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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. The first part of this takes place before you've driven anywhere, right after your eyesight check.

The new show me, tell me questions (from 4 December 2017) are split into tell me (you can just explain) and show me (you'll need to actually DO the thing while you're driving).

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 fill up your oil, how to work the windscreen wipers and how to switch headlights from full beam to dipped beam.

Tell me questions

These guys happen before you've driven anywhere. Mostly you can do them from your seat but for some you'll have to open the bonnet so make sure you're confident with that.

 
  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 - you may burst out laughing as you say it to your examiner.

  2. 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. Extra swot points if you casually mention checking the valve caps are all back on.

  3. 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 rest should be in line with your eyes.

  4. 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 all the way around. 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.

  7. Tell me how you'd check the direction indicators are working. (Don't get out)

    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. Say you would get out of the car and walk around it to check but don't get out.

  8. Tell me how you would check the brake lights are working on this car

    Exaplain that you would press the foot brake down and either ask a passenger to get out and check for you or use a reflection in a window or door.

  9. Tell me how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.

    Explain that you would turn the steering wheel slightly with the engine off (you'll feel a lot of resistance) and then turn the engine ON. Say that you would feel the steering loosen up and the wheel would go round a bit.

    You can also check by turning the steering wheel slightly just after moving off - if the power steering's not working, it'll feel heavy.

  10. Tell me how you'd switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you’d use it/them.

    Turn on your ignition and dipped beams, then turn your rear fog lights on and show the examiner the dash light is on. Say you'd use them when visibility is below 100 metres (that's Usain Bolt's speciality).

  11. Tell me how you switch your headlights from dipped to main beam and explain how you' know the main beam was on.

    Turn on your ignition and dipped beams, then switch to full beam and point to the dash light.

  12. Open the bonnet and tell me how you'd check the engine has sufficient oil.

    Pop the bonnet the way your driving instructor will have showed you, and prop it up. Point to the dipstick or oil level indicator and explain how you'd identify the level.

    With a dipstick, you'd take it out and wipe it, then put it back in and take it out again to check the level against the min and max. Then put it back.

  13. Open the bonnet and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient engine coolant.

    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.

  14. Open the bonnet and tell me how you'd 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.")

Show me questions

You will be driving. You will be nervous. Don't leave mastering these controls until an hour before your test - use them often while you're driving in the run-up to test time.

The most important thing is that you're not distracted from driving safely. You must be able to do these things without looking down and remaining in complete control of the car.

 
  1. When it's safe to do so, can you show me how you would wash and clean the rear windscreen?

    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.

  2. When it's safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the front windscreen?

    Same as above.

  3. When it's safe to do so, can you show me how you'd switch on your dipped headlights?

    Click them on and then off again if you don't need them on.

    If you have an early/late test or the weather's grim, you may have your lights on already. If so, just quickly switch them off and then on again. Make sure 'when it's safe to do so' includes 'when it's not going to confuse anyone' - feel free to tell the examiner you're waiting until there's no oncoming traffic so no one is confused.

  4. When it's safe to do so, can you show me how you'd set the rear demister?

    To your left, probably on a centre console, you'll have your heat controls. You'll need to find the button or setting to demist the rear window without looking away from the road.

  5. When it's safe to do so, can you show me how you'd operate the horn?

    Toot! All you need to do.

  6. When it's safe to do so, can you show me how you'd demist the front windscreen?

    Use the controls on your centre console to switch on the front demister and adjust it. Try not to peep.

  7. When it's safe to do so, can you show me how you'd open and close the side window?

    Hopefully, this is the one you get. Remember you'll be nervous though - a panicky brain can screw up even a window open - so still practise it!

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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 .