MN Driver’s License Exam – Helping Our Students Succeed

MN Driver’s License Exam – Helping Our Students Succeed

Many ABE learners need a driver’s license as a step toward their family, career or community goals – and many ask for our help.  Several Minnesota ABE programs have responded to this need and are now sharing their materials via the ATLAS Adult Career Pathways (ACP) resource library.  Read about their experiences and insights here.  Then check out the materials for use in your program!

The need – To pass the written exam as the first step to obtaining a Minnesota Class D (regular) driver’s license, one needs to be familiar with basic vocabulary, signs and rules of the road.  The primary source for exam preparation is the Minnesota Driver’s Manual.  However, the Minnesota manual is written at approximately a ninth-grade reading level (reference).  For many of our learners – especially English language learners but also many U.S.-born lower-level readers – successful self-study of this manual is out of reach.  Many license aspirants may also suffer test anxiety or be unfamiliar with effective test-taking strategies.

The role of ABE – ABE programs are responding by offering short exam prep classes that break down the information, provide multiple modes of learning and memorization, plus lots of test-taking practice.  In addition, a class creates a cohort of peers who can encourage one another in their study and cheer classmates on as they take and pass the test.

St. Paul ABE’s experience – Differentiation is key

Julie Lindholm at St. Paul ABE has developed and taught an 8-session, 16-hour course.  Her course outline and instructional materials are available in the ACP library.  The course is structured by covering one chapter of the manual each class session.  Each session includes warm-ups, target vocabulary and practice activities.

Julie reflects on her experience teaching this course at Hubbs Center:

I had positive feedback from the Driver’s Permit class.  Students were eager to learn.  It was a mix of not only language levels but also students at various points in the process of getting a license: some had driven before in another country; others had taken the written test a few times and hadn’t passed; and some were very recent arrivals to the US.  There were native speakers of English along with English language learners. 

Differentiation is a challenge.  I’ve added a vocabulary list with a worksheet for each chapter and simplified some text.  Further differentiation will likely be necessary based on the language and reading levels of your students.

Osseo ABE – Lots of practice on test questions

Jill Beulke of Osse ABE created materials and taught a 10-day class at the same time her own teenager was studying for the exam.  An array of materials, including daily 10-question practice tests with answer keys, are also available in the ACP library.

Jill’s experience can help guide other instructors:

I found that students who focused their studies on practice questions did much better on the test than those who focused on the manual, which required lots of fumbling their way through the book. 

Detroit Lakes ABE – Expanding to include literacy, transitions and digital skills

As part of the 2018-19 Adult Career Pathways Course Design professional development cohort, Jenn Hellekson of Detroit Lakes has worked to design a course curriculum that effectively incorporates MN ABE content standards.  Besides demonstrating understanding of road knowledge, traffic laws, and vehicle operation and identifying/interpreting road signage, objectives also set out to equip learners to be able to:

  • Identify, evaluate and apply test-taking strategies
  • Identify and apply general academic and content-specific words and phrases related to transportation and applicable laws
  • Identify career pathways where possessing a driver’s license is useful or necessary
  • Evaluate proper and improper interaction in scenarios involving other drivers and/or law enforcement and recommend improvements
  • Demonstrate skills required for taking a computer-based exam

Jenn says of her approach to the design of this class:

Even with a short class like this, where students think their sole goal is to get their driver’s license, we have an opportunity and obligation to enhance the learning experience to include improving their reading skills, charting a future pathway, and orienting to interactions they may encounter as new drivers in the U.S. 

Summer Institute – These awesome instructors will lead a workshop session at Summer Institute, to share more about their experiences and equip you to run a course in your ABE program:  Friday, August 16, 11:00-11:45am in the Kelly Inn Sunwood Room.  Hope to see you there!

Elizabeth Andress, Adult Career Pathways Consultant ATLAS