The Show Me Tell Me questions are perhaps one of the easiest ways to gain brownie points (or lose them) in the practical driving test. These are questions that are asked at the start of the test, before you begin driving, and test your knowledge of how a car actually works. That means things like knowing how the lights work, where you can check your oil levels, and how you’d find out if your brakes were working.
There are 19 questions, of which you will be asked TWO – one ‘show me’ and one ‘tell me’. They’re generally pretty sensible and straightforward, and examiners don’t expect you to suddenly spout off the kind of knowledge that a fully-fledged mechanic would produce. Instead, most of the answers rely on common sense – checking the car manual, getting out of the car and looking, checking your dashboard for warning lights.
If you get a question wrong, it’ll be marked down as a fault or ‘error’ on your test paper, but answering the Show Me, Tell Me questions incorrectly isn’t an automatic fail in the way many other aspects of the practical test are. That’s a big relief to those of us who prefer to avoid the books and paperwork side of life, and means that if you can’t remember the answer, you can at least take a reasonable guess without fear of huge recriminations.
The 19 questions, of which two will be selected at random, are given below, along with the answer and occasional observations:
Answer. Before you start a journey, though, two simple checks can be made:
1) A steady, gentle pressure on the steering wheel whilst the engine is started should give you a slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate.
2) Turning the steering wheel after just moving off will tell you immediately if your power steering is working or not.
Answer. Identify the correct control that operates the cars horn. Press the horn control and listen (turn the ignition on if necessary).
Answer. Put your foot on the brake pedal as though you were braking, then use any shiny surfaces
near the back of your car (bins, garage doors, other cars – even walls, sometimes) to see if there’s a red glow visible. If there’s nothing you can use, or you can’t see clearly, you can ask your examiner to walk round to the back of the car to check for you – this is perfectly acceptable.
Answer. Identify the control for the indicators. Turn the indicators or hazard warning lights on (turn the ignition if need be) then get out of the car and check that all the indicator lights (front, back, sides) are working.
Answer. Apply the parking brake. If it’s excessively worn, it won’t hold the car properly and you’ll have to pull it on tighter (or, if it won’t go on any tighter, apply the brake. However, if the car you drive in your test has these kinds of issues for real, you might be wise to question the legitimacy of your practical test, and ask for a refund).
Answer. Find the lever that controls your wipers (you may need to turn the ignition on for this). You’ll find that pushing or pulling the lever one way or another will operate your windscreen washer function (with automatic wiping). Look at the switch that operates your wipers as very often it is represented with a small white marking or diagram indicating which way to move the control to operate the windscreen washers.
Answer. Identify the heater/demist controls. Set all the dials: fan to maximum speed; temperature to hot; air source (the picture of the little car with arrows in it) should be from outside the car; air direction should be (predictably) towards the windows; and heated screen buttons should be switched on for any screens lucky enough to have them. If it’s a frosty morning, you may find that using the AC (air conditioning) function will also clear your screen faster.
Answer. Identify the control for this. Turn the lever that controls the headlamps until dip is on (there's generally a green symbol that appears on your dashboard facia consisting of three horizontal lines and a semi-circle – it’s supposed to look like a headlight). Turn the lever again and the symbol will change to bluey-purple. That means main beam is on. Never use main beam when there is oncoming traffic – it is very distracting and can affect their safety.
Answer. Identify the control for this. Operate the switch for fog lights (this may be another function of your headlamp lever or it may be a seperate switch depending on make and model of vehicle. Check that the dashboard symbol which indicates fog lights are illuminated. You use fog lights when it’s foggy or when visibility is less than 100m. However, fog lights are much brighter than standard headlights, (even main beam) so you should turn them off as soon as visibility improves. Similarly, don’t try driving in fog without them – other drivers see you less easily, which means they might hit you more easily.
Answer. Find the coolant tank and check that the level of coolant is somewhere between the min/max markings on the side of the tank. If the coolant is below minimum, more would need to be added to bring it up to the max mark. Do not overfill.
Answer. Find the reservoir. Tip! It's very often on the drivers side of the underbonnet and is usually attached to a large, circular metal drum (brake servo). Make sure the level of fluid is between the min and max markings.
Answer. Most cars have a dipstick, which is what it sounds – a stick that is dipped into the oil tank. Find this, remove it and check that the oil level sits between the min and max marks on the dipstick. Clean and reinsert the dipstick if you can’t see very clearly. Tip! Checking oil level is best done with the car on level ground and a cold engine.
Answer. Find the reservoir – warning, this is not the same as the water coolant reservoir – and open the cap. Peek in and see if there looks to be enough water – a good sign is if you can actually see any water, because that means it’s at a fairly high level. There are no min/max markings to help you with this one, sadly! Tip! Make sure you top up the reservoir very regularly as it often impossible to be sure how much water is left so it's advisable to keep it full. Carrying a pre-mixed bottle of water and windscreen cleaner in the boot is a sensible precaution.
Answer. Simple – as you start to move off, put your foot down on the brake (checking first if it is safe to do so). There shouldn’t be any sponginess and the car shouldn’t steer to one side.
Answer. Turn on the lights (you might need to start the ignition), get out of the car and walk around it to make sure that all the necessary lights are on.
Answer. The car handbook will tell you what pressure your tyres should have. To check it, use a reliable pressure gauge (usually found at petrol stations, with a charge of 20p), undo the valve caps on your four tyres (keep hold of them, they get lost so easily) and use the gauge to test each tyre individually. Only check tyres when they are cold – that is to say, before driving on them too much. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre and to replace the valve caps when you’re done. Tip! On some models there is a sticker on the inside edge of the drivers door with tyre pressure information on it.
Answer. The head restraint should be adjusted or moved so that the rigid part is at least as high as your eyes or ears, and as close to the back of your head as you can manage without being uncomfortable. Be aware, though: some headrests aren’t adjustable.
Answer. Tyres shouldn’t have any cuts or bulges. They should also have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm on the central portion of the tyre (don’t measure near the outside of the tyre, as that doesn’t wear down so much. Stick to the centre). You can either use a tread gauge or a 20p coin – when you slot it into the tread, you shouldn’t be able to see the top of the outer border.
Answer. A warning light should come up on your dashboard if there’s a fault. Check your car handbook so that you are aware which warning light is for the ABS system.
Have a look at these instructional video clips relating to the Show Me Tell Me part of your practical driving test for more clarification.
Show Me Tell Me - Inside the Car Video
Show Me Tell Me - Outside the Car Video
Show Me Tell Me - Under the Bonnet Video