Learning to drive: How to nail the Show Me, Tell Me test

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Taking your practical driving test can be a nerve-racking experience. It’s natural to feel tense and it’s easy to get flustered, especially if you make a mistake at the beginning that could impact how you drive.

By knowing what to expect in the Show Me, Tell Me section of the test, you are setting yourself up for a positive experience where you feel confident and relaxed when taking your test.

Before you drive off and show the examiner what you can do, you must answer two general safety questions which are known as Show Me, Tell Me. You will answer one question where you demonstrate the answer (show me) and another where you explain the answer (tell me).

The Show Me, Tell Me questions are designed to prove to the examiner that you understand how different safety features work, and that in a break down or emergency, you would know what steps to take to ensure you and others remain safe on the road.

We've separated these questions into three categories based on the different safety checks that may come up in your test: be prepared to check under the bonnet, inside the car, and outside the car. Remember, you won't have to do all three – two Show Me, Tell Me questions means you may only have to answer questions on one or two categories.

Under the bonnet

All questions for this category are Tell Me questions; you will only have to answer one question - and you don't have to get your hands dirty and touch anything. We've listed the questions first, then the answers – test yourself to see what you know so far.

The examiner will ask you to open the bonnet, then proceed to ask you one of the following:

  1. Identify where you would check the engine oil level. Can you tell me how you would check the engine has sufficient oil?
  2. Identify where you would check the engine coolant level. Can you tell me how you would check the engine has the correct level?
  3. Identify where the brake fluid reservoir is. Can you tell me how you would check you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid?
  4. Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is. Can you tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level?

If none of this sounds familiar – don't panic. You may not have been shown these features yet, but each one is relatively easy to find in most cars and there are diagrams and colours that will help you remember. Make sure you know how to open the bonnet, then wow the examiner with these answers:

Answer 1 - Oil: Point to the oil indicator or dipstick (this usually has a yellow handle). Explain that you remove the stick, wipe it clean, dip it back into the oil, and then remove it again to make sure it is between the minimum and maximum indicators. This ensures the engine is well lubricated to run smoothly.

Answer 2 - Coolant: Point to the high and low level markings which are on the header tank or the radiator fill cap, and explain how you top it up to the correct level. The coolant needs to be checked to prevent the engine from overheating. You would never check this when it is hot i.e. straight after the car has been running.

Answer 3 – Brake fluid: Point to the reservoir, and check fluid levels against high and low markings. Having enough brake fluid is very important in making sure your brakes work correctly.

Answer 4 – Windscreen washer: Point to the reservoir and explain how to check the level to make sure it is above the minimum marker. You need to keep topping this up to make sure you can clean your windscreen whenever required for clear visibility.

Inside the car

This category has the most number of questions with both Show Me and Tell Me tasks. The Driving Standards' Agency has a comprehensive list of questions, but here are some of the different types of important questions you may be asked.

Note that for some of the checks, you may have to turn the ignition on, but not the engine. For other checks you may have to step out of the car.

We've listed the questions and answers together here:

Show Me

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

Answer: Apply the indicators, or hazard warning switch and check functioning of all indicators by getting out of the car and checking the front and back of the vehicle. You may need to switch the ignition on, but don't start the engine.

2. Show me how you would check the brake lights are working on this car.

Answer: You may need to switch the ignition on, but don't start the engine. Place your foot on the brake pedal, and ask the examiner to look at the lights for you. In reality you would look for the lights reflected in windows, other cars, garage doors, or ask someone to help to tell you to check if the lights are working.

Tell Me

1. Tell me how you would check the headlights and tail lights are working.

Answer: Turn on the headlight switch – you may need to turn the ignition to do so. Then explain to the examiner that in a normal circumstance you would walk round vehicle to check the lights (there's no need to get out of the car for a Tell Me question).

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

Answer: Brakes should be tested as you set off and they should not feel soft or loose. When driving, the vehicle should not pull to one side.

Outside the car

These are only Tell Me questions, so you will have to explain and point to parts of the car, but not actually do anything.

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

Answer: Use the car manufacturer's guide to see all information. Use a reliable pressure gauge to check and adjust pressures when tyres are cold. You can add or reduce air at all fuel stations. Always have a spare tyre in your car, and remember to refit valve caps.

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

Answer: Ensure there are no cuts, bulges or smooth patches. There should be 1.6mm of tread depth across the central ¾ of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire outer circumference.

Stay in the know

Passing your driving test is a milestone achievement in your life and is an exciting time, but many people say driving with a qualified status is where the real 'learning' takes place… and they're not wrong. While you continue to learn on the road, it's also important not to neglect your Show Me, Tell Me knowledge.

Once you pass your test, you are likely to be driving a model of car that is unfamiliar. It will take time adjusting to this, and it is vital to develop your understanding of the car you're driving, whether it's an old banger or a swish new model.

You need to get your head around the internal components and controls in your car, as well as knowing where things are located under the bonnet. You don't need to carry out safety checks every time you step into the car, but you should be aware of how everything works for your safety and the safety of others.

Admiral Learner Driver Insurance's top tips

Listen – The examiner will use the 'show' or 'tell' words, so make sure you get this right.

Explain – It's better to be overly detailed than to give a vague answer. You can also elaborate by explaining why the safety check is important. The examiner may prompt you otherwise, but it's good to show knowledge from the outset.

Know the car – The average learner driver spends 22 hours with a family member on top of normal lessons. Some people therefore decide to take their driving test in the family car, and if you do, make sure you know how to do all of the safety checks in that model too.

If you're learning to drive in mum or dad's car make sure you're covered, without affecting their No Claims Bonus, with Admiral Learner Driver Insurance.

Keep learning – Remember, we develop as drivers throughout our lives. Keep refreshing your knowledge to remain a safe and confident driver.

While these questions are straightforward, there are a lot of them so it's best to know what to expect. A good thing to remember is you will not fail your driving test if you answer one or even both of the Show Me, Tell Me questions incorrectly, but by showing the examiner you are knowledgeable and confident, it will put you in good stead for the rest of the test.