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How to pass the PADI Open Water Diver course


A step-by-step guide on how to pass the PADI Open Water Diver course

In theory, an expert diver should be writing this post. Logically, he or she could tell you what to expect, give you insider tips and prepare you for the challenge ahead. That said, I have one distinct advantage over the experts: I know exactly how hard it is for nervous first-timers.

I know what it’s like to almost back out of your first dive and to quit the course altogether. I also know the guts it takes to get back on and finish the course. Back in 2015, five months after my first attempt, I passed the PADI Open Water Diver course.


Since then, I’ve completed over 40 dives all around the world, taking on shipwrecks, plane wrecks, reefs, walls and bommies. I hate to think how I would have missed out on all these stunning experiences if I had quit the course for good.

To help other nervous first-timers, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to pass the PADI Open Water Diver course. I cover the theory first and then the hard stuff: the confined water tests and the open water tests, touching on a few difficult points along the way.

How to pass the PADI Open Water Diver course

Choosing a course

All PADI courses comprise the following:

  • Knowledge development: theory work to help you understand the basic principles of scuba diving. This is reviewed in a final test in which you must score 75% or higher. If you fail, you can retake the test. See ‘PADI test questions’ below for more.
  • Confined water dives: this is usually done in a pool or shallow water in the sea with the aim of teaching you basic scuba skills. See ‘PADI confined water tests’ below for more.
  • Open water dives: you must complete four open water dives in which you demonstrate your skills. See ‘PADI open water tests’ below for more.

In choosing a course, firstly, make sure your dive centre is certified by PADI. There are centres all over the world that advertise the PADI Open Water Diver course but which aren’t actually certified. They will happily take your money and while you probably will learn to dive, you won’t be certified.

Secondly, if you’re a nervous diver, try to book a 4-day or even 5-day course. The intensive 3-day courses run through the practical tests very quickly with little time to coach weak swimmers….

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