By DANIEL J. LEONARD
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably interested in becoming a BJCP beer judge, but in order to do that, you first have to pass the online BJCP Entrance Exam. And yes, the rumors are true… The online Entrance Exam isn’t easy, not even for seasoned homebrewers.
So let’s cut to the chase: The goal of this tutorial is to provide you with a realistic expectation of what the BJCP Online Exam is like, and to arm you with the most relevant and effective tools (particularly the Beer Style Compare-O-Matic) that you’ll need to pass the online BJCP Entrance Exam.
We've even created a free 30 question BJCP Entrance Exam Mock Practice Test so that you can get a sense of what the actual BJCP Entrance Exam is like.
We’ll also chat about some critical test taking strategies specific to the online BJCP Entrance Exam with the aim of increasing your odds of passing the exam on your first attempt.
What’s the Online 2015 BJCP Entrance Exam Like?
Here are the facts: The cost of the exam is $10 per attempt, or $20 for three attempts.
There are 180 questions on the online exam, to be answered in 60 minutes. That gives you an average of about 20 seconds per question (I know, that's some pretty fancy math. I knew that class in vector calculus would pay off...). Once the test has begun, you’ll notice a countdown timer indicating how much time you have remaining. Needless to say, the pace of the exam is rather brisk.
The content of the questions is primarily comprised of:
1. The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines [approx. 50-70% of the exam]
2. Brewing knowledge (possible causes of faults in beer, brewing processes, and brewing ingredients)
3. The BJCP program (judging procedures and ethics)
There are three types of questions on the exam: (1) true-false, (2) multiple-choice, and (3) multiple-choice/multiple-answer.
You probably have a good idea about what true-false and multiple-choice questions are like, however a “multiple-choice/multiple-answer” type of question is one where there can be one or more correct answers to a question (but there is always at least one correct answer). For example:
Choose all that apply: Which of the following characteristics are appropriate for Scottish Export ale?
A) Peat smoke.
B) Medium-low to medium body.
C) Caramel overtones.
D) Roasty malt.
E) No to low hop flavor.
[Answer: B, C, E. Sorry, no partial credit is given for incomplete answers.]
There are five questions on each page of the exam, and you may need to scroll down to access the fourth and fifth questions. You also have the option to mark any given question for later review. (See sample screen shot below.)
Immediately after submitting your answers, you’ll be notified whether or not you passed the exam (no numerical score is given). Whether you pass or fail, you will be given an “Exam Report” which identifies the topic areas where you scored below the passing standard, and you’ll also be sent an e-mail message summarizing your performance.
If you fail, keep in mind that the questions on the online exam are randomly selected from a large pool of questions, so it is extremely unlikely that any two examinations will be the same. In other words, if you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt, it won’t necessarily help to focus only on studying for the questions you remember from the exam. However, after this guide, one attempt may be all you need.
If you pass, you’ll be emailed a certificate with your name and the date that you passed the Entrance Exam. After passing the online Entrance Exam, you are considered a provisional judge and you have up to one year to complete the BJCP Beer Judging Exam (tasting exam), otherwise you will have to retake the online Entrance Exam. That said, the BJCP has indicated that there is a high demand of people wishing to take the tasting exam and in some cases not enough graders. As a result, there may be instances where more than a year has passed after having successfully passed the online Entrance Exam. If you find yourself in this situation, reach out to the BJCP to make the appropriate arrangements.
6 Critical Tips for Passing the Online Entrance Exam
Now that you know what the online BJCP exam is like, let’s talk about how to optimize your study time and test taking strategies.
1. Study Smart
If you review the BJCP Study Guide (which you should do thoroughly), you’ll notice that the BJCP provides a laundry list of beer and brewing books for recommended reading. While reading all of those resources stands to increase your overall knowledge thereby potentially making you a better BJCP judge, they are not necessary to pass the BJCP Entrance Exam.
The truth is that it is possible to pass the BJCP by studying only two things closely:
Does this mean that you need to memorize all 93 pages of the Style Guidelines and all 66 pages of the Study Guide? In a word, no; especially considering that the BJCP allows for the use of the Style Guidelines and other resources while taking the online exam. Which brings us to the next strategy…
2. Choose your Resources Carefully
For those of you wondering about the BJCP’s position concerning the use of various resources during the online Entrance Exam, here’s a quick note from the BJCP on the subject:
“This exam is implicitly open-book, which means that it is permissible to use the 2015 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines or other references as a sanity check or to resolve differences or similarities between styles. However, this does not compensate for lack of knowledge since it will be difficult to complete the exam if significant time is spent accessing and reading the references.”
The BJCP is certainly right about one thing: you will not have time to look up the correct answer for every question on the exam (unless you’re some sort of beer-obsessed supercomputer). And frantically scrambling through a cluttered up computer screen with a dozen different webpages that may or may not be relevant will only shave more time off an exam where every second counts.
With that in mind, if we could only choose three resources for taking the BJCP, it would be these:
When it comes to the BJCP online Entrance Exam, the resources above are more useful than any book you could have, and (at the risk of offending Larry Page and Sergey Brin) are even more useful than Google.
So let’s talk briefly about why those things are the most useful.
The Beer Style Compare-O-Matic
Keep in mind that about 50-60% (or more) of the questions on the online exam deal with information found on the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines, often times requiring you to accurately identify very specific details about two different beer styles. The Compare-O-Matic allows you to quickly isolate any two (or three) of the 2015 BJCP beer styles for immediate comparison, with key terms highlighted for easy use. Compare that to going back and forth on the 93 page BJCP Style Guidelines document to try to identify minor details about two different beer styles under time pressure.
For example, consider the following question which is similar to those you will find on the actual BJCP Entrance Exam:
True or False:
The color of an IPA ranges from medium gold to light reddish amber, while an American Pale Ale ranges from pale golden to light amber.
Go take a few minutes and check your answer using the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines. We’ll wait.
Or, find the answer in a matter of seconds using the Beer Stytle Compare-O-Matic. [Screen shot below.]
The Compare-O-Matic is seriously effective and ridiculously easy to use. Oh yeah, and it’s free.
Of course, it’s important that you spend some time practicing using the Compare-O-Matic to become comfortable with quickly finding and comparing beer styles. To that end, we’ve developed a free 30 question BJCP Entrance Exam Mock Practice Test so that can you can get a feel for what the actual BJCP Entrance Exam is like and also get a chance to apply some of the things we cover in this tutorial especially playing around with the Compare-O-Matic to see why it’s so incredibly useful.
The 2015 BJCP Study Guide: About 30-40% of the Entrance Exam deals with information found on the BJCP Study Guide, so naturally it makes sense to have that document up for a quick reference. We can’t overemphasis that it is very important that you have prepared by carefully reading the entire study guide prior to taking the online exam so that you only need to double check things that you’re uncertain about.
The two major areas to focus on in the study guide are (1) information from the BJCP Judging Procedures Manual or all of the true-false questions beginning on page 18 of the BJCP Study Guide, and (2) the section on troubleshooting beer flaws beginning on page 59 of the Study Guide. But again, it is absolutely in your best interests to read the ENTIRE study guide and have a fairly good understanding and recollection of that material prior to taking the exam.
A Second Computer Monitor: Tiny smart phone screens are great for portability, straining your eyes and fooling around on Instagram, but not so good for taking an intense one hour exam that practically demands you have multiple webpages up at once. Two computer monitors allows you to have the exam up on one monitor and your references up on the other. Constantly toggling between screens on one single monitor only adds more stress to an already stressful exam, so if possible, strongly consider using two monitors when taking the exam.
3. Monitoring Your Pace: A Balanced Approach
Given that you have 60 minutes to answer 180 questions on the BJCP online Entrance Exam, that gives you about 20 seconds per question. Of course, how you choose to monitor your pace is up to you. Not paying any attention to the clock could leave you in a situation where you only have 5 minutes left and 100 more questions to go. That’s a bad place to be. On the other hand, being too time-conscious and staring at the clock every minute can be distracting and add to your stress, so we recommend a more balanced approach.
Consider checking your pace every 15 minutes, or at least once you’ve reached the 30 minute mark. For example, you should have completed about 45 questions when you have 45 minutes remaining, 90 questions answered when you reach the 30 minute mark, and 135 questions completed with 15 minutes remaining.
Again, at the very least, make sure that you’ve got about 90 questions completed when you hit the 30 minute mark. If you’re only on question 70 after 30 minutes have passed, stop spending so much time on each question, get into focus-mode, crank up the adrenaline, and pick up the pace.
4. Pick Your Battles
The fact is you will find some questions on the Entrance Exam easier than others. And in a situation where you have to take an educated guess on a tough question, your odds of getting it right are better on a true-or-false type question than on a multiple-choice question or multiple-choice/multiple-answer type of question. Remember, a true-or-false question that you spend 20 seconds on is worth the same amount of points as a complex multiple-choice/multiple-answer question that you spend two minutes on. In other words, pick your battles and manage your time wisely.
5. Don’t Leave Questions Unanswered
Maybe this goes without saying, but… even though you have the option to mark any question on the exam for review later on, and you might be tempted to just mark the difficult questions, skip them, and return to answer them later on... DON’T fall for that trap.
The reason is simple: if you run out of time before you get a chance to go back and answer the questions that you skipped, you’re guaranteed to get the questions that you didn’t answer wrong. The better strategy is to just answer every question the best you can as you go along, and only mark those questions that you have answered but are unsure about.
That way, if you have time to go back and review those tricky questions at the end of the exam, great, but if you run out of time, then at least you still have a chance of getting those difficult questions right. Just remember, you’re guaranteed to get an unanswered question wrong.
6. Take the free BJCP Online Practice Exam
The BJCP has put together a free 20 question Practice Entrance Exam to give you a pretty good feel for what the actual exam is like. And in case you missed it, make sure you've done the free 30 question BJCP Entrance Exam Mock Practice Test as well.
We hope you found this tutorial useful in preparing for the BJCP Entrance Exam.
***Coming soon: How to Pass the Online BJCP Tasting Exam***
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