How to Get a West Virginia Learner’s Permit

Once you turn 15, you’re eligible to apply for a WV learner’s permit. Here’s how you’ll need to prepare for the DMV.
Written by Shannon Fitzgerald
Reviewed by Christelle Agustin
As soon as you turn 15 in West Virginia, you can apply for your instruction permit (or learner’s permit) as the first level of
WV’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing (GDL)
program. While you no longer need proof of school attendance and enrollment to apply, you’ll need to pass a knowledge test before you can get your permit. 
  • The
    driving age in West Virginia
    starts at 15 with a Level 1 instruction permit 
  • You will need to pass a 25-question multiple-choice knowledge test 
  • Permit drivers under 18 will be held to certain driving curfews and passenger restrictions 
  • You must hold a Level 1 instruction permit for six months before taking your road skills test

How to get a WV learner’s permit

Getting your West Virginia learner’s permit, also called your instruction permit, is the first level of
WV’s Graduated Driver’s License program
. You can apply for your Level 1 instruction permit once you turn 15 years old—if you’re over 18, you can apply for a non-GDL Class E instruction permit with fewer restrictions instead. 
As of June 9, 2022, you no longer need to submit a Student Driver Eligibility Certificate or Proof of School Enrollment Form as a requirement for your instruction permit application. Currently, you only need to prepare an
Application for a Driver’s License
and get it signed by a legal guardian if you’re under 18.
In an effort to prioritize safety during the pandemic, you can now conveniently take your
WV knowledge test online
before you head to the DMV, too. The online testing technology uses facial recognition software to safeguard against cheating, though, so you’ll need to have access to a computer with a keyboard, mouse, and camera to take advantage of this option. 
Note If fraudulent activity is detected during your online test, you will receive an immediate failure and possibly be suspended from testing again for at least 90 days (with a $50 testing reinstatement fee). 
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What to bring to the DMV

Once you’ve completed your driver’s license application and possibly taken your knowledge test online, you’re ready to head to the nearest West Virginia DMV office to complete your instruction permit application in person. 
Before you head out, though, you’ll want to make sure you have the following documents with you: 
  • One proof of identity—can include an original U.S. birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, or unexpired Department of Homeland Security documents  
  • One proof of your Social Security number—can include a signed Social Security card, W-2, payroll stub, or 1099 form 
  • Two proofs of your West Virginia residency—must have your current name and physical address, from two different sources, and be less than 60 days old if recurring (ie; a utility bill or bank statement)
  • One proof of legal name change (if applicable)—can include a certified marriage certificate, court order, or amended original birth certificate 
  • Form DMV-DS-23P (aka your driver’s license application)—this must be signed by a legal guardian if you’re under 18 unless you’re married and have your marriage certificate with you 
  • Credit card for applicable fees
If you’re uncertain whether your documents are acceptable, you can always double-check the Licensing Requirements section in the
West Virginia Driver’s Handbook
. According to the handbook, GDL applicants (under 18) may be required to show a certified birth certificate and a signed Social Security card as their proof of identity and SSN—check with your local DMV branch to verify if this is the case. 
After your paperwork and payment have been processed, a DMV agent will give you a vision test and the knowledge test (if you haven’t taken it online already).

How to pass the WV knowledge test

To pass your knowledge test, you need to get a score of 76% or higher, or at least 19 out of 25 questions correct. The test is entirely multiple-choice and focuses on West Virginia’s traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving practices. If you’ve been studying
WV's Licensing Handbook
, this should be a breeze—but you can always
take practice tests
to prepare.
It costs $7.50 per attempt to take the knowledge test. Depending on whether you test online or in person, the fee can either be paid via credit card online or in person. The WV DMV generally does not accept cash. If you want to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, it will cost an additional $10.

West Virginia instruction permit restrictions

Once you pass your knowledge test, you’re officially a WV instruction permit holder—congrats! While this will allow you to get behind the wheel, there are still certain restrictions you must follow.
No matter how old you are, all instruction permit drivers must have a licensed driver who is 21 or older in the front passenger seat at all times. If you’re under 18, West Virginia’s GDL program places a few more restrictions on your instruction permit driving privileges, too: 
  • You can only drive between 5 am and 10 pm 
  • Aside from your supervising passenger, you may only have two non-family members riding with you
  • You are prohibited from using a cell phone or mobile device (even if it’s hands-free) 
  • There is zero alcohol tolerance for both the driver and all passengers under 21
  • All passengers must wear seat belts, according to
    seat belt laws in West Virginia 
There are also certain restrictions you must meet before you can take your road skills test to earn your Level 2 intermediate driver’s license. Namely, you must: 
  • Be at least 16 years old 
  • Hold a Level 1 instruction permit for at least six months 
  • Receive no traffic violations six months prior to your Level 2 application
  • Complete a
    Certification Log
    for 50 hours of driving with 10 hours of night driving—signed by a legal guardian or driver’s ed instructor 
The West Virginia DMV also reserves the right to place restrictions on both driver’s licenses and instruction permits for students between 15 and 17 years old who either drop out of school or fail to attend it. Drivers 17 and older are not subject to any education penalties, while drivers 18 through 21 are only subject to the supervising driver, zero tolerance, and seat belt regulations of a GDL instruction permit.
While you aren’t required by law to partake in driver’s ed to earn your instruction permit or driver’s license in West Virginia, completing a course may give you more confidence on the road. Depending on your insurer, you may even be able to save on
West Virginia car insurance
by doing so! 
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