What Will You Be Asked?
You’ve passed scrutiny by TfL security and you’re in the reception area at 230 Blackfriars Road (you need the back entrance in Chancel Street). This is where you present your appointment card to the administration staff on reception. Note that, the appointment time on your card isn’t the time you should expect to be seen: it’s the time you’re meant to present yourself at reception. If you arrive more than twenty minutes after the time on your card it’s down to the examiner’s discretion whether they see you or not.
Nearer your appointment time, you’ll be allowed to sit in the waiting area and soak up the atmosphere. It must be quite exciting watching people exit the examination rooms and trying to read their faces to gauge how they did. What examiner will you get? Will they be in a good mood? Did they find some new Points over the weekend to hit you with – beware the Monday Morning Special. It’s easy for me to say, but try to relax. The hard work should have been done in the days and weeks leading up to this moment. It’s now time to convince Sir or Ma’am you’ve been eating, drinking and sleeping one-way systems, river crossings, and all those little turnarounds that examiners like to ask.
If it’s your first appearance you’ll be asked runs based on the Blue Book. The runs might be reversed, but the Points shouldn’t be too difficult. This is your chance to demonstrate what you have learned and get yourself off and running. You are allocated more time on your first appearance. Your examiner will give you a little spiel that will probably cover any questions, but don’t be afraid of asking the examiner to clarify things you’re not sure about.
On subsequent appearances you are more exposed to the unpredictable whims of the examiner and more is expected of you as you progress – particularly when you might get a drop. The Blue Book will re-appear throughout your Knowledge career and you neglect it at your peril. I often gave Reqs out after asking Manor House Station to Gibson Square.
The Knowledge is not an exact science and the “best” route is open to interpretation. I’m constantly dismayed reading Knowledge noticeboards where Knowledge boys quibble over a few yards! It usually doesn’t matter. I used to ask a lot of what I called “Dilemma Runs”: runs going between two bridges, or through parks. Regent Street to Hampstead? I usually didn’t care what way round the park you went, but people spent too much time and energy on analysis. There might be a point’s difference in it; not enough to get worked up about. If you find it hard to decide between two options it’s usually because it doesn’t really matter. I often used to ask the Blue Book staple, Victoria to Liverpool Street. “What does he want?” they would ask on Knowledge forums, thinking it might be a trick question. No trick. I didn’t care if you used the embankment or two bridges. I just wanted to see a bit of confidence on handling the basics.
If you don’t know if you’re allowed to leave on a particular side of the road, ask. If the examiner is in a good mood, he might tell you. If not, offer an alternative.
Runs are sometimes taken from the top of the examiner’s head after you’ve sat down, but it’s more likely they are decided upon earlier that morning or on the previous day. One examiner writes his runs out at least a week in advance. Beware the examiners with the tidiest rooms. A tidy room equals a tidy mind. An ex-detective examiner will dissect your runs with a forensic rigour. Don’t make your appearance a crime scene. Before you can say “I’m sorry sir…”, the blue tape will be out and you’ll be a chalk outline on the floor. That’s the corpse of your twenty-one day appearance, son. Stand back sir, there’s nothing to see here…
For best results, call with confidence. Examiners don’t like candidates who call so fast they can’t be followed, but a steady-paced, confident, call, will hold you in good stead. Rushing off seemingly without thinking works for a minority, but most people prefer a bit of thinking time. If the run doesn’t come to you quickly, try reversing it in your head. If you know the run, but can’t recall the name of a particular road, say so, and continue. I never cared much if you confused Cab Road, Station Approach and Spur Road; I just wanted to know you’d been there.
Hesitation is probably the area most open to interpretation. What one examiner sees as reasonable thinking time, another sees as not knowing, and worthy of docking a few points. In my introduction to New Starts I always made it clear that if you connect the Points up you will get some kind of score. Don’t tie yourself in knots chasing perfection, just connect everything up! There’s nothing wrong in keeping it simple. Don’t over complicate things if you’re not sure. You could make mistakes and loose marks.
Many candidates waste time on learning Points from the school’s sheets while neglecting to look for their own. Examiners are well aware that too many people “find” points on a computer and not on the street. If you’ve not seen it, drop it. You’ll lose one point, but if you’re guessing a Point and leave it wrongly, you could lose up to ten. I was never a Points Man. I wanted to satisfy myself that you knew the hotel ranks and could find your way out of train stations: the essentials a cab driver needs to know.
My advice to those on Finals is to have a good drive around Heathrow. It’s easier to learn it now than wait until you’ve a cab full of passengers and a mad coach driver behind you.
Dire warning: You will lose the whole ten points if you do anything illegal. If unsure, don’t attempt it. There are still people who turn right into Stratton Street from Piccadilly because they’ve seen cabs do it!
Good luck on your appearances! In the next issue we’ll be dispelling myths, and I’ll look at the most common questions I’m asked about the Knowledge process.
Copyright: Chris Ackrill, 2016.
What Will You Be Asked?