Three days ago I took the G1 knowledge test, which I happened to pass with a perfect score. Having just gone through the experience of getting my first Canadian driver’s license, I’d like to take a moment to describe the experience for those who are looking to hear about the process of getting a G1 driver’s license in Ontario. Personally I couldn’t find much on this topic when I searched for it before taking the test, which adds to why I want to recount my experience online.
In Ontario there is a graduated licence system that one must follow in order to obtain their driver’s license. After you’ve passed a vision test and a knowledge test, you obtain your G1 driver license (which is the first of step in the rather lengthy process to achieving your G license).
Obtaining your G1 is definitely cool, however it means that in order for you to actually get behind the wheel of a car, you need to have a fully licensed driver – with at least 4 years of driving experience – with you at all times. After holding a G1 license for 12 months (eight months if you take – and pass – an accredited driving course), you’ll be eligible to take a road test and get a G2 license. The G2 has some restrictions, but it enables you to drive on your own. After an additional 12 months, you’ll be eligible to take a more challenging road test, which if you pass, means that at long last, you’ll graduate to a full G license.
Preparing for the test
As a busy professional, I didn’t have much time to prepare for the written test. I needed to learn all the concepts for the test in just three evenings (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, as I took the test on Saturday morning). In total I spent about 12 hours preparing for the test (4 hours per night).
The first thing I did was to read the official handbook, cover to cover, over the course of the first two nights. I couldn’t find the copy of the book I bought a while back, so I opted to use the free online version instead. Learning the theory from the book, line-by-line, is certainly important but it won’t likely ensure that you actually pass the G1 test. The reason for this is that there are too many arbitrary rules and numbers for you to accurately remember them all without making any mistakes, by simply reading the theory through once.
The key for me was that I spent Friday evening taking practice tests online. I used this free site, and took all the G1 tests they’ve got up there. At first, as you take these online tests, you may make some mistakes, but this is actually a blessing in disguise, as it will help you realize what your strengths and weaknesses are.
In my case, I immediately nailed all the questions that were logical, but did poorer when it came to things that were entirely arbitrary – as such questions about license suspensions rules. So before proceeding further, I read the rules pertaining to this area again, and also thoroughly reviewed the demerit point system. As I worked my way through this information for the second time, I did so with the earnest intent of really memorizing all of those rules and numbers.
Having read through that data a second time, I took the online practice tests once again and pretty much got 100% on all of them (including the lengthy 200 question “marathon” test). I knew at this point that I was ready for the real deal.
I can’t stress enough though, how much you really want to study and practise, because up to 70-80% of people fail their Ontario G1 knowledge test the first time they take it.
Going to the testing center
Believe it or not, I went to the wrong place first. There was an MTO near my house, so naturally I assumed I could take the G1 test there. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, the lady told me that I was at the wrong place. So I had to head over to an actual testing center that was about 20 km away. To save yourself the same kind of hassle and to find the DriveTest examination center nearest you, take advantage of this useful link.
The good news is that you don’t need to book your G1 test ahead of time. You can go anytime the office is open, though they recommend that you show up at least an hour before closing.
As soon as I arrived, I lined up for the help desk, where I was asked what I was there for. I provided my ID, and they asked me if I’d had a driver license before in any other country. After that, I was given a ticket and went to sit down Mr. Bean style as I waited for my turn.
The vision test
After asking you for your ID and having you sign some paperwork, the first thing you’ll do is take a vision test. You are not escorted, as one might expect, into a separate room to take the vision test, instead you stand there in front of the the DriveTest employee, and are instructed to pick up the pair of binoculars that are attached to the desk.
I was a little worried about this test, as I’ve read horror stories about people with good vision being rejected. Thankfully, in reality the test was very simple and straightforward. You’re shown a group of numbers such as “9 3 7 5 3 2” in three different positions, while you keep both of your eyes opened. Your vision would have to be fairly poor in order for you to mess up those numbers, as they’re printed quite big (they’re larger than the font in this post and they appear even closer to your eyes than your computer screen). Finally, a light goes off on the right or the left, a couple of times, and you need to say on which side the light appeared (this step is done to test your peripheral vision).
Don’t stress about the vision test, even if one of your eyes is weaker than the other, you should have no problem thanks to the fact that both of your eyes are tested at the same time (not one by one, as is sometimes the case at an optometrist’s office).
Going to the testing area
So long as you pass the vision test, you’re immediately asked to pay the $125 test fee, which can be paid via debit card, credit card, or cash. Next they take your photo right then and there, for which you can’t smile and need to keep you chin down as you look at the yellow dot below the camera.
Moving on, they stamp the back of your hand (with a little Government of Ontario logo), and you’re sent to the testing area with a yellow piece of paper with your details on it. You’ll deposit that paper into a basket and take a seat while you wait for the actual writing of the test to commence.
Overall the atmosphere at the testing center was friendly and relatively relaxed. The only worrisome point was seeing how many 16 year old kids were being told that they didn’t pass, and their resulting long faces.
The knowledge test
When they call your name, you head over to the desk and they give you a test form and a pencil (with an eraser, which you’re permitted to use). There are two test sheets, each of which contain 20 questions. The first one is about the rules of the road, while the second set of 20 questions is about road signs.
You need to get at least 16 questions right on EACH of them in order to pass the test. If you get 15 right on one, and absolutely nail the second perfectly, you’ll still fail the test nevertheless and will have to take it again another day (and pay an additional $10 to do so).
The “real world” test questions are remarkably similar to those on the online practice tests. In fact, most of them are included on the real test verbatim. If your memory is any good, you’ll run through and answer most of questions in a matter of seconds. In my case, I had all 40 questions answered in about 5 minutes. I found the test to be quite easy after practising online. If you got 100% on the online marathon test, it’s likely you won’t fail the real test because you’ll be presented with virtually the same questions and format.
Keep in mind that sometimes there will be trickier questions. However, with some common sense you should be able to figure them out. For example, one question asked what the number one cause of skids on the road was. The possible answers included over-inflated tire pressure, going too fast (speeding), and ice or snow.
While realistically the majority of skids will happen on ice or snow, particularly in Canada, you have to answer the way they want you to answer. When the weather conditions are good, speed is the number one cause of skids. When there is black ice on the road, too much speed in relation to the road condition is still the actual cause of skids. So, while it may be tempting to go with “ice or snow”, what you really want to select instead is “speed”.
When you’re done answering the questions, you deposit your test in a tray and your pencil in another, and then have a seat again. After five or so minutes, they’ll call you up and tell you whether or not you passed the test. If you passed, they’ll hand you a yellow paper that includes your test score, as well as your temporary G1 license (which is a piece of thick A5 paper). Your actual plastic license will be mailed out and reach you in about two weeks.
Having passed your G1 test, you can now leave the testing center and go celebrate! (The whole experience at the testing center took about 45 minutes for me.)
My next step will be to find an accredited driving school in North York and take (and pass) their course, so that I can take the road test at the end of November an obtain my G2 license.
I hope this firsthand account helps others out there who are preparing for the first time to get their G1 license. Best of luck to all of you!