Learners Permit Written Test: Take One

True or False: When you close the door after you have seated a four-wheeled vehicle, stop pulling the door handle before closing the door tightly, then apply all your strength to close it.

This was one of the first questions I encountered when studying for my learners permit written test. Yes, it is badly translated and no, it does not actually have anything to do with traffic laws. It is just about how to shut your door. The question is apparently true. (Though using all your strength every time you close your car door seems a bit excessive.) With this in mind I had some idea of what I was in for.

The learners permit written test consists of 50 true or false questions and requires a score of 90% to pass. The questions are often trick questions utilizing the subtleties of ‘must’ and ‘may’ or completely irrelevant information. For example: It is permitted to display merchandise to be sold on the sidewalk, provided the sidewalk and the vehicular pavement are separated. (I still do not know if this is true or false.) The English test is, conveniently, translated by someone who has never studied English or its grammar.

Another gem from my study book: You have overtaken a car pulling off to the center of the road while switching on the right-hand blinker, by passing its left hand side.

I had a good bit of time off work for the holidays and decided to try to get my test out of the way so I would not have to take time off work to do it. My wife and I arrived at the licensing center and proceeded to the first line, and then the second. This was very easy because my wonderful wife had already filled everything out beforehand. The third line was for the fitness test, which consisted of waving your arms around and hopping on one foot (not even kidding), and the eye check. Finally the last line where I was given my ticket for the test.

I arrived in the testing room at 9:50, the time on the ticket, and took my seat.  At 10:00, the pair who would administer the test showed up and began giving instructions in Japanese. Now, I have no problem with the instructions being given in Japanese, I am in Japan after all, but I do not understand. So, I just followed what the others were doing got out my pencil, eraser and the test ticket.  They handed out the answer form and began 20 minutes of explaining what needed to be filled in. I was completely lost. Finally, one of the proctors realized I was not following and came and pointed to which numbers went where.

When the test began, I flew through the first 15 questions or so with no problem and no doubts, but then some poorly worded questions put me off my stride. I finished with only 3 minutes left before time was up and only had time to give a quick glance at the questions again before the tests were collected. A 10 minute speech about where to see our scores and we were off to wait an hour for the scores to be posted.

On 4 large screens the test ID numbers of those who pass are displayed. Mine was not among them. Paper with the scores is posted and you can have a look after you pick up your test registration paper (which has enough space for 10 test dates to be stamped on it). I checked my score, 80%. I had missed 10 questions. I was a little frustrated, but it was not completely unexpected. We headed home and started thinking about when I could squeeze in another test.

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