No-one likes being bossed around - but unfortunately a decent chunk of your car driving test will be just that!
Well, sort of. Most of your driving test involves, well, driving (either following instructions from your examiner, or a period of free driving towards the end).
But before you even hit the road, you’ll need to respond to a series of ‘tell me’ questions from the examiner, with ‘show me’ questions following suit during the test.
You’ll need to do exactly as they say. Here’s how it all works.
The examiner wants to see whether you understand the ins-and-outs of the car you’re driving, and whether you’ll be able to carry out some simple mechanical actions. This is where the ‘show me, tell me’ questions come in.
If you give an incorrect answer, you’ll be given a minor fault (check out our guide on driving faults).
What’s the difference between ‘show me’ and ‘tell me’ questions?
With a ‘tell me’ question, you only have to explain how you would carry out that task. Usually, you’ll get asked one right at the start of your driving test.
However, with a ‘show me’ question, you have to actually demonstrate the task. This typically happens during the driving test because the examiner wants to see if you can perform the task in real-time. (PS - this is different to the manoeuvres, which we cover later in this article.)
Here’s a few examples of ‘tell me’ questions.
1. Tell me when you need to switch to rear fog lights and how you would turn them on.
First, explain that you would only use the rear fog lights when visibility is decreased to 100 metres or less. Then tell the examiner that you would turn on the ignition and switch the headlights to dipped.
To turn on the fog lights, explain that you would press the switch in the centre console and ensure the warning light is on.
2. Tell me how you check the rear brake lights are working.
Explain to the examiner that you would first ask a passenger to stand at the back of your car. While using the brake pedal, you would ask them to tell you if the light is working or not.
If you didn’t have a passenger with you, you would park close to a reflective surface like a window or mirrored wall. That way, you can look back and see when you push on the brake pedal if your lights come on.
3. Tell me where you can find your car's recommended tyre pressure.
Explain to the examiner that you can find your car's recommended tyre pressure in your car manual. In some cars, this information will also be printed on the fuel filler lid as well as the inside of the driver’s door.
4. Tell me how you check the tyres to see if they have sufficient tyre tread.
Explain to the examiner that you would first check the tyres to ensure there are no cuts or bulges in the tyre wall. Then you would check the tyre tread depth with a tread depth gauge. The tyre tread should be no less than 1.6mm across from the central three-quarters breadth, all around the tyres.
5. Open the bonnet and tell me how you’d check that the engine has sufficient oil.
Open the bonnet and point to the dipstick. Tell them that you would use this to check the level of the oil, making sure it showed up between the minimum and maximum amount highlighted on the stick.
You can find some other examples of ‘tell me’ questions here.
The examiner will only ask you to perform one ‘show me’ question, so if you make sure you’re prepared, you’ll be fine.
Something important to consider: while some of these requests might seem surprisingly simple, the instructor also wants to see when you deem it safe to do so.
Here’s some of the most common ‘show me’ questions.
1. Can you show me how you open and close the side window?
This is a gimme! The trick here is to show you know how to open the window when it’s safe to do so. Don’t do it while crossing a busy junction, or going around a corner, for example.
2. Can you show me how you defrost the front windscreen?
To defrost your front windscreen, you’ll want to put the heater on to heat up the glass. At the same time, turn on your air-con to reduce the moisture and stop the water from condensing on your windscreen.
3. Can you show me how you clean the front windscreen?
Before you do this, ensure the road is clear, because your view will be reduced for a few seconds. Also make sure there are no cyclists overtaking you, as you could accidentally give them an unexpected shower! 🚿
Some cars differ slightly, but most require you to pull the indicator towards you. Hold it there for a couple of seconds as the water squirts on your windscreen, then push your indicator back to stop it. The wipers should start and end automatically.
4. Can you show me how you use the horn?
All you need to do is press on the horn once or twice. Just show the examiner that you know where the horn is and how to use it properly. Wait until it’s appropriate to do so - ie, not when someone is crossing the road ahead of you, or while you’re in traffic.
We have a full cheat sheet for taking the driving test here, including exactly what the instructor will be looking out for. Check out our guide to the driving test.
Here’s some of the main components of the test:
You’ll take a quick eye test before even getting in the car. The instructor will ask you to read a registration plate of a car 20 metres away from you.
If you are unable to read the licence plate correctly, the test will go no further. If you read it right, you and the driver examiner will proceed with the rest of the driving test.
When starting up the car, you need to do some routine checks to ensure your car is secure and safe to drive. The examiner will check to see if you have:
Possible faults with this section include:
A controlled stop, also known as an emergency stop, is one of the manoeuvres the examiner may ask you to carry out during your test. The examiner will tell you that when they raise their hand, you should stop as quickly as possible, while still remaining in control of your car.
The point of this test is to check if you can maintain control even in high-stress situations. The examiner will also check if you move off again safely after the stop.
Possible driver faults include:
Examiners will ask you to perform one of these three reversing manoeuvres:
Potential faults for this section include parking over the line, having to reposition the car too many times, as well as not signalling or performing good observations. Some other major faults include stopping next to junctions and driveways.
In this section, the examiner is looking to see if you can safely use the pedals, the parking brake, and the steering. You need to be able to demonstrate that you can operate these smoothly and in an orderly manner.
So you’ll need to be able to:
Potential faults with this section include:
If you slightly hit a curb you’ll get a minor fault. However it’ll be marked as a major fault if you actually drive up onto the curb, or hit the curb in a dangerous way.
Use of mirrors
Examiners will note if you are using your mirrors correctly. You should look at your mirrors before signalling, changing direction, or modifying your speed. After you look, signal when appropriate, then manoeuvre.
Possible faults in this section include not using mirrors effectively. Understanding where others are in response to you is crucial in being a safe driver.
Response to signals
You need to react to other cars’ indicator lights, road signs, and road markings. The examiner will fault you if you react too slowly or if you have no reaction at all.
Use of speed
The examiner will analyse your speed not just in relation to the speed limit, but also to factors like the weather and how busy the road is. If it's raining or the school rush is underway, for example, consider lowering your speed.
Crossing a junction can be intimidating as a learner driver so it’s crucial you prepare well for this section.
Possible faults in this section include approaching the junction too quickly, not making efficient observations, or signalling late. Other faults include being too close or too far from the curb, as well as cutting corners.
The examiner will be assessing your judgement throughout the test but especially during the free driving section at the end.
Possible faults in this section include completing an unsafe overtake, cutting in front of another car after completing an overtake and not signalling properly.
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