AB 60: The Drivers License Exam

Nearly half-a-million Californians have applied for a driver’s license under Assembly Bill 60 since the law took effect on January 2nd, doubling the projection of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The new law allows any California resident to apply for a driver’s license regardless of their immigration status.

Despite bringing a number of positive changes, the process hasn’t been as smooth as supporters hoped it would be. According to local immigrants advocates, some applicants are having a difficult time passing the DMV’s written tests. On the first day of eligibility alone, only 36 percent of the Spanish test takers passed the exam. Reports of failures over the past months have been attributed to the lack of preparation going in to test day. Applicants are mistakenly relying on their driving experience to pass the test not knowing the regulations established in California law.

The amount of time you should spend on your own studying the handbook is crucial for success. After the first failure, you may not be eligible for another appointment for up to three or six months, not to mention the monetary and time costs.

Acknowledging personal responsibility, we must also take into account the circumstances facing applicants. While the DMV handbook is available in Spanish, it is written in a technical style of which many immigrants do not commonly speak. The test references specific facts and figures that require thorough studying. Exam success can be challenging when comprehension is deterred by a lack of understanding concepts and retaining vocabulary.

While this phenomenon can be attributed to a lack of preparation, it really demonstrates the shortage of resources available to undocumented populations. The DMV held about 200 outreach meetings with immigrants and advocates stressing the importance of studying for the test, but the unexpected volume of applicants was not met with adequate support.

Tips in Preparation for Test Day

  • n Study 30 minutes a day This tip is no secret, but between responsibilities at work and at home, moments of quiet studying can be hard to come by. Dedicate at least 30 minutes of studying daily, in your own designated study zone in the weeks leading up to the exam.
  • n Ask for help A great number of undocumented immigrants failing the exam are only at a middle school education level. Do not feel alone! Ask for help until you understand the topics in your own words and in the vocabulary used by the exam.
  • n No all nighters Avoid staying up all night studying for the exam the next day. The best performers at an exam are well rested, had a light and nutritious meal, and enter confident after time spent studying.


If you don’t feel confident through independent study alone, advocacy groups are holding driver’s education workshops. There are classes offered by organizations such as Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional and la Coalición por los Derechos Humanos de los Inmigrantes de Los Ángeles (CHIRLA).

According to the AB 60 CHIRLA program, their students have a 90% success rate. For $35 (cost of membership and study materials), CHIRLAs classes prepare undocumented immigrants for the written exam. This course lasts three hours, is in Spanish, and designed in an easy to understand, fun and interactive format.

Where there is enough registration demand, CHIRLA representatives can host in your local community. Those interested should register by phone where they can receive further information on free workshops, forums and answer questions regarding test preparation and requirements.

To enroll in AB 60 CHIRLA Drivers Education Class please contact the

CHIRLA program:

Jerry Martinez Guardado

(AB 60 CHIRLA Coordinator),

(213) 353-1333

Beware of Fraud

Advocates and California authorities

have been working to distribute accurate and helpful information regarding meeting the application requirements; despite these efforts, the opportunity for fraud remains a concern.

There have been cases of individuals targeting struggling applicants by offering study materials at high prices. We advise you to use your discretion and know that the same practice exams are provided online free of charge.

Also be aware that you do not need a third person to set up an appointment, it is illegal to charge for filing an application for a license. Furthermore, you should not be charged by anyone who offers document translation. If you need an interpreter, the DMV offers free translation services, call 1(800) 777-0133.

To pass the test, applicants must get 30 out of 36 questions right. To get a license, the applicant must also pass a road sign test in English, and a road test. Don’t rely on guesses to pass this important exam. The more you study, the more confident you’ll feel come test day.

Stop by your local DMV for a copy of the California Driver Handbook. For samples of the written tests both in English and Spanish, visit the California DMV website at: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/interactive/tdrive/exam