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So you want to take the BJCP online test and eventually become a BJCP Certified Judge!  What effect did the new online test (in theory to unstop the bottleneck) have on the test itself?  Did they dumb it down?  Is it any easier?  What can I expect when I take it?  These are some of the questions I will try to answer.

First lets look at the old BJCP written exam.

The original test (Legacy Exam) consisted of 20 true/false questions and 5 essay questions.  The test has been replaced by the Written Proficiency Exam for the next level of testing:  The National, Master, etc. rating for the BJCP.  That subject is for another article at a later time.

Now we can look at the new BJCP “Entrance Exam” as they are now calling it!

It costs $10 for each time you take the test online.  I will say this, it is not an easy or a dumbed down test.  It says right on the BJCP website “It is tough but fair.”  They offer, and I suggest that you go for the 3 for 2-deal offer.  That allows you to take the test 3 times for the price of 2 tests, $20.  It took me 2 of the 3 to pass it.  Even if you pass the first time, it only costs you an extra $10.  If you pass it the second time, you broke even with 1 to spare.

The test itself is a 200-question test.  Those 200 questions come from a pool of well over 500 (although the official number was never made public) questions and are filled in your test randomly.  If you take the test a second time, chances are you will only have a couple of questions that you had on your first attempt.  If you end up taking it a third time you will obviously start seeing some repeat questions.

The test is an “open book test” and you are “free to use your style guidelines” but bear this in mind, you have 60 minutes to do 200 questions.  That averages out to a question answered every 18 seconds to complete the test.  You really do not have time to reference anything more then a cheat sheet with your weakest points noted.  Mine was mashing temperatures.

The questions consist of 3 formats:  True/False, multiple choice, and multiple choice/multiple answer.  The tricky ones are the multiple choice/multiple answer.  If there are 3 of the 5 choices that are correct and you choose only 2 of the right answers, you miss the question.  All parts of the answer have to be in place for you to get credit.  The tricky part is that only one answer may be right.

You do have the option of “marking” questions so you can hit the SUMMARY button and return to it later to answer it with some thought.

What do you have to study to pass?  In a nutshell, EVERY ASPECT OF BREWING!  I am going to list what you need to know one at a time:

Brewing Process
BJCP Ranks
Judging Procedures.

Styles!  You have to know your styles cold!  You cannot half-study your way through this.  You have to know everything from ingredients to history, right down to the carbonation levels.

I will take this one step further.  You have to know the guidelines well enough to answer a question like this example:

21) Choose all that apply.  What characteristic do English Brown Mild and Brown Porter have in common?
a)   They are both in the same SRM range
b)   They are both carbonated in the medium low range
c)    They have the same basic hop profile
d)   They both finish with a roasty malt character
e)   They both have the same historical roots

Brewing Process! 

You will need to know mashing quiet well.  Almost everything you need to know is on this site, or will be soon now that I understand what all is being asked of you.  Know your mashing temperatures and what each step of mashing accomplishes.


I will soon do an article about yeast metabolism and how yeast works.  I covered the basics in Yeast 101 but I need to take it up a notch, and I will do that.

You will need to know water chemistry, at least to some degree.  For instance, “What flavors are brought out by water with high sulfates content?”


You will need to know about off flavors, their causes and how to cure them.  That too is on this site.

BJCP Ranks! 

Your rank is determined by both your exam score and your experience points. A judge with any passing score and fewer than 5 experience points receives the rank of Recognized. Judges with a score of 70 or above on the exam and who have accumulated at least 5 experience points receive the Certified rank. A score of 80 or above combined with 20 experience points provides the rank of National. Judges achieve Master status by scoring 90 or better and acquiring 40 experience points. In all cases, at least half the experience points for a given rank must come from judging.

There is also the Apprentice rank and several levels of Grand Master. Honorary ranks can be awarded; there are currently the Honorary Master and Honorary Grand Master ranks.

The Apprentice rank was created to encourage those who do not pass the exam to remain active with the program and to try the exam again in the future. Apprentice judges have two years to pass the exam or their status becomes Affiliated – a special type of Inactive status. Judges with this status must start over with examinations, starting with the online exam. The Judge ID and accumulated experience points are preserved, but the judge is not considered an Active BJCP member.

The rank of Honorary Master is temporarily bestowed on judges who serve as operatives of the program (Regional Director, Exam Director, Program Administrator, etc.) at their discretion for the duration of their service if they have not already earned at least the Master rank. The rank may also be awarded, in special cases, to judges who have demonstrated Master Judge proficiency but not necessarily taken the exam. This status is determined by the BJCP Board of Directors.

The rank of Grand Master can be earned by Master judges who volunteer service to the BJCP. Masters who accumulate at least 100 experience points (half from judging), who have graded at least 50 exams, and who have performed special services for the program (such as serving in staff positions, grading exams, or administering exams) are eligible for promotion to Grand Master I. The rank honors those individuals who give something extra of their time and effort and are extremely committed to the program. Additional Grand Master levels can be earned in 100 experience point increments with the same service, grading, and judging requirements as for the initial rank. The entire system is described in the Grand Master Service Requirements policy.

In 2005, the BJCP board created the Honorary Grand Master rank. This is a permanent rank bestowed upon individuals by the BJCP Board of Directors for extraordinarily long and meritorious service involving significant, meaningful and continuous work for the BJCP program. Individuals receiving this rank are authorized to wear and use the Grand Master pin and rank.

Mead Judge and Cider Judge ranks exist for the Mead Exam and the forthcoming Cider Exam. These ranks apply to judges who have taken the Mead and/or Cider Exam but not the Beer Exam. Existing BJCP judges who have passed the beer exam can earn the Mead Judge and Cider Judge endorsements on their record.

Judging Procedures!  

If you are judging and you detect a beer was entered in the incorrect style category, as a judge what is your recourse?  Do leaded pencils interfere with your ability to smell beers?  Can I come in to judge with a fresh cup of coffee in my hands?  You will need to know all of your responsibilities and what will be expected of you, along with the competition organizers, and the steward’s responsibilities.​

Tasting and Evaluating Beer!  Yes you even have to know this.  Do you know what the first thing is you need to do when you are evaluating beer?  What is the first thing to happen after you pour out that first ounce of beer?  I covered part of this, the basics anyway, in Tasting 101.  In the near future I will take this to the next level as well.

After it is over?  One thing about the online test, you know immediately if you passed or not.  If you failed, you will be given a list of things you need to study based on your incorrect answers.  Same if you pass but the list is shorter (duh)!  The only score you get is pass or fail.

You will be emailed a copy of your certificate or you can access it from the exam center.

What next?  THE TASTING EXAM!  The Exam Center recommends you schedule the tasting exam BEFORE you take the test, but the exam givers will tell you to pass the Entrance Exam (online exam) first.  Do what I did, tell your potential instructor that the backlog for the tasting test is so deep that your wait will be (potentially) beyond the year that you have to take the tasting exam after you pass the Entrance Exam.  Most will work with you on that.

My next article will be about the Tasting Exam next February after I pass it.  In the meantime, look for the content to be brought up a notch.

BJCP Part 1