The Washington state driver’s license paper and pencil test can be a difficult one for dyslexic drivers.


Having seen some of the sample questions, there’s a lot more number trivia compared to the California test I passed many years ago.

Whether you don’t drink alcohol or smoke marijuana, you have to answer specific questions about how long it takes for the body to recover from a drink or smoking, but also answer detailed questions about how many days you have before reporting the sales of a vehicle to the Department of Licensing (5 days). With many similar questions and answers, the pass rate is 80% (what a nightmare!).



How to study for this monumental rote memory undertaking is not a trivial matter – especially if you have a poor memory for numbers (like I do).

Researchers in Sweden showed that dyslexic children have superior recognition memory compared to their non-dyslexic peers – so that can obviously be a good thing – and, if you remember, that study by Attree and colleagues showed superior memory for dyslexic adolescents on a virtual reality maze test.

The downside of having strong recognition and incidental memory is that if students study by taking practice tests, they can unintentionally remember answers they got wrong as well as answers they got right, and reading through test questions again and again is time consuming as well as inefficient (because of exposing students potentially to as many wrong answers as correct).

So what to do instead?

One approach is to use digital flashcards like Quizlet. There are many existing card sets, which can save you time – but be careful that they are accurate for what you are studying for. It is also free to upload questions and answers – and has a mobile as well as a desktop version. You can study questions and answers side-by-side or by flipping cards to self-test yourself.

The benefit of this approach over actually taking tests over and over again is that test-takers can strengthen the association between the question and correct answers so that they will recognize them on the test.

But in case this is helpful, if you or your student still really struggle with remembering numbers, you can try elaborating the associations – with stories or visuals for instance and adding features like organizing in numerical order and a color system that reinforces the association.

As an example, below is a cheat sheet for some of the facts that are commonly asked on the Washington state driver’s test.

When you’re making a study cheat sheet for just yourself and not to sell, you can add icons from a resource like Flaticon which has wonderful icons for just about any need.


This is a homemade cheat sheet for the driving test that pairs icons with the numbers, orders the numbers (lowest numbers first) and associates a color with that page. To review, students can look at the number and the icon and see if they can remember the rule associated with it, or look at the question and try to remember the cheat sheet for driving that deals with the numbers that are difficult to remember for the driving test. Page 1 represents the numbers 1-4 found on the driving rules that need to be remember.

With this organization, study questions can be reviewed just on the right as well as self-testing by reading the question on the left and checking on the right. In order to maximize efficiency, avoid studying any extraneous information on the study page (like incorrect answers) in the case the wrong answer might be memorized.

The color of the font may help a little as might the grouping if similar numbers on a page.

The color sequence of numbers may also help a little – it was based on ROY G BIV, the mnemonic for the order of colors in the rainbow or also by wavelength.

In the driver’s license manual and on practice tests, the numbers are often scattered throughout a thick manual (why do they do this?).


In Washington state, it’s 142 ages long. Practice tests and then making cheats sheets like this may be the only way that some students can pass.

*** The DMV also does not always make it easy to find out how to get extended time accommodations; here in the Seattle area, there is only 1 center in Bellevue that allowed extended time through one vendor.

One final tip: a great resource for audio versions of driver’s manuals can be found HERE.




Dyslexia | Dyslexic Advantage