Learning to drive

How to answer the show me, tell me questions

Part of the practical driving test is a series of questions designed to show you know a bit about car maintenance and controls. This takes place before you've driven anywhere, right after your eyesight check.

The questions are split into show me (you might need to get out of the car and demonstrate something like where you'd check your oil) and tell me (you can stay in your seat and explain).

You'll only be asked 2 questions, which is NOTHING. But they could be any 2 out of a possible 12 show me questions and 7 tell me questions, so you do need to learn all the answers.

This is something you should go through with your driving instructor, if you'll be taking your test in their car. You'll need to know things like how to open the bonnet, how to work the windscreen wipers and how to switch headlights from full beam to dipped beam.

Show me questions

  1. Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.

    You might need to switch the ignition on to do this but DON'T start the engine. That means 2 clicks so the dash lights come on, not 3.

    All you need to do then is flick your indicator up or down and point at the lit up arrows on your dashboard.

  2. Show me how you would check the brake lights are working on this car, (if you need to switch the ignition on, please don't start the engine).

    Unless you've got some handy shop windows or puddles near, you'll probably need to ask your examiner to get out and check your brake lights. This is exactly the right thing to do for this question. Then just press the foot brake down and wait for them to come back and say yup.

  3. Show me, or explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.

    You can't really demonstrate this one as you'll be stationary. The way my driving instructor told me is to turn the steering wheel slightly with the engine off (you'll feel a lot of resistance) and then turn the engine ON. You'll feel the steering loosen up and the wheel will go round a bit.

    Show me how you would check the parking brake (handbrake) for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.

    Press your foot brake to make sure you don't roll while you take off the handbrake. Reapply the handbrake so the examiner can see it secures properly.

  4. Show me how you would check that the horn is working.

    Toot! All you need to do.

  5. Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers.

    If you've been having lessons for a while you'll probably have used the windscreen wash and wipers (at 65 mph and in a state of abject terror as your instructor tried to teach you multi-tasking) but they’ll show you again before your test to make sure you know.

    All you need to do is squirt some screenwash and then use the wipers. Most cars will have automatic wipers that do a few sweeps after the screenwash.

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  6. Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it/them, (no need to exit vehicle).

    This is a 2 part-er. You need to switch on the fog lights (but you don't need to get out and check) and then tell your examiner when you would use them.

    When to use fog lights: when visibility is less than 100 metres. My instructor's trick for remembering this is to think of Usain Bolt, the current world champion for the men's 100 metres.

    Just don't answer the question with “Usain Bolt”. You will not win.

  7. Show me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you would know the main beam is on.

    All cars are different but your instructor will show you how to switch on your headlights, and how to switch from dipped to main beam, which you'll need to demonstrate to your examiner.

    You'll also need to point to where your dashboard tells you the main beams are on.

  8. Show me how you would set the demister controls to clear all the windows effectively.

    To your left, probably on a centre console, you'll have your heat controls. You'll need to be able to switch on the fan, adjust the temperature and air direction. You don't need to switch on the engine for this, just show how you would do it.

  9. Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.

    Pop the bonnet the way your driving instructor will have showed you, and prop it up. Find your oil reservoir and take out the dipstick, wiping it once against the inside of the reservoir. You can then point to its level indicator at the end to show how you'd check against the min and max. Then put it back.

  10. Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level.

    Find your big coolant tank and point to the minimum and maximum markings. Explain that you would unscrew the cap and top up to the correct level if needed. It's worth saying you would do this when the engine is cold, to make sure it's safe.

  11. Open the bonnet, identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and tell me how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.

    Point to where the brake fluid reservoir is and explain how you would check the level against the min and max. You don't need to say you'd fill it up because this is something you'll usually have done at a garage. You only need to be aware of “Ohhhhh that's not good, it's all gone, I need a mechanic.”

Tell me questions

  1. Tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.

    The answer is that you should test your brakes as you set off and they should not feel “spongy or slack”. For real.

    My driving instructor told me to think of a comedy double act called Spongy and Slack, which is a little TOO helpful - I may burst out laughing as I say it to my examiner.

  2. Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level.

    Explain that it is under the bonnet with a little windscreen symbol on it and you would check the level against the min and max lines on the side of the reservoir.

  3. Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.

    You just need to say you would look in the car's user manual, which your driving instructor will probably tell you is in the glove box.

    Explain that you would check the tyre pressure with a reliable pressure gauge, making sure the tyres are cold to get an accurate reading. You should also say that you would check the spare tyre too.

  4. Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash.

    You probably do this before every lesson (or maybe not if you are a normal sized person, unlike me), so just reach up behind you and move it up and down. You should say that the rigid part of the head restraint needs to be at least as high as the top of your ears.

    Tell me how you would check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.

    The centre 3 quarters of the tyre's width needs to have a tread depth of 1.6mm. There should be no cuts or bulges in the surface.

  5. Tell me how you would check that the headlights and tail lights are working (no need to exit vehicle).

    Turn on the headlights with the switch and then say that you would walk around the vehicle to check the headlights and tail lights are working.

    You DON'T need to get out of the car as this is a tell me question. And please don't ask the examiner to get out either as they may think you're a little rude.

  6. Tell me how you would know if there was a problem with your anti-lock braking system.

    This is simple: if your anti-lock braking system has a problem, a little “ABS” will light up on the dashboard. Make sure you know where to look so you don't fumble it under pressure.


Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .

  • Devon Christopher Rowe

    Thank you Honor (what a lovely name)
    The best and easiest help and tip guide I have found.

    • Thank you Devon (what a lovely name), I made it just for you. 🙂


  • Zara

    I’ve never heard of these, my instructor hasn’t said anything about them and he hasn’t shown me how to pop the bonnet or check the oil! now I’m worried! So glad I found your page!

    • Hi Zara,

      You’re not the first person to tell me that! It could be your instructor will go through them in your quick practice before your test but it’s best to get them sorted beforehand so you feel confident. Can you get your mum or dad to give you a quick run-through with their car? Then you can do it with your instructor next lesson.

      Good luck!


      • Zara

        Hi Honor,
        I have my own car so I’ll get my partner to run through some bits with me, just annoyed I didn’t know about these questions, I’m trying to revise them now!

  • Rebecca

    Aaaaahhh my driving test is tomorrow and I’m so so nervous! It’s my third attempt and I’m going to be so upset if I don’t pass this time 🙁

    • Hey Rebecca,

      I knowwwwwwww it’s scary but after about 5 minutes of driving you’ll go into this weird state where you’re not as scared. It also goes REALLY fast.

      Try to keep calm, take things slow and whatever happens, keep going. My fifth test (yup, I failed 4 times) I thought I’d failed and I hadn’t. It felt like the worst drive I ever did but apparently not unsafe, just inelegant!

      Good luck – let me know how it goes.


      • Rebecca

        Ahhhhhh I passed! So so happy! 🙂

        • Well done Rebecca! That’s SUCH great news. Good luck with getting to grips with driving alone and come back if you need any advice.


  • Amanda Louise

    Great tips! It’s 4th test tomorrow!

    I really want to pass!

    • Hope you passed Amanda..!

  • Marina Thariyan

    It is my third test tomorrow.. I drive perfect otherwise,, but the word test itself makes me nervous 🙁

    • Hey Marina, how did you get on? Was it third time lucky?

      • Marina Thariyan

        Yes !!! This time I made it
        Thanks for asking

        • You did it!

          Well done you. That’s really great to hear.

  • Julie Oneill

    Hi. First test next week (im 47 and lifelong city cyclist) been taking me while to adjust from cyclist to driver re speed and spatial awareness…all other good..