ST. PAUL — Minnesotans seeking their learner's permits will be able to take their driver's knowledge tests online beginning this week, the State Department of Public Safety announced Monday, Oct. 5.

Prospective drivers have only ever been able to take the tests in person at select offices overseen by the DPS Driver and Vehicle Services Division. Not all of the offices have been open in recent months, however, because of health and safety concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

With fewer locations offering the tests, Minnesotans who sought to take them occasionally had to wait in long lines. Officials sought to ease the congestion in July at first by offering an online test scheduling service, where before you could only take the test on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Minnesotans, especially those living outside the Twin Cities, have been taking time out of their busy schedules to travel to regional exam stations for testing," Vehicle Services Director Emma Corrie said in a news release Monday. "As we consider the colder weather months and continuing COVID concerns, an online knowledge test will allow Minnesotans to take the test at a convenient time in the comfort of their own home."

"This system will also expand the number of tests DPS-DVS can administer and reduce appointment wait times for those who want to take the test at an open exam station," Corrie continued.

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Those not licensed to drive are required to pass the knowledge test in order to obtain their learner's permit in Minnesota. A permit holder becomes eligible to take the road exam three to six months later, depending on their age, and is issued a full-fledged driver's license if they pass.

Minnesotans can submit requests to take the test online beginning Thursday, Oct. 8.

A law enacted by the Minnesota Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz in late July cleared the way for the DVS to offer the test online. The division is also piloting a program that could allow a person to take the test at certified third-party locations such as high schools and community centers.

There are a few caveats to the online knowledge test. You have to take it with a parent, guardian or adult aged 21 or older with a valid state license proctoring the test. That goes for motorists applying for Minnesota driver's licenses who are licensed to drive in other states, too, according to DVS spokesperson Megan Leonard.

After registering to take the online knowledge test, you have 48 hours to start. Once started, the test must be completed within 30 minutes. Opening up another internet browser during the test will cause it to end in an automatic failing grade, an apparent anti-cheating measure.

The test can also only be taken online twice. Third and subsequent tests have to be taken in person. You still have to complete a portion of the permit application at a DVS office if they pass the test.

Though the shift to online testing was spurred on by the pandemic, Leonard said it is expected to be available "until further notice." Official figures put the cost of developing the online program at approximately $450,000.

The DVS is already fielding several inquiries from groups interested in offering the test at third-party locations, according to Monday's release.