You have passed the BJCP Online Exam, now known as the “BJCP Entrance Exam.” What comes next? Now is the BJCP Tasting Exam, formally known as “The BJCP Beer Judging Examination.”
First, let me give you a little insight: The idea of the online Entrance Exam was to eliminate the bottleneck that existed in the original testing method. Since only 12 people could take the exam at any one time, it severely limited the pool of Certified Judges. It consisted of a written exam and a tasting exam given at the same time, and from all I have heard from those who took “the Legacy Exam,” it was pretty brutal.
To recap my earlier article on the BJCP Entrance Exam, you must take and pass the online Entrance Exam with a 70% or higher score to even qualify for the Tasting Exam. The trick is getting a Tasting Exam scheduled within a year of passing the Entrance Exam or you have to take and pass it again! What I did was something the BJCP official site tells you not to do: Schedule the Tasting Exam BEFORE you pass the online exam. Waiting lists are long! I emailed literally all over the USA trying to get one scheduled. Almost everywhere I emailed (most a year or more out) the seating was already backed up to 20 or more beyond the 12 seat limit. I got VERY lucky and found a seat in Utah, a 6 hour drive away from my home. I was one of the first 12 to schedule so my seat was practically insured if I could make the trip.
Two things you have to know: You must pay $40 in advance and you must show proof you passed the Entrance Exam. My Test Facilitator was set up with Pay-Pal so I was able to pay in advance online. The second item is proving you passed the Entrance Exam. When you pass the Entrance Exam, you are emailed a PDF file showing you passed the exam with a unique certificate number in the upper right hand corner. I was able to email that PDF file to the Facilitator to prove my passing, but it is still a good idea to take a copy with you to the exam location.
So the test itself went something like this:
My friend and I (who is already a Certified Judge seeking a Master rating with a high score) made it to the location a little early. We were the first to arrive but the Facilitator was already setting up. There were 2 tables, 6 chairs each. Bottled water and crackers (palette cleansers) were provided and already set out.
The Facilitators name was Kevin. We came in, introduced ourselves and shook hands. Kevin was a very nice and easy going person. I felt at ease right away. Remember, these people are all homebrewers. My experience with that is all homebrewers have a common bond of friendship and passion.
One by one people drifted in. Everyone was friendly, they introduced themselves and shook hands. The atmosphere was loose with just a touch of anticipation, maybe a little nervousness but everyone loosened up.
The two Proxy Judges came in last. They also introduced themselves and talked to us briefly as a group.
For those who don’t know how this works, there are two judges that have to be judges with National ratings or higher (or approved with waivers from the an Exam Director) that act as Proxy judges, that is they rate all the same beers the exam takers do. They ARE allowed to have access to the BJCP Guidelines where the exam takers are NOT allowed a copy of the Guidelines. It is their score of the beers that determines how your rating is graded. Not only are the overall scores taken into consideration, but if you perceived all or most of the same aromas and palette sensations that the Proxy Judges did.
There are 6 beers to rate. Now here is where it got tricky: According to the exam guidelines, there should be at least one “excellent (38-44) or outstanding (45-50) example of its style” In our case, none of the 6 were classic examples of anything! I will get to how I know that in a minute.
There is supposed to be an example across the ranges of Lagers (styles 1-5), Hybrids or German Wheat (styles 6, 7, 15), English or American Ales (styles 8, 10), Dark Ales (styles 9, 11-13), Belgian (styles 16-18), IPA and Strong (styles 14, 19). They did a pretty good job of going across style guidelines but as I said, none of them were even what I would call “very good.” Again I will get to how I know that later.
I kept looking for that “excellent example” right up to the end. The last beer was a sub-standard Wit. I rated it highest only because it was the best beer to be judged. I felt I was stretching it giving it a 38. I did only because it was the closest to an excellent beer. My gut told me to score it a 32.
There was also an American IPA with almost no hop presents, a Vienna Lager entered as a DoppleBock, an Oatmeal Stout with absolutely no oatmeal sensations, and a couple of other ho-hum beers that would not have scored well in any competition.
I was really worried that maybe I had blown the test because outside the 38 for the Wit, I scored everything else in the 20s. It was that bad.
After the exam, the Proxy Judges came in to talk to us. With all our tests turned in, we discussed the beers and to some degree, the scoring. One Proxy told us his highest score was a 32 which was awarded to the Wit. The rest were scored in the 20s by almost all of us.
I do not know how common it is to have the Proxies discuss the beers with the exam takers afterwards, but it sure made me, made us more happy about our scores.
As for the exam results: 16-20 weeks is common, some taking more time because they are scored by 3 separate Master Judges and the scores averaged to come up with the final score.
The BJCP Beer Judging Examination is 50% of your total rating score, so if you score 90% in tasting and 70% on Written Proficiency, your overall score would be 80%.
So there you have it in a nutshell: My experience taking the BJCP Beer Judging Examination.
The next step (one I will pursue) will be the BJCP Beer Judge Written Proficiency Examination. That is what you have to take to move up to a National, Master or higher rating. Of course I will write about that when I take the exam myself.
If you have questions or comments, log in and leave them in the “comments” box below or email me and I will answer and/or post them.
BJCP Tasting Exam
can be Made BY you!