When I first took the BJCP exam, it was 2005 so I took the legacy version of the exam. This was the written and tasting together and there was no Entrance Exam. My experience with the online exam was strictly based on the info on the BJCP website. I knew the question pool was roughly 2,000 questions (true/false, Multiple Choice, Choose all that Apply (AKA Multiple Choice Multiple Answer), etc), and your actual exam was a randomly selected 200 questions from this pool. So the chances of any 2 exams having all the same questions is slim to none. You have 60 minutes to complete the exam. But since I was teaching a BICEP/BJCP Prep course I felt I needed to become familiar with the entrance exam to help answer questions with actual experience of the exam was like. The bottom line, is it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Coming from the legacy era, I admit when I heard about the online multiple choice I was less than enthused. After all, there BJCP is full of judges who just don’t care and quite frankly do not do a good job. There are plenty of good and great judges as well, but the bad apples are what word spreads about. So a multiple choice exam, in my eyes was going to saturate the judging pool with sub-par judges. I admit, I was wrong. The test is tough, and even with the ability to research answers during the test, the time limit makes it so as that if you don’t know the material at all, you will not pass. That is plain simple truth. There is no time to research on the fly much more than 1 answer per page on average. The addition of “Choose all that apply” options makes the test even more challenging. and on my test there were many “choose all that apply” questions. There is just not enough time for a person to look up that many options. SO the bottom line is even if you look up some answers, if you don’t know the material you will not pass. But here are some tips to help you get the edge by utilizing your time and taking advantage of the open book format. Is it cheating? Some may think so, but I thought the test was challenging enough that it was obvious that if you need to research more 1/4 of the answers, there is no way you will have time to accomplish that and there is no way you will pass. But looking up a questions here and there is a way to edge yourself into the Judging exam, which is another step that if you don’t know your stuff. You will not do well. There is no use of the guidelines or anything in the judging exam. These are the tips I will be giving our BJCP Prep Course students to help them pass the entrance exam.
- Manage your time properly: In the upper left corner is a timer letting you know you much time you have left. You know you are ahead of the game if you are completing these timelines. You on or past question 50 with 45 minutes left in the exam, you are on or past question 100 with 30 minute left, you are on or past question 150 with 15 minutes left. As a whole you have 18 seconds per question. So don’t linger too long on on a single question.Keeping track of time is paramount because you don’t want to come up in the end with unanswered questions. The test is fairly fast paced, but if you are prepared properly at least half of the questions you should be able to answer in under 10 seconds.
- If you have any major stumpers, Answer it the best you can and write that number down on a piece of scratch paper, or better yet use the “Mark” feature on the test (Pictured below). If you are unsure of a question, you can click the “mark” star next to the question. Then when you finish and hit your summary page, you can click the numbers that have an asterisk next to them and go back to them. If you have extra time remaining at the end of the test you can go back to it through the summary page. You can also jump back to the summary page at any time. This will be most useful at the end, when you only have a few minutes left and you want to go back and review the tougher questions. Just review the question, finalize your answer, then click “summary” and it will take you back there. In the summary page, you will also see any unanswered questions in red.
- While you cannot use the guidelines in the written or tasting exam, there is nothing preventing you from using the guidelines during the entrance exam. Is it cheating to do so? Not really in my opinion. If you have zero knowledge about the material you need to know, you will not pass regardless. My point of view is that you will not have time to look up every style answer in the exam. You NEED to have knowledge of styles to pass but looking up a few answers will give you the edge to pass, but not have any real impact on your overall knowledge. A good example of what I mean are SG, FG, IBU, and color ranges. Some people just are not good at numbers. You will find some of these on the test. Knowing where to find that info in the guidelines quickly can help you. Personally I don’t feel you are a poor judge if you can’t remember the exact IBU range of an English IPA, but if you know how to find that info quickly if you need to, that’s good. Looking it up on the entrance exam really doesn’t impact your overall quality. After all, if you can do it quickly enough, it proves you know how to use the guidelines as reference, which is what you do in competition. An easy way to accomplish this, is if you have dual screens on your computer, you can have the exam on one screen and the BJCP Online guidelines on the other screen. You could also have them open in separate tabs in your browser. I really need to stress that you cannot become reliant on this method for every question. You will run out of time, I promise you that. Use this only as a quick reference for specific stylistic questions. If you try to use Google for other research, you will run out of time on the exam. As I keep saying, if you have not prepared well for the exam, you will not have time to search for every answer.
- Use your summary page wisely. Not only can you go forward and backward on the test, but at the end there is a summary page. This summary page will highlight the question number in red of any questions you may not have answered. If you followed my suggestions above, you may be done with the test but you have several questions marked for review that may have really stumped you. You also have been paying attention to your time so you know exactly how much time you have left in your test, let’s say 5 minutes. Use that time to go back to that question and review your answer to be sure it’s right. Research it if you are able.
- You do not get bonus points for finishing early, so use the whole hour. This may sound redundant from the last tip, but just don’t be over confident and rush through the test. Utilize every second and don’t submit the test until you have less than a minute remaining. Us any extra time to review the harder questions and be sure you are fully ready to click that submit button.
Watch the wording of a question. I did notice there are few questions that try to trick you by technically being correct, but there are absolutes in there that can make the answer wrong. They are relying on the fact you may be pressed for time and a bit stressed. For example, below the statement is technically true. Except that chlorinated sanitizing agents are not the only cause of chlorophenols. Non-filtered city water can be a cause as well for example.
The exam is simply pass/fail. You will not get a score, but will find out right away if you passed or failed. Either way you will also get a list of items you were weak on, so some things to focus on for next time. Below is what the pass/fail screen looks like. There is a link to print off your certification that you will need to bring with you to take your tasting exam. Good Luck!
So there are 5 tips for passing the entrance exam. Remember, the BJCP knows that people will use the internet to research answers. This was known when they did the online at home format, I could be wrong but I think I heard that on an Interview with Gordon Strong. That is why there is so little time per question, so people can’t research their way through the test. As a matter of fact, if you take the survey after the exam, one of the questions they ask is this (Yes, I noticed the typo too).
Don’t let others shame you by saying that looking up answers was unethical or cheating. If they refused to use all the tools at their disposal in order to pass, that’s their own fault. In a timed open book format….which essentially this is, you can look up answers but the number of answers you have time to look up is limited. I know I keep saying that, but I want to stress to someone who thinks they will just take the test and look up everything, you will waste your money. You still need to know a bulk of the material to finish in time. Plus let’s just say for some reason you come up with a lightening fast research process and you are able to look up every answer and every option in the “choose all that apply” questions. If you don’t have the styles fairly well memorized, you will not do well in the tasting exam anyway. So you are not doing yourself a service by ignoring the studying you need to do anyway. Your lack of knowledge will show in the closed book, tasting exam.