and triples, tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements. If you want to drive for Prime, you’ll need to study the CDL manual’s tanker section and take the endorsement test along with your permit test. 

How Long is the CLP Test?  

How many questions are on the CDL permit test? The exact number of questions for each CLP test varies by state. You must answer 80% of the questions correctly on each test to pass it. Typically, most states have the following number of questions per section: 

  • General Knowledge Test: 50 questions
  • Air Brakes Test: 25 questions
  • Combination Vehicles Test: 20 questions
  • Tanker Endorsement Test: 20 questions
  • HAZMAT Endorsement Test: 30 questions

Obtaining A CDL Manual

You’ll use your state’s CDL manual to study for your permit. There are CDL manuals online on each state’s Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) website, or you can request print copies from your local DMV. 

Find links to manuals and CDL requirements by state under Permit Prep.

What Should You Study?

Studying can be daunting—especially when faced with a large manual. CDL manuals cover a lot of material. You can tackle the information by studying only what you need to know. You won’t be tested on transporting passengers or school bus safety, though that information is in the manual. Only study the sections that pertain to a Class A CDL. If you don’t plan to get extra endorsements, you don’t need to review those sections of the manual. 

Brush Up on Your Study Skills   

It’s probably been a while since you last took a test. That’s OK! Finding the study techniques that work for you will make all the difference. 

Not everyone learns in the same way. Most people prefer one or more learning styles. Visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners may approach studying differently. 

What’s Your Learning Style?

When you study, choose a technique that fits how you learn best.

  • Visual learners. Diagrams, drawings and photos help visual learners connect with ideas. Use the diagrams found in your CDL manual, or try mind mapping to connect concepts visually as you study. 
  • Auditory learners. Do you remember things better when you hear them? Try reading parts of the CDL manual out loud or have a conversation about the topics you’re studying.
  • Kinesthetic learners. Many people prefer learning by doing. If you are a hands-on learner, try doing something physical while studying, like bouncing or squeezing a ball. 
  • Reading/writing learners. Some retain information better if they read it and summarize it in their own words. Write a summary of each section of your CDL manual after reading it. 

How to Study for the CLP Test

You’ve identified what you need to study and how you study best. Now, it’s time to put your wheels in motion. Here are a few ways to study for your permit test: 

  • Rewrite. Copying down information by hand can help you retain it, especially if you do so repeatedly. You can rewrite material word for word, summarize it in your own words, or take notes. Grab a pencil and some notebook paper to get started. 
  • Read aloud. Go through the CDL manual and read sections aloud to yourself or someone else. You could record yourself reading, too, and listen to it later while eating dinner or working out.
  • Join a study group. Sometimes learning comes from discussing topics and teaching them to others. A study group helps you dialogue with others and solidify the material in your mind.
  • Use flashcards. Flashcards are the ultimate study helper! They can help no matter what learning style you prefer. You’ll read, write and summarize to create the flashcards. Then, you can use them to quiz yourself—either in your head or aloud.
  • Take practice tests. After you review the material, take a practice test to see how much you retained. Use your results to determine what topics you’ve mastered and what information you need to review again. 

CLP Practice Tests & Study Guides

While your state’s CDL manual will introduce you to the material, online practice tests and study guides can help you grasp what you need to know. Try using these resources to help you ace your exam! 

Exercise Good Study Habits 

Good study habits help you retain information, save time and accomplish more each session. When it’s time to study, follow these habits: 

  • Spread out your study time. Don’t spend all day and night cramming for your permit test right before you take it. Our brains retain information better when we study in small chunks over several days. Plan to study over a few days or weeks.
  • Set goals for yourself. Setting small goals helps you work through the material. You can set goals for how many questions you’d like to get right on a practice test, what information you’d like to master next, or how many pages you’d like to read in one day. Give yourself a reward or study break when you meet your goal. 
  • Silence distractions. Create an environment where you can stay focused. Turn the TV off and put your phone away if your attention keeps wandering. Some people focus better in silence, away from other people. Others find that music or soft background noise helps them concentrate. Find what helps you stay engaged for better results when you study. 

You’ve Got Your CLP! What’s Next?

Once you’ve earned your permit, we’ll see you at Prime. You will complete our driver orientation and receive one-on-one CDL instruction. During CDL training, you will drive with an experienced trainer and run real loads. You will return to Prime to take the CDL skills exam after completing your training. 

Are you ready to ace your CLP test and train with Prime? 

Apply to Prime today or contact our Recruiting Department at 866-290-1568 for more information about obtaining your permit. 

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