“Show me, tell me” questions are your chance to prove your understanding of basic car safety to the examiner. There are 21 possible questions, but you’ll only be asked two.
There’s a lot to learn to become a safe driver. Of course, you need to know how to drive carefully, but car safety goes beyond moving from A to B. Car maintenance and understanding how a car works are important, too. And that’s what “show me, tell me” questions and answers are all about.
Here, we’ll take a look at the two sets of car safety questions and explain how — and when — you’ll be expected to answer each type.
How many ‘show me, tell me’ questions and answers are on a test?
There are only two “show me, tell me” questions for driving tests. Your examiner will ask you one “tell me” question at the start of your test, before you begin driving. The second, “show me” question is asked while you’re driving.
As the names suggest, “show me” questions need to be answered with a demonstration. “Tell me” questions only need a detailed description for the answer. You’ll need to understand the basic workings of a car to be able to answer these confidently. Questions about checking the oil, what anti-lock braking systems are and how to tell if they’re not working, and demisting windscreens before you drive are likely to come up.
Each of the questions is designed to let you share your safety knowledge about cars and driving. When answering the “show me” question, keep your eyes on the road and try not to be distracted while you answer.
Can you fail your driving test on the ‘show me, tell me’ questions?
The quick answer is no. The safety questions you’re asked both before you start driving and while you’re driving can’t add up to cause you to fail on their own. However, the answers you provide will count towards your points for passing your test.
If you answer one of these safety questions wrong, you’ll receive one minor fault against your score. Even if you get the second question wrong, you’ll still only receive one minor fault for the safety questions. You’re allowed 15 minor faults before you fail your driving test.
But if you become distracted from driving when answering the “show me” questions, and lose control of the car, you could land yourself in trouble. If that happens, you’ll be given a major fault. Major faults will cause you to fail your driving test straight away.
‘Tell me’ questions
“Tell me” questions are the first type of questions you’ll encounter when you take your practical driving test.
There are 14 different “tell me” questions. They can feel a little tricky because of the way they’re worded, but remember, you only need to explain a process with these questions. No demonstration is necessary. Be as detailed with your answer as you can.
- Question: Tell me how you’d check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.
Answer: The brakes should feel firm, not spongy or slack. This should be checked before setting off. Once moving, if it’s safe, a firm press of the brakes should pull the car up short without it pulling to one side.
- Question: Tell me where you’d find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.
Answer: The car’s manufacturer’s guide has information about the correct tyre pressure according to the weight that is being carried. This information is also sometimes found on the car’s petrol cap, or on the inside of the driver’s or passenger’s door.
Tyre pressure can be checked with a reliable pressure gauge and should be done when the tyres are cold by removing the valve caps, checking and adjusting the pressure and then replacing the valve caps. The spare tyre should also be checked regularly.
- Question: Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash.
Answer: The head restraint needs to be adjusted (where possible) so the ridgid part is at least as high as the eyes or top of the ears. It also needs to be as close to the back of the head as comfort allows. Some restraints might not be adjustable.
- Question: 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.
Answer: Check the tyre walls for cuts and bulges, and check for the minimum 1.6mm of tread depth across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre, and around the entire outer circumference of the tyre with a ruler or twenty pence piece. If the words “twenty pence” are covered by the tread depth, there is enough tread, if not they need replacing.
- Question: Tell me how you’d check that the headlights and tail lights are working. You don’t need to exit the vehicle.
Answer: Describe how you would operate the switch, and then watch for the reflection of your lights in windows and cars, walk around the vehicle, or have someone watch for these while you operate the switch. (As this is a “tell me” question, you don’t need to physically check the lights.)
- Question: Tell me how you’d know if there was a problem with your anti-lock braking system.
Answer: Explain the type of warning light that would appear on the dashboard if problems with the anti-lock system were detected.
- Question: Tell me how you’d check the direction indicators are working. You don’t need to exit the vehicle.
Answer: Explain how you would turn the indicators on (by turning the ignition on first, if necessary). Then, that you would check the dashboard lights were showing that the indicator lights were working, watch for reflections, and walk around the vehicle or have someone else check the exterior lights for you. (As this is a “tell me” question, you don’t need to physically check the lights.)
- Question: Tell me how you’d check if the brake lights are working on this car.
Answer: Explain how you would apply pressure to the brake pedal while looking for reflections of the lights in nearby windows and cars, or by having somebody watch the rear lights for you.
- Question: Tell me how you’d check the power-assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
Answer: There are two simple checks that can be made before a journey. Maintaining gentle pressure on the steering wheel, while the engine is started, should result in a slight but noticeable movement as the system warms up. The second check involves turning the steering wheel just after moving off to get an immediate indication that the power assistance is working.
Feeling that the steering is getting heavy when driving also indicates there could be a problem developing, so it would be a good idea to have this checked before your next journey.
- Question: Tell me how you’d switch on the rear fog lights and explain when you’d use it/them. You don’t need to exit the vehicle.
Answer: Switch the fog light switch (turn on the dipped headlights and ignition if necessary), and explain the circumstances in which fog lights should be used.
- Question: Tell me how you switch your headlights from dipped to the main beam and explain how you’d know the main beam is on.
Answer: Switch the headlight switch, with the engine running, and check the high-beam warning light on the dashboard controls.
- Question: Open the bonnet and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.
Answer: Find the dipstick and withdraw it from the engine. Wipe the oil off on a rag or tissue and then reinsert the dipstick into the engine. Withdraw it a second time and check the oily mark is between the maximum and minimum marks on the dipstick.
- Question: Open the bonnet and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient engine coolant.
Answer: Find the header tank, or radiator filler cap, and locate the maximum and minimum markings. Then describe how to top up the engine coolant. This will be slightly different for different makes and models of cars.
- Question: Open the bonnet and tell me how you’d check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.
Answer: Find the hydraulic fluid container and check the level against the minimum and maximum markings.
If you’re answered questions 12, 13 or 14, you need to open the bonnet and tell the examiner how you’d do the check.
Obviously, the answers to each of these questions will vary between the makes and models of cars. Because of this, it is a good idea to learn the answers to each of these questions based on the car you intend to take your test in.
‘Show me’ questions
Remember, this is when you need to demonstrate the answer. It can help to talk through the demonstration so you don’t forget any details. It also shows the examiner that you know exactly what you’re doing.
There are seven “show me” questions that the examiner can choose from. It’s a good idea to get familiar with all of them. Not only so you’re prepared for any question that comes your way, but also so you know how to ensure the vehicle is safe to drive.
- When it is safe to do so, can you show me how you would wash and clean the rear windscreen?
- When it is safe to do so, can you show me how you wash and clean the front windscreen?
- When it is safe to do so, can you show me how you’d switch on your dipped headlights?
- When it’s safe to do so, can you show me how you’d set the rear demister?
- When it is safe to do so, can you show me how you’d operate the horn?
- When it is safe to do so, can you show me how you would demist the front windscreen?
- When it is safe to do so, can you show me how you’d open and close the side window?
As with the “tell me” questions, answers to the “show me” questions will be specific to the car you’re doing your test in.
Is there an app for the ‘show me, tell me’ questions?
Fortunately, there are several apps available that you can practise your “show me, tell me” questions. Both the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store have driving lesson apps that will help you practise the theory and safety question elements of your driving test.
It’s a good idea to get familiar with all of the driving test questions before you book your test. It will increase your chances of passing on your first try!