Many people become so preoccupied with the primary parts of the practical test—the independent driving and the manoeuvres—that they forget an equally important component: the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
While you can’t fail the practical test by answering a ‘show me’ or ‘tell me’ question incorrectly, it’s still important that you know them back to front, inside out. Your instructor is sure to go over these questions with you, but having a solid knowledge of them prior to this will ensure that you’ll be confident when the moment of truth comes.
What are the ‘show me, tell me’ questions?
These questions are included in the test so that you can demonstrate a basic knowledge of your vehicle. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to be a car mechanic to get your head round them!
What’s the difference between ‘show me’ and ‘tell me’ questions?
For the ‘tell me’ question, you’ll have to explain how you’d carry out a safety task. This happens at the start of the driving practical test.
The ‘show me’ question is similar, but the examiner will ask you to do it while you’re driving along. The examiner will ask you one of each type of question.
Let’s start out with the ‘show me’ questions…
‘Show me’ questions
#1: When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the rear windscreen?
If you’ve been driving for quite a while now, we’re sure you’ve had to do this already—unless you live in a magical part of the UK where it never rains! Different cars have different controls for this, but it’s very likely you will need to use the right hand control stalk (next to the steering wheel). If you’re unsure, then just double check with your instructor.
#2: When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the front windscreen?
The same advice follows as for the first ‘show me’ question—we’d be very surprised if you hadn’t had to use the windscreen wipers yet! On most cars, you simply spray a bit of screenwash onto the windscreen, and the wipers will automatically clean it off.
#3: When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d switch on your dipped headlights?
You might not have done much driving at night yet, but this will be really straightforward. Make sure you know how to switch on the dipped, not the full beam headlights. If ever in doubt, just check with your instructor.
#4: When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d set the rear demister?
The controls to do this will most likely be on the centre console, which is situated to your left. You’ll have to change the temperature of the fan, and make sure that you’ve pressed the correct button to activate the rear demister.
#5: When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d operate the horn?
You know how to do this—beep beep! It’s as simple as that.
#6: When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d demist the front windscreen?
This follows exactly the same principle as using the rear demister—you just need to use a different control on the central console. Make sure you know which one is which!
#7: When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d open and close the side window?
I’m sure you’ve all been desperate for fresh air during a lesson before, so this one should be pretty straightforward. Before you complete any of the actions that the instructor asks you to do, you need to be completely satisfied that it’s safe to do so.
Fancy a bit of a break from revision? Why not check out this article about our new Emergency Stop Game! Or, to see the happy faces of some newly-qualified drivers, take a look at our Top 5 PassMeFast Passes Of The Summer.
‘Tell me’ questions
Remember, you don’t actually have to complete any of these tasks—just make sure you know how to respond correctly!
#1: How would you check that the brakes are working before starting a journey?
Tell the examiner that you should lightly test the brakes as you set off, and that when you do this, they shouldn’t feel spongy or slack. Also, the vehicle shouldn’t pull to either side when you use the brakes.
#2: Where would you find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how should tyre pressures be checked?
There are a few things to remember when answering this question:
- You can find the recommended pressures in the manufacturer’s handbook
- Use a reliable pressure gauge when checking the tyre pressures
- Only check and adjust the tyre pressures when the tyres are cold
- Always carry a spare tyre
- And finally, remember to refit the valve caps when you’ve finished checking or adjusting the pressures!
This might sound like quite a lot to remember, but it’s really straightforward if you just think about the process of checking the tyre pressures.
#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.
The head restraint should be adjusted so the rigid part of the head restraint is at least as high as the eye or top of the ears, and as close to the back of the head as is comfortable.
#4: Tell me how you’d check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.
Firstly, there should be no cuts or bulges in the tyre. Secondly, the tread depth should be 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the width of the tyre.
#5: Tell me how you’d check that the headlights and tail lights are working. You don’t need to exit the vehicle.
Explain to the examiner that you’d turn on the switch, and then walk round the vehicle to check.
DON’T FORGET: This is a ‘tell me’ question—not a ‘show me’—so you don’t actually need to get out!
#6: Tell me how you’d know if there was a problem with your anti-lock braking system.
A warning light should appear on the dashboard if there is a fault with the anti-lock braking system (also known as ABS).
#7: Tell me how you’d check the direction indicators are working.
In the same way as you did for the headlights question, explain that you’d operate the switch (turning on the ignition if necessary), and then walk round the vehicle.
DON’T FORGET—you don’t actually need to get out of the vehicle!
#8: Tell me how you’d check the brake lights are working on this car.
Explain you’d operate the brake pedal and make use of reflections in windows or doors, or ask someone to help by looking at the back of the car.
#9: Tell me how you’d check the power-assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
If the steering becomes heavy, the system might not be working properly. You can check whether it’s working by performing 2 simple tests.
Apply gentle pressure on the steering wheel, and maintain it while the engine is started. This should result in a slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate. Alternatively turning the steering wheel just after moving off will let you know that the power assistance is working.
#10: Tell me how you’d switch on the rear fog lights and explain when you’d use them. You don’t need to exit the vehicle.
Turn the switch on (you might need to turn on the ignition and your dipped headlights). Then, check that the warning light is on and explain when you’d use them. This should have been covered in your theory. Not taken your theory test yet? Prepare for success with our guide to passing your theory test.
#11: Tell me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you’d know the main beam is on.
Again, turn on the switch, and check the main beam warning light on the dashboard. it should look something like the symbol below.
#12: Open the bonnet and tell me how you’d check that the engine has sufficient oil.
Explain that you’d point out where the dipstick is, and that you’d check the level of engine oil against the minimum and maximum markers. Remember, you need to have wiped the dipstick clean before checking the markers!
#13: Open the bonnet and tell me how you’d check that the engine has sufficient engine coolant.
You would need to identify the high and low level markings on either the header tank or the radiator filler cap. then you would top it up to the correct level.
#14: Open the bonnet and tell me how you’d check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.
Explain that you’d point out where the reservoir is, and check the level of the brake fluid against the high and low markers.
And that’s all you need to know! If you’ve read through this a few times and the answers aren’t sticking in your memory, or if you feel that you’re a better visual learner, it might be helpful to take a look at this video from the DVSA.
It shouldn’t take you too long to get to grips with the show me, tell me questions, but don’t forget there’s plenty more to learn before you’ll be test ready. Why not take a look at our traffic signs quiz, for instance? Or, if you’re interested in gaining some more general driving knowledge, check out our guide to the history of the highway code.