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Study Tips For Your WSET Exam

last updated: 23 June 2023
4 minute read

This blog post is going to focus mainly on study for your WSET Level 2 Award in Wines exam. As Level 1 is usually one day there’s not a lot of take home advice I can give you. And much of what applies to Level 2 will also apply to Level 3. Please do bear in mind that Level 3 is considerably more work than Level 2 … and budget your time accordingly.

My first piece of advice, is to listen ACTIVELY during class. Make notes, ask questions. If you’re tired or distracted by your phone (or work) you’re not getting as much out of the class as you could!

The other BIG piece of advice I give my students is to know what is RED and what is WHITE. This might sound ridiculous (it won’t, by the time you hit the Italian varieties), knowing instantly that a Pommard is red or a Gavi is white is probably going to help you eliminate incorrect answers in the exam. Even if you know nothing else about Gavi (for example) there’s a good chance you’ll be increasing the odds of picking the correct answer from one in four to just one in two!

The WSET issues a formal course specification for each level of study – make use of it! It’s linked to on the course page and you’ll have been sent a link to it at least twice. There’s a reason for that! The course spec is almost like the course but in dot point form. It will help you make sure you’ve covered everything and it’s great for getting non-wine-loving friends and partners to quiz you on your knowledge.

At Level 2 the course spec is the course’s bare bones, the work we do in the classroom (so while you’re using the workbook) puts flesh on that and the text book is the fancy outfit (if you will). I appreciate there’s quite a lot of rote learning at Level 2 – and there’s no way to escape that – but take comfort in the fact that you don’t need to know how to spell or pronounce any of the European place names, labelling terms etc. You really just need to be able to recognise them on the paper.

DO NOT underestimate the power of pen and paper. Research is increasingly revealing that writing stuff down old-school lodges that information in our heads far better than tapping away on a tablet or computer. So I really encourage you to crack out the index cards, write notes, draw mind-maps … One suggestion I give in class is to create matrix (fancy word for large piece of paper with a grid on it) and fill it out with grape varieties. You can then add in things like the colour, the regions in which a grape variety is grown and key structural characteristics. On review, you’ll note that a grape variety might not have anything written for tannin (say) – in which case, that’s an indication that you should go back and check the spec, textbook and workbook. It’s possible that tannin isn’t a key characteristic for this grape – so once you’ve double checked, you can put a cross through the box. Depending on the time available to you, it’s worth taking this matrix approach from a couple of different directions.

In the run up to the exam, focus your energies on these activities. You can spend hours trawling the web for quizzes or watching videos but neither of those will help you retain information. Remember that the WSET courses do change over time and you’ll never know how accurate the random quiz you’ve found is, and whether or not it’s suitable for the current version of the course.

And last of all, on exam day, take a deep breath and remember to READ THE QUESTION! But not just the question … the question and all the answers. Eliminate the ones you know are definitely wrong and if you still don’t have the answer, continue reading through the exam. Sometimes, allow the question to percolate a little will mean that when you come back to it the answer is obvious!

If you have an amazing study tip you’d like to share, please comment below – and I’ll update this post as appropriate!