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Preparing for the WSET Exam: Things To Do

Lately, I have received many questions about how to study for the WSET exams for Levels 1 and 2. Rather than create two blogs to address this, I will do one. My approach to studying for the exam was the same for both. Below, I have nine tips to help you get started.

1. Determine if you have the time to take the exam.

First and foremost, look at your schedule and be sure you can add the course and the suggested study hours to your schedule. If you have a busy schedule, this may not be the time to take the course, let alone the exam. I don't know about you, but I am the all or nothing type. I don't want to take the exam for the bragging rights that I barely passed; I want to take the exam, and be able to demonstrate I know my stuff!

2. Review the Specifications Guide for your level.

The Specifications are your guide to passing the exam. It lists the learning outcomes (which are essentially the material you need know and what you will be tested on).  The learning outcomes can help you plan your studies, as the examination is designed to test these outcomes. So, don't just glance at the specifications, read them! Once, to familiarize yourself with the topics, twice or more, to set up your game plan for acing the exam. I have linked the specifications below:

WSET Level 1 Award in Wines

WSET Level 2 Award in Wines

WSET Level 3 Award in Wines

WSET Level 4 Award in Wines

3. Read your textbook and use your workbook!

Easier said than done, right? Well, trust me on this one. You will need to read. The good thing is the exam is based on the material covered in your textbook and workbook. You do not need any other books, maps, etc. other than what the WSET provided you with. Read the textbook. It was written in an easy to understand format and the material IS interesting. Afterwards, use the workbook to help reinforce the material you were presented with. I liked using my workbook during my personal study hours to review the material presented in class and in the book. Since I did not have to give the book back, I marked my book up! Yes, I covered each page in pretty multi-colored notes that helped me recall information. I did this for both Level 1 and Level 2.

4. Commit the time to study.

As I stated in tip number 1, you will need to study. For Level 1, the Total Qualification Time (TQT) is 6 hours, and this is all Guided Learning Hours (GLH). That is, tutored supervised hours. For Level 2, you will need to dedicate a total of 28 hours to study of which 11 hours are private study all on you. Eleven hours may sound easy, but some struggle with time commitment. 

5. Make up practice quizzes and exams to help you review.

I find that creating practice exams and quizzes help me review for the exam. Usually, I will go through the textbook after my first reading and then begin to construct questions based on the information presented. The exam is multiple choice for Levels 1 & 2 and part of Level 3. Your Approved Program Provider  (APP) may also provide you with sample exam/ quizzes. Don't collect these exams, use them! You will find them to be very helpful. Before I forget, for Level 2, there is a sample exam at the back of the book. 

6. Make charts and/or notecards to help you commit details to memory.

Some students like notecards. It's not really my thing, but on occasion, I have made up a card or two to capture quick facts. I like charts. I am a visual learner, so colors, and boxes, lines, stick figures and diagrams are my thing. Whatever you choose, create something that will help you retain information- and not waste your time. The notecards will be a bust, if you don't put them to use.

7. Be able to discuss topics in layman terms (not textbook verbatim).

This point is very important. When studying the material, do not go on a memorization spree. One, it won't work and two, you will only frustrate yourself. Read the material, process the information and then try and explain the topic as if you were explaining it to a customer, your friends, or even a 10- year old.  Can you comfortably discuss why a Chardonnay from Napa Valley would taste different from a Chablis? Can you discuss why certain wines age more successfully than others? 

I find that if I am able to explain or describe specific topics, it demonstrates my understanding of the material. This also goes without saying, study to know the material, not just to pass the exam. If you are studying to pass the exam, none of what you are reading will make sense. Process the information knowing that you will utilize it later. 

8. Taste the wine you are learning about.

Tasting the wine helps you put things in perspective. When I taste a wine and I immediately smell that odor of petroleum, I know that wine must be a Riesling as that is a characteristic of a mature Riesling. I delight in comparing a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a Sancerre or a Pouilly-Fume. Tasting is like the equivalent of "seeing is believing". You can take what you have read and apply it.

9. Stay positive.

Heed the following advice: STAY POSITIVE! Nothing good came out of worrying. If you honestly put in the work studying, the exam is the least of your worries. Seriously. Each time I took the exam, my biggest fear was my camera shutting down, or  blinking my eyes in a manner that would be perceived as cheating by the test monitor (I had to take the online exam). 

I hope these tips help. If you have any questions. Don't hesitate to email me or leave a comment. I may work on another blog where I create a sample quiz for Level 1 and Level 2 to help you prepare for the exam. If you are interested, let me know.

Until next time,



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