The French Driving Test

Find out about the French driving test and what it involves, as well as information on learning to drive from the age of 15 in France...

The Theory Test in France

You can either enrol for the French theory test via a driving school or do it yourself. The theory test is called the code (the study book, Code de la Route, is available only in French from bookshops or from your driving school). If you choose to enrol yourself, you will need to pay a 30 euro fee online via the ANTS website, and then make an appointment via one of the options listed here (select En candidat libre, and choose one of the options under Inscription).

Remember to take valid proof of identity to the test. The theory test lasts 32 minutes. The results are either sent by post or by email.

Note: A learner applicant may be accompanied by a sworn translator for the written theory test. This should be arranged in advance.

Once the theory exam has been successfully passed, the candidate is entitled to five attempts at the practical exam over the course of five years.

The Practical Test

The exam involves a 25-minute drive in normal traffic conditions. As of 18 March 2015, first aid training is an obligatory component, and you will have to answer a question relating to first aid during the test. The result is available online 48 hours after the practical exam. If you pass, the word favorable will is indicated on the bottom of the certificat d’examen du permis de conduire (CEPC). The CEPC can be downloaded or picked up at the driving school. This is valid for four months and permits the holder to drive anywhere within France. In the event of a control, the police will accept the paper version of the CEPC or the version downloaded to the mobile phone or ipad. If you fail the practical test, the bilan de compétences is marked with insuffisant, the reasons for failing, as well as indications of what needs to be improved.

The licence is sent directly to the home address of the candidate within four months.

Note: If you wear glasses or contact lenses, this must be stated on the licence and it is compulsory to wear either of them to drive. If you wear contact lenses, a set of glasses must be kept with you at all times while driving.

There are special exceptions for physically disabled people. Enquire at the Préfecture or driving school.

Once you have successfully passed the driving test you need to apply on the ANTS website for your new driving licence, or, the driving school can do this for you. You should receive it within 4 months, and you can check on its status online on the ANTS website. 

New drivers must display a red A sticker on the back of their car for three years after passing the test, this is reduced to two if you learned to drive accompanied by an experienced driver (see below). There is a 35 euro fine if you’re caught driving without it. They must also respect reduced driving speeds and a maximum alcohol/blood limit of 0.2 grams per litre (g/l).

Learner Drivers: Apprentissage Anticipé de la Conduite (AAC)

Basic driving practice can begin at 15 years if certain criteria are met. First register as outlined above, then sign up with a registered driving school for an "evaluation of knowledge". If successful, you must follow a minimum of 20 hours driving practice with a school before taking a general theory test. If successful, you are issued with a certificate valid for five years to drive accompanied by an adult, with three obligatory teaching follow-ups by the driving school.

The practical exam can only be taken from the age of 17 years and six months once you have completed the accompanied driving training for a period of one to three years and completed at least 3,000 Km. Even if the exam is successfully passed, you may only drive alone on or after your 18th birthday. An unlicenced trainee driver may not drive outside of France and is restricted to a speed limit of 110 Km/h on the motorway (Autoroute).

In summary:
  • You receive a certificate permitting you to drive accompanied by a qualified driver, who has held their licence for a minimum of five years
  • Before taking the practical test, you must drive for 3,000 Km accompanied by a qualified driver
  • The insurance company of the owner of the vehicle must be notified and be in agreement
  • The vehicle must be equipped with two side rear-view mirrors
  • The car should ideally have a central handbrake and a manual gear box. Learning to drive in an automatic car does not qualify you for the full category B licence
  • The exam involves a 25-minute course in traffic
Note: If you already hold a foreign driver's licence, you are not required to complete the 3,000 Km of "practice driving".

Financial help

The Permis à 1 euro - literally driving permit for 1 euro - is available for people aged 15 to 25. This type of financial help allows you  to borrow up to 1200 euros to offset the costs of obtaining a driving licence and repay a maximum of 30 euros per month. You have to choose a driving school that participates in the program to be eligible for financial assistance.