Last Thursday, I finally took my Certified Specialist of Wine exam in Denver. The exam was scheduled to start at 9:30 am on the campus of Johnson and Wales University and last one hour. After some last-minute cramming of German and Italian wine regions and law, I arrived about 15 minutes early. I signed in and took a seat at a small table that had a series of glasses set up for the tasting portion of the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) exam. About 20 other people filled the other seats awaiting to take an exam as well. Most of my cohorts were also sitting for the CSW, but a handful were taking the CWE and the Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) exams.
The CSS is very similar to the CSW except it assesses knowledge of the major Spirit types and categories. The CWE is the SWE certification level above the CSW. In addition to an 85-question multiple-choice exam, CWE candidates must answer an essay question, complete two blind tastings; varietal wine identification and wine components and imbalances (faults), and must successfully demonstrate capability of presenting on a wine topic in front of a live audience. The CSW is a prerequisite for CWE candidates, and will be my next endeavor!
After a short explanation by the proctor, Terri Hamilton, we were given one hour to complete the exams. I made my way through by answer all the questions that I knew and marking the questions of which I was unsure. After about 20 minutes, I had made it through all 100 questions. I went back and counted 12 questions that I had marked. Needing only 75/100 to pass the exam, I went through these remained questions with the confidence of not needed to answer them all correctly! Just after the 30-minute mark, I gathered my belongings and turned in my exam and answer sheet. Many of the questions on the exam I had seen before in the online Wine Academy offered jointly by SWE and E&J Gallo Winery. The CSW Study Guide alone did not provide all of the information on the actual exam. If you plan on taking the CSW or CWE exams, I highly recommend paying for use of the online Wine Academy as you prepare.
Before I left the exam room, I made a mental note of about 10 questions I was unsure of and found the correct answers when I returned home. I answered half of them correctly and half incorrectly and feel even more confident with the outcome. If I were to guess my score, I would have to estimate 90 +/- 3. In any case, I have 6-8 weeks to wait until the results are tabulated and returned. I will post the results when I get them!