Monday, 26 December 2016

BSAC FIRST CLASS DIVER – PART 3: THEORY EXAM

After receiving my Practical Exam results on the 11th August I had around 7 weeks to prepare for the Theory Exam on 1 Oct, which, let’s be honest, despite setting aside an hour or so every night for a month to revise, actually meant I’ll panic revise about 1-2 weeks before.  And as it turns out, that what happened. 

The Theory Exam
The Theory Exam Guidance can be found on a downloadable pdf here, however in summary:
· Candidates must have an up to date view and an understanding of diving knowledge and principles.
· Unlike many of the previous diving courses the candidate may have completed there is no single First Class Diver course manual or course on which the exam is based. The candidate will need to draw on a wealth of theory knowledge built up from a wide range of reading backed up by practical diving experience.
· Candidates should be familiar with the contents of all the BSAC diving manuals, a deeper understanding of some important topics gained by reading more widely from non-BSAC publications and an up to date knowledge of diving current affairs.
· The exam comprises a one hour theory paper with thirty short answer questions.  A period of 15 minutes reading time is provided immediately before writing your answers to familiarise yourself with the exam questions and plan how to answer them.
· The questions are organised into 5 broad areas:
• Medical.
• Decompression.
• Dive Planning and Techniques.
• Equipment.
• Seamanship and Weather.

My exam
Despite this being my third element, the elements can be taken in any order, but I deliberately set out to do this last.  Why?  Generally the Expedition Plan can be done at any time, there’s only one Practical Exam per year (in July) and there’s two Theory Exams (March and October).  Additionally, the Theory Exam result is valid for 3 years and is also valid for National Instructor.  Therefore, as I knew it would be my weakest element I opted to do it last as each Practical Exam failure would knock off a year.  Additionally, it gives me greater freedom to prepare for my National Instructor exam.

As stated earlier, within my 7 week period I had planned to do a month’s revision, which actually turned out to be 1-2 weeks on and off, with typical last minute revision the night before and even the morning before.

Looking at the 5 areas, in knew that Seamanship and Weather, and possibly Medical, would be my weakest areas.  I revised these using the BSAC Dive Leader, Advanced Diver and various SDC materials, before moving onto standalone text books.  I also used a number of the previous exam papers to aid my revision across all 5 areas.  I recorded all my revision in a notebook as I hoped that by writing it down I would retain more of it.

On the morning of the exam I arrived at my venue about 15 minutes early.  There were 2 of us attempting the exam there, and for the other candidate, it was their second attempt at the theory exam. 

The 15 minute reading time was as equally frustrating as it was useful.  It enabled me to decide a rough order of answering the questions, but there were questions that I should know the answers to, but had forgot.  And I knew they were in my revision book!

Once I’d started the exam, the hour went quick.  Too quick.  And I’m sure the examiner could see what questions were done first or last, because as the time shortened my writing and diagrams became less neat.  And when I was down to the last 5 minutes I realised I hadn’t checked the last page on the reading time.  Bugger.  An easy mistake which could have cost me a few marks.  And in the last minute I tried to put something down on a couple of questions, hoping that something would be better than nothing.  Overall I think I left 2 questions unanswered and made more than a few silly mistakes. 

Going through my head later that day I knew I’d dropped points.  The 2 un-answered questions were 4 points alone.  But had I dropped more than 20 points?  My initial thoughts were that I didn’t do too badly.  I wasn’t confident that I’d easily passed but I didn’t think I’d definitely failed either.

Each question is worth 2 points therefore the total amount of points possible is 60, with 40 (60%) required for a pass and 48 (80%) required for a merit.  Some questions require a one word answer, some an explanation, some a diagram, and some required calculations.  And there was definitely a variety of questions.  Some were an easy 2 points; cardinal mark plus lights, for example, and some could have been worth 4 or 5 points; x depth y gas, END, EAD, show calculations.

On 3 October (2 days later) I found out my results:
· Medical; 9/12.
· Decompression; 9.7/12.
· Dive Planning and Techniques; 9.3/12.
· Equipment; 10.8/12.
· Seamanship and Weather; 5.7/12.
· Overall grade; 44.5/60 or 74.2%.  A pass.

Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the exact marking, and the chief examiner does not supply any further comments, but, I was happy with a pass.  Only 3.5 point / 6% off a merit, and as predicted, Seamanship and Weather was my weakest subject. 

Overall
After two passes and a merit I was awarded FCD number 975.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was presented my award at the 2016 BSAC Diving Conference.
 
And of the 6 successful candidates I was extremely surprised to be awarded the AP Diving Award – awarded for the most admirable performance in the First Class Diver exam.
 
I hope that the 3 blogs have been useful for anyone thinking about going for First Class Diver exam.  If you’re thinking about going for the exam and have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.

Safe diving!

Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI & SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: tim@rectotec.co.uk l