SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Taxi drivers required to pass an English test to renew their permits in Sacramento say they’re being set up for failure.

Part of a newly passed ordinance that recently went into effect requires drivers to know a certain level of English. The city says the requirement came from passenger complaints.

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“We received a number of complaints from passengers that they couldn’t communicate with the driver of where they need to go and what they needed,” said city revenue manager Brad Wasson.

The tests, one written and one digital, are required for a driver to renew their permit. In the first week, 18 of the 28 drivers failed at least one portion.

Mohammad Ahsan was one of those drivers.

“They used some words, like very hard English,” he said. “If you use like, a simple English, I think that’s not a big problem.”

Drivers were given some sample questions to study like this one:

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Smoking is prohibited in cars. Which word closely relates to the underlined word.

  • Allowed
  • Genius
  • Banned
  • Covert

But Ahmad Mahmoud says some of the questions not on the sample test are really throwing drivers off.

“‘Does this location have desert?’ Well no, it doesn’t have desert; it has water; it has mountains, all that, because it’s talking about hiking. But what’s that has to do with taxi?” he said.

He’s urging drivers to keep their cool and try to pass. Some are afraid to even take the test, weighing the risk of letting their permits expire instead.

The city says the tests aren’t going away anytime soon, but they aren’t set in stone either.

“I want to talk to people who’ve taken the test and get feedback from them on what was difficult, what didn’t make sense and then we can modify the tests,” Wasson said.

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After three failures, the city computer kicks the driver out of the system, but Wasson says they’ll likely give the driver another chance.