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What’s Your Take on Driving-Tests.org?

   December 17th, 2014

Here's something I really curious to learn more about: I've seen a lot of talk lately about driving-tests.org.

It's a website that offers free test prep for driver license exams, but what I keep hearing about is their library version. I think that version is the same as the free one, except it has no ads, and can also be branded with your library's logo (and obviously links directly to the exam for your state).

Check out their marketing email, but this banner pretty well sums it up:

driving-tests

It seemed interesting, so I poked around the free Massachusetts tests (mainly to see if I would pass it*). Some of the questions seemed so odd - and so very specific - that I really had no idea if they were actual laws or not.

Now, here's a tangent: one of our historically high-theft items is the MA Registry of Motor Vehicle's Driver's Manual. Anyone used to be able to get these free to study for the test, then they went to $5 and you had to pick them up at an RMV office. But then I couldn't even get them from an office, because they were always out when I went. And of course, if it's hard for us to get, it's also hard for patrons - and when I occasionally did get a copy for the library, it wasn't long before it went missing.

Which is why an online exam prep tool seemed like a good idea. But, not being an expert on MA traffic laws, I thought I'd ask the RMV if they've heard of it and if they considered it useful. I knew contacting the RMV like this was a long shot, but I was shockingly and pleasantly surprised.

Less than 24 hours after sending in my question through the RMV website's general contact form, I received this reply:

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles does not license any online driver education programs, nor do we approve or disapprove of any online training programs. A student could not receive credit towards the mandatory training time by having taken an online program.

A very casual review of this particular web site leads me to believe that the content is not entirely accurate.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Wow, that was exactly what I was looking for. And since I had their attention, I did ask another question: how can libraries reliably get a copy of the Driver's Manual each year?

The same person emailed me back saying they didn't have any kind of standing order program, but to just email him our address and he would mail me a copy**. I did, and he did! I'm going to start doing this every year, too, because the Driver's Manual is a perennial request.

Now back to the main story: after our print copy of the Driver's Manual arrived, I decided to take the test again, this time trying to look up each question in the booklet to see if I could find the answer. I could, for all but two of them - and in every case where I did find the answer, it was correct.

I only did this for the MA Permit Practice Test 1, but that was better than I expected. It seems like a number of libraries have already signed on to their library version (here's Alameda (CA) Free Library, and I am really curious to hear about the experience of their patrons - does this website help prepare them for their driver's test? Do patrons benefit from the library version more than the regular free version?

If you have any experience with this tool, please leave a comment - thanks!

 


*I did not, the first time. But I re-took the same test the next day and did much better!

**Note to other MA librarians: I asked if it was okay for me to share his info with other libraries, and he said no problem. So contact me if you'd like his email address.




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6 Responses to “What’s Your Take on Driving-Tests.org?”

  1. Cari Says:

    I did the same thing when we got it on our website. The Ohio BMV replied that they also did not endorse any training sites and that we were welcome to add the site if we liked. So far, I don’t think anyone is using it. I probably will not link it to our new website.

  2. Becky Says:

    When I worked as a web librarian, I regularly got email solicitations from start-ups asking me to link to their educational websites. They were usually shiny and professional-looking but tended to lack transparency when it came to editorial and business practices.

    Driving-tests.org is a class act compared to many, with professional affiliations and a presskit. Still, you have to dig to find the name of the company that owns them, and nowhere do they explain how they put together their content. Even if the information is correct right now, I worry about currency.

    If websites of this kind want to come across as reliable information sources, they need to try a little harder to look reputable to information professionals.

  3. Andrei Zakhareuski Says:

    We wanted to thank you for reviewing our site, Brian, and Cari and Becky, thank you for your opinions! These are so valuable to us, because we care about what we do, and helping teenagers become safer drivers is a personal cause at Driving-Tests.org. We already have nearly 500 libraries working with us, but we’d like to know why every library makes their decision about our partnership, as we want to offer the best program that we can to help them reach out to teen patrons. Becky, we’ve especially taken your comments to heart, and we’ll be redoing our “About Us” page soon to make sure it includes the information librarians need when making a decision about if we’re an organization they can trust.

    We realized that our current “About” page doesn’t immediately make it clear that Driving-Tests.org is part of Elegant E-Learning, Inc – a company that has been an online presence for over 6 years and also owns permit practice test websites for learners in other countries (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada). We also run BusyTeacher.org, a website that has been around for 8 years and provides free materials for ESL teachers worldwide

    Our new “About Us” page will feature a lot of the things that you mentioned you’d like to know, and we now know that librarians need to see, as far as “how the sausage is made”: information about our parent company and why Driving-Tests.org exists; direct links to our partnerships with non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and libraries; a thorough accounting of how our tests are created, from hiring professional writers to read each state’s driving manual then write exams based on them, to fact-checking each of them three times before it is uploaded, and finally providing a special feedback form with each question so that test takers can report any issues ranging from typos to questions they have; then a further link to success stories so that librarians can make an educated decision about whether the tests will help their patrons.

    We’ve approached DMVs and government organizations for their opinions, but they are concerned that any advice would be misconstrued as supporting a third party site. As a result, we’re more than happy to accept any advice from librarians, such as yourself and Brian, educational professionals, or driver safety organizations about what can help Driving-Tests.org further our goals of social outreach and creating safer drivers.

    Becky and Cari, thank you for taking the time to comment, as we’ll now be able to improve our site and provide librarians with more of what they want to make choices. And Cari, we’ll also make it clearer on the site that we provide our librarians with a page where they can track usage statistics for free at any time, to see how the program is used – we would even be happy to walk librarians through how to track their usage stats.

    Safer roadways filled with safer drivers are extremely important to everyone who works for Driving-Tests.org, from writers to public relations to me as the owner, for various personal reasons. We’re committed, we’re here to stay, and we’d love to hear from any librarian with ways that we can improve the site for all of you.

    Thank you kindly for the review and comments! We’re exhibiting at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Chicago (Jan/Feb 2015), so please drop by if you’re there and would like to talk in person – Booth 2233!

    Andrei Zakhareuski
    Driving-Tests.org, Founder

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Cari & @Becky: I agree, I tend to ignore all of the “please link to this website” requests the library gets, which mostly do seem to be education resources. It always feels spammy to me, but I suppose it could also be a legitimate business model.

    @Andrei: thank you for your comment, and also for considering our feedback. After reading it, I’d be much more comfortable participating in the library program, and will revisit your website to see the new About Us page when it’s ready.

    One thing I forgot to mention in the initial post was how user-friendly driving-tests.org was – in just a few clicks I was into the test, without any confusion. In that regard, I wish a lot more resources were designed like this website.

  5. Andrei Zakhareuski Says:

    Brian, Cary, Becky – I just wanted to give a quick update, here’s the new ‘About us’ page: http://driving-tests.org/about/

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Andrei: thanks for the update, both comment and to the About Us page. That’s a lot of good information there, and it makes me much more comfortable about referring patrons to your site. Nice job all around.