You want to get your driver's license in New York? You can take the driving test only if you get Form MV-285 or with Form MV-278. The difference between the forms is much smaller than the difference in the procedures for getting each of them.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Before you can take your driver's road test in New York, you must show that you satisfied your driver's education requirement. You can do this either by getting a certificate of completion for a driver education course (Form MV-285) or for a pre-licensing course (Form MV-278.)
Teaching New York Drivers the Ropes
In some states, like California, you don't have to take a driver education course to get your driver's license. You can study the DMV booklet and then take the written test to get a permit allowing you to practice driving with a licensed, adult driver in the car beside you. Whenever you feel you are ready, you can take the driving portion of the test.
Not so in New York. The DMV in New York wants to be sure you have studied, learned and are prepared to put into practice the rules of the road. In order to do this, a person desiring a New York driver's license must either take a driver education course or a pre-licensing course. If you choose the driver education course and pass it, you get a Form MV-285 certificate of completion. If you choose to take the pre-licencing course and pass it, you get a Form MV-278 certificate of completion. Either certificate will buy you a chance to take the New York driving road test.
Take the Driver Education Course
If you are in school in New York, you may opt to take a driver's education course through your high school or college. In order to be awarded the Form MV-285, you must take a class that includes at least 24 hours of classroom training and 24 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction. Most schools tailor their driver education classes to meet the state requirements.
The New York driver's education course includes more hours than a pre-licensing course. This may be beneficial in terms of what you learn, for instance, teenage drivers can usually profit from additional driving experience.
When you successfully complete the class, you get a Driver's Ed Course Completion Certificate (Form MV-285). Once you get it, it is valid for two years. You must take your driving skills test to earn your license during that time. Otherwise, you need to retake the course.
Take a Pre-Licensing Course
A pre-licensing course is much shorter than the driver education class, at around just five hours total time. You get training in matters like the New York DMV point system, rules for driving in New York, defensive driving and drug and alcohol impairment. The school issues you Form MV-278 when you successfully complete it.
This certificate is valid for only one year. Like with the driver education course, you need to pass the driver's test before the certificate expires.
Pass Your Road Test
The road test is the last step for driver's license hopefuls. In this exam, testers perform specific driving tasks while a proctor scores them. The examiner wants to see that you do things like accelerate smoothly, stop behind the line at a sign, and leave enough space between you and the car in front of you.
Before you can schedule your road test, you must have either your MV-285 or MV-278 forms. On the day of the test, make sure to bring your certificate with you. When it's time for your skills test, hand the certificate to the person giving the exam. If you forget or lose your certificate, you will have to reschedule your test. You can often get a copy of your certificate from the institution that granted it if you need to.