Stage 2, Exam Week is Done.
This is not quite the full breakdown yet, I'm going to wait until they release the details for everyone.
So that’s done then. I’ve hopefully got a nice big weekly dollop of wine-talk over the summer coming up, because I’m switching off from study until then.
“How did the exams go?”
Fine. They went fine. I stuck to my plan, and pretty much everything went as expected. There was a sense of calm.
In theory, there were no disasters, I had enough to of an answer to enough of the theory questions in each exam. In fact, for a couple of the exams, without letting on too much, I wrote more than I thought I would in the time1. Who knows if that’s a good sign or not.
Same with practical, no disasters, I’ll take that. On the first two papers I ran out of time by about 2 minutes, so definitely dropped a few marks on getting the answers down in time, which I was frustrated by. The third paper was much better, finishing bang on time.
Timing issues could be because I knew so much about the first few wines I wrote too much, or that I didn’t have a clue what the wines were I spent too long tasting. Finishing on time could mean that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say, so who knows what means what.
Who knows what any of it means?
The intensity of 8 exams, 7 hours and 45 minutes, 13 long form essays and 36 wines tasted blind, in just 4 days is quite ridiculous when you think it through.
It’s even weirder to do it. Still, if you find out things about yourself in times of extreme pressure, then, turns out I like a routine.
Each morning I got up earlier than I needed to, 7:30am, headed out of the flat and got some coffee and breakfast in the sun near Russel Square. This place Fortitude Bakehouse, they had great coffee, but no Pain au Chocolate! So strange.
Then, back to my nice AirBnB flat, for some pre-exam calibration. I had six wines for each day, benchmarking. Paper 2 for example, I had an Italian pair, Barolo & Chianti, then a Shiraz pair, Barossa & Yellowtail, then old world / new world, Rhone & Malbec.
Then, to the exam room, loud music in my headphones, try not to talk to anyone, except for a few polite “Hi”s and “Hello”s. Then, to my table, my desk, as one MW said, my pilot’s cockpit, my place.
Break for lunch, lat bit of prep, go again. Find some dinner, read, read, read, go again. Bed. Wake up and go for breakfast at 7:30am.
Immediately after the last exam, there was an awkward sense of calm and relief. It was over, but it was very much not over. We’d finished for now.
We had beer in a busy Soho pub, some food, more wine.
The wait is until September 15th, and I’ve already booked a holiday for that week, I’ll be on the plane home the day I’m expecting the results.
There are plenty of potential outcomes, the golden ticket is to pass both Theory and Practical. You can delve into the numbers, but the broad pass rate is 65%, across each paper2, for each part. Not many people pass both parts, on the first attempt.
Next level is passing one section, resit the other. With Theory, you can get a Single Paper resit, if you do well enough in four of the five papers, and not quite there in the other. These are pretty rare. No such option in Practical.
If you fail both parts, then at that point, I’ll assess whether I’m going to go around again for 2024.
The plan for this summer.
The plan is to not to study. I’ve done enough of that for the year.
I’ll be at the vineyard a fair bit, as well as getting out and about with Flint over the summer. I’ll be doing some things for English Wine Week at Berry Bros & Rudd on St James’s in London, heading up to see Reserve Wines in Manchester, as well as doing something in the Foodie Tent at Latitude Festival.
The full questions are public later in June, and I’m planning to start a thread for a few of the theory topics. I’ll also go through what I thought each wine was and why. Could be good or bad for the stress levels, that.
Roughly, very roughly, the guidance says 900-1100 words, with no minimum or maximum. In general I wrote 1200 words for most of the 13 essay questions.
There are 3 Practical papers, and 5 Theory.