The Alternate Motorcycle Operator Skill Test (Alternate MOST)
by Rick Williams for webBikeWorld.com
NOTE: More links and information and full-sized copies of the Alternate MOST test are included below
There you are standing in the blazing sunlight among a dozen other riders as you stare at a group of orange cones positioned at crazy angles.
Three months ago you got your learner's permit and bought your bike which you’ve been riding every weekend.
Slowly a knot grows in your stomach just as the guy with the clipboard welcomes you to the Alternate Motorcycle Operator Skill Test.
Now sitting on your bike third in a line of ten student, the task is to ride forward make a left hand turn and then park the front tire in a box.
“Piece of cake” you think as the first rider heads downrange on a new expensive looking Deuce. The rider enters the turn and begins to wobble, then BLAM! -- down goes the bike.
The knot in your stomach grows. Maybe it’s not a piece of cake!
Next up is a munchkin of a woman riding a huge-looking VTX. She sails through the turn and parks the front tire dead center in the box. OK -- now it’s your turn and you know every eye on the course is looking right at you.
Taking tests is no fun but at some point if you want a motorcycle endorsement on your license it will be a rite of passage you must face.
Twenty-nine states in the U.S. have elected to use the Alternate MOST, or Alternate Motorcycle Operator Skill Test, which was developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) in cooperation with the National Public Services Research Institute.
The MSF are the same folks who developed the Basic Rider Course which, as many riders know, allows you to receive a motorcycle endorsement on your license without taking the Alternate MOST or other skills test.
According to the MSF, forty-four state jurisdictions have adopted or modified the MSF Motorcycle Operator Manual. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation and MSF have cooperatively developed many of the motorcycle licensing schemes in use in the United States.
Sixteen jurisdictions use locally designed off-street tests, while others in use include a motorcycle knowledge test, the Alternate Motorcycle Operator Skills Test (Alternate MOST, described here), the Motorcycle Licensing Skills Test and the Motorcyclist in Traffic Test.
According to Ray Ochs, Director of Training Systems for MSF, the Alternate MOST is the third iteration of the Motorcycle Operators Test. The original MOST which is still used by several states requires a larger testing area and involves higher speeds. With each revamping of the MOST, the required testing area grew smaller allowing states to offer more testing sites.
There is really no inside secret to passing the Alternate MOST other than having control of the motorcycle. So the key to passing is knowing how to ride your bike.
The best way to make sure you will pass the Alternate Motorcycle Operator Skill Test is to practice the maneuvers in advance. Most of the maneuvers in the test are performed at slow speeds, which means that the rider must know know how to control the throttle, clutch and rear brake as well as how to countersteer. All of these are basic motorcycle riding skills.
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The diagrams below (download the .zip file of the full size ALT MOST graphics) show the various tests and boundaries which are easy to set up using a tape measure, some small cones or tennis balls cut in half and chalk. I’ll walk you through the various runs and the criteria used for the test. Note though that the sequence may vary from state to state and between exam sites.
The test itself is composed of seven elements which are:
The first six are usually combined so that you will make four separate runs composed of a left turn then a controlled stop, followed by a second run composed of the offset weave to a right hand U-turn. The quick stop and obstacle swerve are done separately.
Stalling is listed as one of the seven exercises but the only thing examiners consider is the ability to operate the bike without stalling during the course of the test.
The test is graded on deductions. Every state can set up their own deduction schedule as well as the maximum number of allowable points so the following information is typical but may be different in your state.
The majority of states appear to use 10 points as the maximum allowed for passing. Deductions are earned for riding outside boundary lines, putting a foot down and missing or hitting cones. Stalling the motorcycle will also earn deductions as will skidding during the normal stop segment.
The point deductions for putting a foot down are usually 3 points for the first time during a specific exercise and 5 points maximum for the second and subsequent faults. Stalling once is a 1-point deduction, 3 points for second time and a maximum of 5 points for three or more stalls.
Skipping or hitting cones in the offset weave have deductions of 3 points for the first cone and 5 for two or more. Other deductions will be covered in the individual descriptions of the exercises.
The test will be terminated if the motorcycle is dropped or if it is operated in an unsafe manner, such as running over the examiner! The test will also be terminated if the rider has accumulated enough points to fail or has repeatedly failed to understand or follow instructions. The rider also has the option of quitting at any time.
Begin this test approximately 30 feet away from the left hand turn diagramed below. You must complete the turn inside the boundary lines and without putting a foot down. Once you exit the turn, you will make a sweeping 180 degree turn to a 5’x3”’ box painted on the ground. You need to be able to stop with your front tire inside the box and not touching the line and without skidding. You will approach the box on the 5’ side.
Skidding during the stop is a 3 point deduction and not stopping in the box is a 5 point deduction.
|Left Turn Test||Stop Box|
|Download a .zip file set of all the ALT-MOST graphics.|
The offset cone weave (below) and U-turn are the cause of more test failures than all of the other exercises combined. The run begins with the rider approximately 10 feet away from and in line with the first cone.
The rider must pass the first cone on the left and the second on the right and so on. Three points are deducted for the first cone missed and 5 points if you miss more than one. In addition, 3 points are deducted for putting a foot down once and 5 points for the second and subsequent occurrences.
Once the offset cone segment is completed, the rider must perform a sweeping 180-degree turn and perform a right hand U-Turn in the box shown. 500cc bikes and above use the 24’ line while those under 500cc’s use the 20’ line. Five point deductions are earned for touching the boundary lines and/or putting a foot down.
Due to the point weighting on this run it is possible to earn 10 points on the offset weave and another 10 on the right hand U-Turn, so this is a good place to focus your practice.
|Cone Weave||Right Hand U-Turn Test|
|Download a .zip file set of all the ALT-MOST graphics.|
The quick stop (below) is one of two timed maneuvers. The rider begins on a start line and accelerates for 35 feet, stabilizing the motorcycle's speed between 12 and 20 MPH. A 20’ long timing box is then entered; the box is usually defined by two sets of cones.
When the front tire reaches the end of the timing box (second set of cones) the brakes are applied and the motorcycle is stopped as quickly and as safely as possible. Unlike the controlled stop you do not earn deductions for skidding, although it isn’t encouraged.
There is a standard distance based on your speed and you earn a 1-point deduction for every foot over that standard. In practice if you use both brakes properly you will be within the standard with room to spare.
There are several portions of this test that cause trouble for many riders. Points will most likely be deducted if the rider uses only the rear brake. An automatic failure will be charged to riders who end up skidding and dropping the motorcycle, so don’t get carried away.
The last potential trouble spot is either going too fast or too slow or anticipating the stop. Examiners will be looking for any attempt to brake before the stop line, but if you do you will get one more chance at it in this portion of the test. You also get a second run if you are riding too fast or too slow, so take a glance at your speed. Remember the 12 to 20 MPH speed limit; 14 to 15 MPH is ideal.
The Obstacle Swerve (below) is the second timed test with the same target speed of 12 to 20 MPH. The rider will begin a swerve either to the left or right as directed at the second set of cones.
Thirteen feet from the swerve line (10 feet plus the 3 one-foot hash marks in image below) is a second line which is 7’ wide representing a car and 6’6’ to the outside of that is a vertical line. The rider must swerve through the 6’6” opening without touching the 7 foot horizontal line or the vertical boundary line to the outside. It is a 5 point deduction for touching the boundary. If you are too slow you get one more chance.
The Alternate MOST is also used to test Trike operators and operators using bikes with sidecars. The only changes in the test are with the left hand turn where the inside boundary line is not used and on the offset weave were every other cone after the first is removed. Other than that the criteria is identical.
It is worth noting that many states will provide a restricted endorsement if the test is performed on a Trike or a motorcycle with a sidecar your motorcycle endorsement. The endorsement will license the rider to whichever of the two were used for the test. In some states the same applies to riders who test on bikes under 50cc’s.
With practice any rider can approach the Alternate MOST with confidence, but unfortunately that isn’t the case for many. The Alternate MOST only tests the minimal skills needed to safely operate a motorcycle and although passing with 8 to 10 points will gain an endorsement, it certainly indicates a marginal rider.
Every state using the ALT-MOST is free to change individual parameters of the test, so it is entirely possible, for example, that on the cone weave you may encounter a 15' separation with 3 foot offset. The only way to be absolutely sure, is to contact your local Motor Vehicle Department or observe the test before taking it.
Also, to put things into perspective, in the five years I have administered this test, 92% of riders pass on the first attempt. Of the 8% who fail, 90 percent of them will pass on the second attempt. Although not scientific, this is based on the figures I've collected on well over one thousand people who have taken the test in my presence.
The majority of new riders, and for that matter most experienced riders, would be well served by attending a program such as the MSF Basic Rider Course. This particularly makes sense when a rider is able to meet endorsement requirements by successfully completing the course rather than just taking the skills test. Check the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website for a class near you.
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From "S.J." (November 2011): "Appreciate your most helpful information, I passed the Ohio test and if I had not practiced using your valuable information, i.e., lay out the course and practice, practice -- I don't believe I would of passed on the first time.
Sage advice given on asking the Test Person to please explain any part of the test you don't understand -- if you have to have her physically walk you thru the course prior to testing -- as all of those red, blue and white lines are painted solid and dashed are confusing -- I gotta believe they do this on purpose. Feels Pretty Good To Pass. Thank You Kindly."
From "B.M." (August 2011): "Thanks for the information on the web site. I have not ridden for 40 years and am preparing for the Ohio BMV skills test – your site has been helpful in my practice (I hope Ohio uses this test). I have a 500cc Kawasaki.
Question 1: In the first test you have a left hand turn and then a stop box. Where is the stop box in relation to the turn? Question 2: I don’t see any way I can make the left hand turn without having one tire cross one line. What is the deduction for that? (It isn’t listed on your site).
Thanks again for the helpful hints – I am a lot more confident now than I was – and the answers to the above should help me seal the deal."
Rick Williams' Response:
Question 1: "In the first test you have a left hand turn and then a stop box. Where is the stop box in relation to the turn?"
Answer: It can vary from site to site but normally it will be off to the side of where you started so you'll be near the starting point for the next test.
Question 2: "I don't see any way I can make the left hand turn without >having one tire cross one line. What is the deduction for that?"
Answer: People make that turn with no deductions all the time on everything from Gold Wings to scooters. Set up some cones and practice it. There are only a couple of production bikes that are unable to complete the test clean. As far as the deduction for crossing the line, that can vary by state but typically in the 2 point area."
From "S.B." (August 2011): "One week ago I took the on bike test and failed it. So I started researching on how to pass the test. I found you website and it was everything I needed to pass the GA Exam.
After failing the first time on my 07 Hayabusa I really thought it was because my bike was too big but I got some sidewalk chalk and my tape measure and took your advice. After spending 4 days of practicing about 20 minutes to 30 minutes a day. I am happy to say I passed with flying colors. The examiner even commented on just how well I did."
From "M" (05/11): "I wanted to thank you for the info from your site. After several years I decided to ride again. I had ridden street bikes in another state, though since it had been a while I had to retest to obtain my class M endorsement.
I figured "no problem" since I had ridden before for years it was a cinch. I figured wrong.
Using my YZR750R sport bike I found it difficult to do the "offset weave". The instructor wasn't very enthusiastic about providing information, like it was top secret information. Plus she was somewhat lacking of a pleasant personality.
Anyways... I didn't want to fail again so I had found your site which provided the information I needed. Which ironically my local DMV will furnish nothing more than what's in the operator's manual, and mentions nothing to prepare you for the driving part.
The only thing I was worried about was the "offset weave" which I practiced using your measurements, chalk lines, and half cut tennis balls as cones. Everything else I figured I could do no problem.
As an added measure I borrowed my neighbor's cruiser style 750cc bike as an aid for better balance at lower speeds. Needless to say I passed with flying colors my second time around. Thank you again for the information."
From "T.B." (09/10): "Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your layout for taking the motorcycle skills test. Thanks to your diagrams I was able to make a practice course and this morning I passed my test.
But there were a couple of things that were different when I took the test today from your info and from when I took it last year (and failed). First the cone weave, while at 12 foot intervals the cones were not offset, they were in a perfectly straight line and I had to pass to the right of the first cone not the left.
Your left hand turn was a right hand turn after which I immediately had to cut across the course and make a left handed U-turn. Both backwards from when I took it last year.
Just thought you might find these differences interesting and might want to let folks know that there can be variations to the test. But based on your info I passed with flying colors. Thanks."
From "W.P." (6/10):From "W.P." (06/10): "Thank You for all the info, I've been riding on the street for over 40 years. I rode for years before they instituted the M license. Then when they did demand it, there was no course.
When I went for my CDL in 2000 I had to (do to time restraints) give up my M. Time and 3 kids went by and it had been 10 years since I'd rode. Took the course on 6/11/2010 and failed 1st time. 2 tiny stupid mistakes on my part and for the most part (I'm one of those people) NERVES GOT ME.
I bought a 2010 voyager and was convinced in my heart of hearts that I could pass with it. After all I'd been riding over 40 years. NERVES GOT ME. So to all of you folks who really want to ride ... get the dimensions and practice..
Most of all, CHILL ... OUT if you're easily shaken. The course is NOT hard. And don't take it personally if you fail the 1st time (I did).
Missed 1 cone. Put my foot down once (shame on me) and went too deep on the U turn (rust). Stopped in the box with 1 inch of the backside of my front tire touching the line. Best of luck to you all."
From "A.G" (5/10): "I had no problems after practicing a few times on a parking lot using plastic cups and a measuring tape. Thanks for posting the sketches great help."
From "M.O." (10/09): "Two weeks ago today I had my first skills test. I failed with 11 points - not even completing the cone weave. I retested this morning and passed with a perfect score.
On my first test I thought having a 600 pound bike (BMW R1100RT) might make the test impossible to pass, but I soon learned it's not the bike. For my first test I figured I had 800 miles on the bike, a near miss panic stop compliments of a blue-hair exiting a post office, many twisty back roads around my house, a gravel driveway, pretty much anything one would expect to encounter in a year of riding.
Confidant that I could control my bike I showed up to my first test without any practice at all. The results were, predictably, total failure. The ONLY difference between my first test and today was 30 minutes of practice on the actual course.
I can't emphasize enough that YOU NEED TO PRACTICE THE COURSE. Within 10 minutes of practicing I realized that both the left turn and weave required clutch work to pass. You cannot coast and make it. With the clutch in the friction zone, tiny engage/disengage movements are all that are required to keep you stable at the low speeds used for these test segments. Again, for anyone taking this test... do yourself a favor - practice the actual course."
From "C.B." (10/09): "Just want to send a note of thanks for posting this information on your site. It was a great resource for practicing my motorcycle skills before actually taking the test in Utah. The dimensions were very similar to the actual test here and helped me get a perfect score.";
From "R.A.D." (09/09): "Just like the other posters, I want to thank you for this site and the info you compiled here, it definitely helped me pass the test.
I live in Georgia, and a basic diagram of the 4 test exercises can be found on the Georgia DDS website, but no dimensions are given. After looking at your information, I realized the course was the same as the one depicted on the DDS site. I combined the information to layout a practice course and used that to build my confidence, which helped a LOT on test day. Testing jitters can be a real killer, and I had none.
Like some of the other posters here, I contacted the DDS and they had no problem with me going to the course ahead of time. I even went by on a day when they were closed and did a couple of dry runs. Everyone should at least go look at the course ahead of time, it helps.
I’m not exactly new to riding, but this was my first time taking the test and I passed easily with a Vulcan 1500 Classic. It can be done with a big bike, as long as you’re comfortable with it. I only lost 2 points by going a little long on the quick stop, mainly because I consciously avoided locking the rear tire."
From "J.C.R." (9/09): "Thank you for your course layout for Ohio. I was able to pass my motorcycle skills test with no point deductions.
Additionally I would like to add (that) although there are signs posted at the DMV which prohibits practice on the test course. I went inside the DMV and Asked the Ohio State Patrolman why? He said that was only during open hours and that I was free to practice at my own risk when the exam station was closed, which I did many times. So I would suggest going in and getting their permission, note the officer's name. And hopefully they will let you. They actually do want you to pass."
From "R.P." (8/09): "I found the instructions for this test online after searching for some detailed instructions on how to pass the Motorcycle Road test. I had recently obtained a 1980 Suzuki 850 which was my first bike so I was very weary about taking the road test. However, after finding your instructions on the test, I was able to set up my own course and practice like crazy. I had used your advice and was able to pass the test with my 850 along with its full dress. Your tips were very handy and I appreciate the advice. Thank You."
From "J.C." (8/09): "Thanks for the site, I passed today, on my first try with my 600 Yamaha. Hilarious seeing all the big bad bikers riding scooters! Great info, great advice and in Ohio, the test was just like you said it would be. Thanks again."
From "C.K." (7/09): "I'm really glad that I came across this site. I followed your directions/dimensions and practiced few times and took my On-Cycle test today and I passed the test with much ease. BTW, I'm from Ohio and gave my test on a 2007 Suzuki GSX-R 600.
I may not have passed without your detailed instructions (at least until a few attempts). Thank you so much."
From "C.W." (6/09): " I just took my motorcycle license test in Ohio. The measurement your site provided were exactly the same as the test. The only reason I passed is because I had your measurement to practice. By the way I passed on an GL1800 Goldwing! Thanks."
From "M" (4/09): "I am practicing for the motorcycle endorsement in Michigan. The instructions I have found through a search on the Michigan Secretary of State website indicate that we use the Alt-MOST test except for a difference in the cone weave. They are 15 feet apart with a 3-foot offset rather than the 12' / 2' I've read on yours and other websites.
That detail aside, the instructions I found are actually for the examiner. The examiner is supposed to tell the customer that most of the exercises are performed at speeds of about 15 mph. Does this include the cone weave and U-turn? The only exercises that have specific speeds written for them are the quick stop and obstacle swerve (12-20 mph).
In my practice I can do the obstacle swerve, left hand turn, the controlled stop, and the quick stop at speeds just about 15 mph. The cone weave and u-turn seem awfully difficult (and dangerous) to do at 15 mph. I'm usually at 7 - 10. I'm afraid I'd lose traction sooner than lose my balance.
In your experience, what are the acceptable speeds for the cone weave and u-turn during the Alt-MOST?"
Edtior's Reply: I unfortunately don't know the answer, perhaps one of our readers can help?
From "M" (4/09): "I used the graphics and the course outline you have listed to layout and recreate the course in a parking lot of an abandoned grocery store. It was to the letter perfect! Exactly the test that the State of Ohio uses for the motorcycle practical test!
I passed the test with out losing one single point! Thank you for taking the time to put the page together and hosting it for people to find!"
From Allan - Fairfield , CT (9/08): "I am going to take the CT motorcycle test and see Alternate motorcycle skill test diagram. But, I could not figure out what is the dimension and measurement of the diagram. Then, I did a Google search and found out your website. Now, I can put the soda cans on a church parking lot and practice it.
Thanks for the info."
From "B": "Hi. First I'd like to say thanks for making a website to help people learn what to practice for the skills test. I just bought my 1st motorcycle last month, and after riding it every chance I get, I'm starting to think I'm ready to take my test so I can get my endorsement on my license.
I checked Ohio's (motorcycle) website and they only say that they are using the Alt-MOST for their test. I searched it, and found your website. Great information, and very helpful diagrams. Now I know what to expect, and what to practice.
I do have a few questions though: On run #1, after the left hand turn, you say to make a sweeping 180 degree turn to the stop box. Is there a restricted area I must remain in to make this sweeping turn? Also, Is there a standard location for the stop box in relation to the left hand turn boundaries?
Rick W.'s Reply: Typically no although each state and for that matter each test site may have its own relational layout and restrictions.
For run #2, I've got the same question as run #1. Is there restricted area for my sweeping turn, and is there a standard location for the u-turn boundaries in relation to the cone weave area?
Rick W.'s Reply: Again it will depend on the specific test location.
Thanks again for making such a helpful page. I hope to test next weekend (assuming I get a chance to practice these skills this weekend and next week). I'll be sure to let you know how it went."
From "L": "I wanted to tap out a note to let you know that w/ the help of a really patient teacher (thanks, Tim) and your website I passed my road test today. I printed out your diagrams and after my lesson I went home and hit my parking lot with a tape measure, chalk and plenty of tall plastic drink cups. Your instructions were DEAD ON!!!
After a couple hours on the course I was pretty confident that I would pass, and pass I did. I had a 5 point deduction for my quick-stop…obviously it wasn’t so quick!! But I did not have to do it again and did the cones and right hand u turn, and obstacle swerve like a champ...if I do say so myself!!
After the cones and tight right I was sittin’ pretty and actually started to breathe again. The best advice I got on the cones was to not get so close to them. My turns at first were so tight I always missed the 4th one.
I will recommend your site to everyone. Practice, practice, practice and GOOD LUCK !
Be happy, Be safe."
From "S.C.": "I just read your article about the motorcycle skills exam and I wish I had done that before taking the test. Just to give a bit of background, I grew up riding motorcycles and had my license in CA back in the mid 1980's. When I moved to VA, I didn't transfer the endorsement (big mistake) and I didn't ride for more than 20 years. High gas prices, combined with a mild mid-life crisis got me interested in riding again.
I took my written test for the permit and passed without missing a question on the first attempt. I waited the requisite 30 days and went back for the road test. I figured it couldn't be so bad for a guy like me who is pretty comfortable with his bike (Suzuki Bandit 1200). Unfortunately, things didn't work out as I thought.
The problem was that the woman administrating the test had some pretty poor communication skills and I had no idea what to expect. Her explanation for the left turn and controlled brake were clear enough, but the weave and u-turn were not. In a low voice, with my engine running she said to weave through the cones, come back and make a u-turn "within the course".
I missed the third cone and thought I was done. I didn't realize that one could fail one section and still get a license. I drove off the course and circled back to her to see if I could have another chance. That meant that I not only got the 5 points for the weave, but also an additional 5 for not performing the u-turn. Until I came here and read the description, I wouldn't have known what "within the course" meant anyway and likely would have failed that as well.
The next two tests were each performed twice. She never said if I had done anything incorrect the first time and I have no idea what she was looking at. It was exceptionally frustrating. I asked if I had done something incorrect and the response I got was "you are allowed to take this section twice." That was all I was able to get out of her.
Just before I started the Obstacle Swerve, I was parked next to her, straining to figure out what she was telling me. I put the bike into gear and began to head toward the starting point and I stalled the bike. Guess what? That was one more point, putting me at 11 and failing me. For the record, she never indicated where the bike needed to be after swerving from the line and I only know now as a result of reading this excellent article. Again, I took that test twice with no indication if it was right or wrong the first time.
There are obviously some lessons learned here. The first is that if you don't understand something, shut the bike off and make the examiner explain it until you get it. I'm still a bit unclear about the u-turn and where it starts and stops (the marks on the pavement don't seem to correlate to anything I've seen). I also don't know if I am expected to stop at the end of the u-turn. These are things I plan on asking before making a second attempt. Another lesson learned is to do more research. Its a shame that a person needs to learn a test, but until the test actually tests realistic skills, I guess that's how it needs to be.
I am happy that I stumbled across this site. I feel much better prepared for my next and hopefully, final attempt. I'll do some practice and try to figure out exactly what is being graded on the u-turn. I'm also going to re-take the test at another DMV in hopes of finding an examiner who isn't a low-talking bureaucrat with no sense of humor."R.W.'s Response: S.C., There really isn't a whole lot of excuse for an examiner not explaining the test fully and what you need to do.
On the RH U-Turn what you want to do is to start and finish the turn within the 10' lines and inside the 20' or 24' lines. The boundaries should be clearly marked. Something worth noting is that if you can do the left hand turn, the dimensions on it are actually a bit tighter than the right hand U-Turn. The U-Turn is just two of them 20' or 24' apart in the opposite direction.