New Jersey high school students will no longer need a pencil or paper test to take the written exam to get a driver’s license.
As of this week, the rollout to offer a web-based “knowledge test” was complete at driving schools and the 655 high schools licensed to teach driver ed as part of a move by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to expedite the test and give more flexibility to students in the first step of what has always been a rite of passage.
Don’t be fooled, though: The test is not easier. About 50% of test takers fail the first time — paper or digital — said Sue Fulton, the chief administrator for the commission.
The state began transitioning to a digital version at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, allowing some schools to randomly administer the test on computers.
Previously, the tests were mailed to schools on a compact disc. The teacher proctors then had to print seven versions of the test so students sitting next to each other couldn’t copy one another.
Then, when schools were shut down during the pandemic, and students were learning remotely, they could only take the test at state agencies, meaning many had to wait. Students typically sit for the test their sophomore year.
Online testing, which still offers multiple versions of the exam, is also available at state college campuses including Rowan College at Burlington County and Passaic County College Community College, as well as 24 licensing centers. The state said the demand for appointments at licensing centers, boosted by COVID-19, remains at “historically high” levels. It recently began online testing at the state’s 139 commercial driving schools.
Karen Borrelli, a certified driver education teacher at the Charles Brimm Medical Arts High School in Camden, said 26 of the 34 10th graders at Brimm passed the paper test last month, scoring at least 80% on the 50 multiple-choice questions. The remainder passed when the test was given again two weeks later, she said.
“I don’t want kids on the road who don’t know how to drive,” Borrelli said. “I need them to be prepared. They could kill somebody.”
Deptford High School sophomore Christian Klimczak, 15, took the test on paper and aced it earlier this year, scoring a 96.
“It wasn’t that hard,” he said. “I didn’t really need to study that much.”
Klimczak looks forward to the next step when he turns 16 in June and can get a permit and “learn to drive, which my parents don’t really want.” His mother, Amy, overhearing his comment, laughed.
Along with passing the written test, a teen must enroll in a training course before getting their permit as early as 16. To get a probationary license at age 17, they must pass a road test, and then practice driving unsupervised for a year before applying for their basic license.