So, you think just because you have a driver’s license from your home country, it should be a piece of dangao to get your license in China?

Think again.

To get a driver’s license in China, foreigners must pass a written exam. Although it’s available in English, it’s notoriously tough. Most laowai study using a popular app which takes you through the 900 possible questions of the test. The idea is that you just memorize the answers to the questions rather than learning the logic behind the answers. That seems like a strange method to prepare for a test until you see the questions and their associated answers.

Here’s a small selection of questions that are particularly mind-numbing. Take a look and you’ll soon learn why you need to give up on reasoning things out and just stick with rote memorization.

Let’s start off nice and slow with:

Questions that are So Easy You’ll Wonder What the Catch Is


Aced this one!


And this one! (Almost got thrown by “ammeter,” but I prevailed!)


Easy-peasy! Wait, am I the only one finding it a bit disconcerting that they are testing drivers on gauges and vehicle parts? It doesn’t seem like you should have to study to know what those things are for. Oh well, I will just keep slam-dunking these questions. Driver’s license, here I come!

And just when your confidence is high…

Huh? Are we talking about if it’s right or wrong to reduce speed, or are we talking about if it’s right or wrong that the reason behind reducing speed is so pedestrians in the crosswalk don’t get into the place where the beams of lights meet? Because, honestly, I would be more concerned with the pedestrians being in the place where the vehicles meet.

Let’s move on to…

Questions that Make You Question Your Very Existence

So… I’m taking a test about the test I am taking. 

There’s something deep going on here, and I half expect to discover John Cusack is inside a secret cabinet leading to my brain and will get trapped there for eternity if he doesn’t get out in time. I don’t know what’s real anymore.

Questions that Ensure You Are the Right Type of Person to Be a Driver

Once you’ve sorted out if you are John Malvokich or not, it’s time to look at a meta-level of driving rather than silly things like lane markings and speed limits. Let’s make sure you have the right driving philosophy…

…the right driving ethics…

…the right driving habits…

…and the right driving footwear.

Great. Now you are ready for – no, not speed limits and road signs yet! First, you need to pass…

Boring Questions About Driver’s License Regulations and Penalties

This is the type of information that should probably be in tiny print in a government manual somewhere for people to look up if they need to know it. Instead, it’s part of the test. And there are a LOT of questions like this.

There are also plenty of questions about the points system, which is how you keep track of driving violations. You get 12 points per year (oops, I just gave you the answer to one of the questions!) and you get points deducted when you break the law. The gamification of driving, folks. But again, you’d think there could be a nice chart somewhere showing how many points per traffic violation. Instead, you need to memorize this stuff.


Alright, it’s finally time to get to the meat of the test: road signs, speed limits, traffic lights, lane markings, and all the other fun you’ll encounter when you’re actually out there driving. But even those questions are not straightforward.

Questions For Which You Would Really Like to Know the Correct Answer

As mentioned above, it’s not that you learn the correct regulations first, then get tested on them. You need to memorize disembodied information, which sometimes leaves you wondering what the actual regulation behind the question is.

Like this:

Wrong. Why? I’m gonna guess you should INCREASE the frequency of honk so that any motorcycles waiting to pop out from behind those trees have fair warning that you’re coming.


Clearly, you should never speed up and pass the intersection when it means you’ll go hurtling between a lighthouse and high-rise apartments over a green space that will lead to your watery death. How could you think that was okay?


Only if the driver is chasing goodly will he or she be subject to three years’ imprisonment. Duh.


So, which part of that sentence is incorrect? It’s a two-way culvert with bad lighting? It has good lighting? It’s not a culvert at all? It’s actually the original concept design for the Tardis? Help me out here.


Questions That Are Tough for Anyone Who Has Observed Drivers IRL

Do not rely on your China street smarts for this test. They will lead you astray. It turns out a lot of the practices of Chinese drivers in real life are  – brace yourself – not legal.

If we’re talking about rational, we’ve got to go with either C or D. Answer B wastes way too much time.


Sure, why not?


The car behind expected the car in front to plow through the crosswalk around the pedestrians and is totally confused why he stopped. That, or the car behind’s driver thought the road condition looked good enough to watch a car video


You’re kidding, right? There are literally NO OTHER CARS in sight. In fact, there are no buildings, people, water buffalo, lighthouses, NOTHING. You own this intersection. If you “need turn left,” you can be on the grass if you so choose. You can make a left turn, right turn, U-turn, donuts, anything. You’re only limited by your imagination.


Questions that Split Hairs

If your logic circuit isn’t fried by now, it’s about to be.

Oh, for crying out loud. You are allowed to make a right turn or go straight at this intersection. Just not if the light is red. Or maybe this goes back to wanting to prevent anyone from zooming over a green patch to their watery death. Okay, okay, fine. Just turn right. Safety first.


“Parking lot” and “parking area” are different enough to warrant a question to tease them apart?


All those types of monitoring are different enough to warrant their own question, too? You just need to know that everyone’s going to be slamming on their brakes in a minute to avoid getting caught speeding on a camera. I mean on a “traffic monitoring equipment.”


Does that seem incredibly specific to anyone else???


There is a separate set of rules for how to drive if there is a pedestrian with an umbrella/raincoat, rather than a pedestrian who is getting soaked in the downpour because they forgot an umbrella/raincoat? I’ve come to a realization: There is no way I’m getting this license.


Questions That Defy All English Grammar Rules

English grammar problems are at least a more comfortable territory for expats. Let’s power through these.

I don’t even know what just happened in that sentence, but there was a “people death,” so, yeah, I can see that the driver probably needs a check-up.


How many adjectives and adverbs are describing that car in the picture? Anyone want to take a stab at diagramming that beast of a sentence?


Questions That Feature Non-Existent English Words

Supposedly Shakespeare was prolific at creating new English words in his plays such as “puking” and “skim milk.” I don’t want to stifle anyone’s creativity here, but I also don’t think the Chinese DMV is going to have as much success as The Bard at introducing new vocabulary items into the English language. We will just have to guess what their linguistic novelties mean.

The next time I get on a midsize or large bus, I’m going to inform the driver that he’s not really driving, he’s only quasi-driving. That should go over well.


Alright, this is not a fake English word. It’s the French word for a customs house, but why in the world would they randomly stick a French word on a road sign when every other bilingual sign uses English? Trying to serve English speakers a slice of humble pie, I suppose. But it only makes me think of one thing:

Moving right along…

Social vehicles. You know, ones that throw great parties and have over 10,000 followers on Twitter.


“Bulge road” is a close cousin to “muffin top boulevard.”


Wrong. That is a “bulge road” after P90X.


Attention all persons named Jess: I want you to know that you have your very own lanes in China. You don’t even have to reduce your transverse speed or longitudinal speed or anything. It’s just one of the perks of being a Jess.


God forbid there ever being a tidal lane going through a decussation intersection. Those are the first two horsemen of the Apocalypse.


Because, as everyone knows, only the Batmobile is allowed to glide with flame-out.

Does your brain hurt yet? Buck up, buttercup, ‘cuz that was only 38 questions. Only 862 more to study before you’re ready for the driving exam! Jia you!

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