The Practical Instructor Exam (PIE) is a key assessment to becoming an Open Water Instructor (OWI). Practical teaching is often regarded as the central skill of teaching diving.

As Dive Leaders, after attendance on the Instructor Foundation Course (IFC), attendance on the Open Water Instructor Course (OWIC) and passing the Practical Instructor Exam (PIE) and the theory knowledge element of the Theory Exam, they will qualified Practical Instructors and be issued a PI number.

The PIE is for people that would like to teach open water lessons up to Dive Leader.
Prerequisites for this exam:

  • Dive Leader grade
  • Instructor Foundation Course completion
  • Open Water Instructor Course completion
  • For those 18 years or over

Typical timetable on the day

The Practical Instructor Exam (PIE) will take around half a day, depending on local conditions.

  • The day will start with an overall brief from the lead examiner on the day.
  • You will then split into groups of three candidates to an examiner and be briefed on the lesson.
  • You will be given around 30 minutes to prepare your lesson but during this time you will also need to move your equipment to the waterside and change into suits etc. Therefore, it is essential that your planning is done well in advance so that you simply need to transfer your lesson to a slate or waterproof notepad.
  • Each candidate will then present a 45-minute practical lesson in open water.
  • Each candidate will then complete an open water rescue drill as a practical skill only (not teaching it).
  • At the end of the session when all candidates have given their lessons the examiner will summarise the session but WILL NOT discuss marks or any specific points arising from the lessons.
  • The exam will conclude with a debrief from the lead examiner. They will highlight good teaching practices seen on the day, the need to continually develop as an Instructor and next steps. (The lead examiner will not discuss marks or any specific points arising from the lessons.)

Please note: In certain locations a TIE may be offered on the same day. Please call BSAC on 0151 350 6203 to enquire about this.

In the exam you will need to conduct an open water lesson. The topic for the lesson will be given to you on the day of the event 30 minutes before you are due to present it. It is essential that you plan and prepare for all the possible lessons you could be asked to teach. The practical lesson you are asked to present will be of 45 minutes duration.

The lesson topics are drawn from the Diver Training Programme (DTP) up to and including Dive Leader.  Typical examples of the lessons you may be asked to deliver:

  • Mask and regulator clearing
  • Controlled Buoyant Lift
  • Use of Alternative Source
  • DSMB
  • Compass navigation

On the IFC and OWIC you will have planned a number of practical lessons. On the OWIC you will have put these into practice and received feedback. Think about that feedback and apply the same planning process to this lesson.

The key to a good practical diving lesson is that it meets the essential STEP criteria.  It must be Safe for the students at all times (with close control and positioning often helpful in achieving this); Technically correct (the skills taught must be correct and clearly visible to the students); Effective (skills are demonstrated by the instructor then mimicked by each student, with any faults corrected); and Progressive (lesson broken down into small, logical steps with essential skills recapped).

Success on the Examination is based on ensuring that your lesson contains evidence of applying the relevant essential STEP criteria to the lesson. As part of your lesson planning and preparation you should use the checklists used on the IFC and OWIC to ensure that the essential criteria are present. If they are and the lesson is effective, the minimum grade that can be achieved will be a Pass.

Rescue Drill
This will entail completing a rescue drill sequence from the Diver Training Programme (DTP). This will typically be the rescue from underwater of an unconscious casualty, surface Rescue Breaths (RB) and then tow to a point of safety. You should ensure that all your personal rescue skills are up to date and proficient.

PIE exam video demonstration of rescue breaths and surface tow

Watch video demonstration

Two weeks before the event joining instructions are sent out with details of the event, venue and what to bring plus local contacts and accommodation lists should they be required.

Some regions provide optional PIE Preparation events which may be useful for anyone that would like to do some ‘brushing up’ before the exam. Book a PIE Prep event

After the exam

  • The examiner and lead examiners prepare reports for the event and for each candidate.
  • The results are then approved by the Chief Examiner.
  • Once the finalised and approved results are back at BSAC, the results are sent out to participants.
  • Each candidate will receive a written assessment sheet detailing their performance in the exam, against the essential criteria. If the PIE is successfully completed the candidate will qualify for either a Practical Instructor (if they have a Theory Paper pass) or Open Water Instructor Award (if they have passed both the Theory paper and classroom presentation). They will also be sent the relevant logbook sticker stating their instructor number and in the case of OWI an instructor qualification card.

Please note: The above process can take up to four weeks. However, after two weeks candidates can phone BSAC on 0151 350 6203 to find out if they have passed or failed. BSAC staff are not authorised to give the results over the phone to anyone other than the candidate themselves.


Should a candidate feel their report does not reflect their performance, they can make an appeal in writing to the Chief Examiner, with a copy to the Instructor Training Scheme (ITS) Manager at BSAC.

Please copy in:

Appeals are investigated thoroughly by consultation with the examiner and the lead examiner on the day.

What can I teach?

Successful completion of both elements of the PIE will result in the award of a Practical Instructor qualification. This allows instructors to teach practical lessons up to Dive Leader level without the need for supervision by an Open Water Instructor.
A Practical Instructor will still require to be supervised for theory elements by an OWI until they successfully pass the Theory Instructor Exam (TIE).

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