Once you have studiously absorbed the Italian driver’s manual, and familiarized yourself with a wide array of possible questions, you’ll be ready for the written Italian driving exam. The exam is made up of 40 true/false questions, all randomly generated by the computer, and drawing from defined categories. For instance, you will always get a couple of questions pertaining to right of way at an intersection (with overhead diagrams). You’ll also get questions about primo soccorso, first aid. In other words, you need to have studied all of the sections in the manual. You are allowed up to four mistakes – any more, you fail and you will have to take the test again, after waiting at least a month. If you fail the test more than two to three times (I don’t remember the exact details) you may find yourself back at square one for paying fees and going through all the other steps in the process.
When I went for my test, my instructor drove me to the testing place in Perugia, and my partner came along to cheerlead and provide moral support. My instructor quizzed me during the drive, and gave me some important last minute pointers – especially concerning certain terminology used in questions designed to trip you up. Believe me, while studying the pool of over 3,000 possible questions, I had imagined a malicious group of testing “engineers” gleefully rubbing their hands together as they designed a boatload of trick questions.
We arrived at the testing center. I was in the second testing group of the morning, and I had the opportunity to watch about 12 people coming out of the testing session, and stand around anxiously waiting for their results. The woman in charge of administering the test came out and called out names and handed folders to the instructors, who in turn informed their student whether they had passed or failed. Those who had passed were jumping up and down and hugging their instructors and their friends. The others were clearly downcast and I watched them being consoled. After all the test results had been passed out, a summary sheet was also posted with names and pass/fail results.
My group was a bit smaller, and made up mostly of high school students, and a few expats from other countries. I’m sure I was the oldest one in the bunch. We were led into the room and we were each assigned a computer station. Once we followed the instructions for successfully for getting into the beginning of the test, we were given the go-ahead, and the clock started ticking. Twenty minutes is what you are allowed for answering the 40 questions. Having been through a facsimile of this test environment at my driving school, I was pretty calm. I finished the test in about 12 minutes, and then I carefully went back through all of the questions, paying close attention to the three or four that had seemed a little tricky. I changed answers on two of them, and then hit “submit”. Walking out of the test I wasn’t sure how I had done. I had been aiming for 100% in my usual perfectionist way.
After waiting outside with the other people for about ten minutes, the testing administrator came out and repeated the dispersing of results I had witnessed earlier. My name was called, and my folder was handed to my instructor, who quickly checked to see if I had passed, broke into a huge grin and said “Promosso!” (“Passed!”). I then received a big hug from her and my partner. I was flooded with relief, and I wanted to cry and kiss everyone. This had been such a huge hurdle – probably one of the biggest in setting up my life in Italy.
After officially receiving a copy of my test the following day, my instructor texted me “Complimenti, solo un errore!” “Compliments, only one error!” Not 100%, but pretty damn close.
I allowed myself to relish this important victory….but only for a couple days, because I knew I had the practical driving instruction and tests still ahead. And that, my friends, is yet another colorful story.