WSET Level 3 Advanced Certificate Exam
The exam for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Advanced Course consists of two parts (described in greater detail below):
- A blind tasting paper
- Candidates use the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting to describe and identify two wines (one red and one white) and estimate their commercial value
- To be completed in 30 minutes
- For each wine a total score of 25 points is possible (50 points for the two wines):
- Nose, 3 points
- Appearance, 5 points
- Palate, 10 points
- Conclusion, 3 points
- Wine identity, 2 points
- Wine price, 2 points
- Passing grade is 55% (28 points out of 50)
- A theory paper
- 50 multiple choice questions, worth 50 points
- 4 short answer questions, worth 24 points each
- one short-answer question on the responsible use of alcohol, worth 4 points
- You will have one hour, 45 minutes to complete the theory paper and can use your time as you wish; if you finish the multiple choice segment quickly you can use more time on the short answer questions.
- Passing grade is 55%
The tasting exam and written exam are marked and passed or failed separately. The passing percentage for each is 55%. If you pass one part, you keep that pass indefinitely, and can re-take the failed part at any time in the future.
Pass, Merit, and Distinction
The WSET Level 3 Award issued for successful completion of the Advanced Course Exam will be annotated either "Pass" (55% to 64.9%), "Pass With Merit" (65%-79.9%), or "Pass With Distinction" (80% or higher). Someone who initially fails one of the parts of the exam can earn no higher than "Pass With Merit," no matter how high a score (s)he achieves in eventually passing the previously failed part.
Blind Tasting Paper : Expectations and Evaluation
From neutral bottles you will be given one white wine and one red wine, and asked to write descriptions following the WSET Systematic Approach, which you should know thoroughly if you have been attending classes (either in person or online). Under appearance, for example, you would need to describe the wine's clarity, intensity, color and any other observations, such as rim vs. core. Continuing with the nose and palate, you would need to accurately describe all four of the aroma description categories and all eight of the palate description categories to get the maximum number of marks for each. Additional points are available for identifying what the wine is and its approximate retail value.
Who will decide whether a description is right or wrong? Shortly before the exam is scheduled to begin, one or more "Internal Assessors" (there are six of them locally) will taste the same wines from the same bottles and create marking keys, which they will use to grade student papers. Then the marking keys and student papers will be sent to the WSET whose examiners will verify a portion of all graded tasting papers to make sure that they are "valid, authentic, consistent and sufficient," verifying that the marks given to a candidate's paper reflect its congruence with or deviation from the marking key. The wines for each exam will be from a list supplied by the WSET, so they will have prior familiarity with the wine and how it should have been described.
Does this seem intimidating? If you have been using the WSET Systematic approach during class or while you study independently, you should be able to get a passing score. Remember, you only need 28 marks out of a possible 50. For each wine you can get up to 21 of the possible 25 marks just by describing the wine in your glass. And the other four marks? You can get two marks for correctly identifying the type of wine and two marks for identifying its price category. You need not pluck the wine type and price range out of thin air. A sample exam question that the WSET issues gave you a multiple choice of Beaujolais, Barolo, and Australian Shiraz, three wines that are different enough that most people should get the type of wine correct. And the price bands were wide: "low-priced" (under $10); "mid-priced" ($10-$20); "high-priced" ($20-$30); and "premium" (over $30).
Theory Paper : Multiple Choice Questions
The following multiple-choice questions are typical of those that often appear in the Advanced Exam theory paper.
What is the principal grape variety in Rose d'Anjou?
d) Cab. Franc
Which one of the following is an example of a low- trained, cane-pruned system of vine
c) Lenz Moser
Which of these villages is in the Grand Champagne district?
Where is the Aconcagua Valley?
Answers for the above questions are [ b, a, c, b]. Highlight inside the brackets to see the answers.
Theory Paper: Short Answer Questions
The WSET has released two sample questions representative of the types of questions included in the 24-point short answer questions. (The four-point responsible-use-of-alcohol question is generally common sense).
The first question shows a replica of the label of a 1989 Rheingau Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken. Here is what you are asked to provide, followed by (in parentheses) the maximum number of points available (total of 25 points).
- Grape variety (1)
- Flavor characteristics (4)
- Pradikatswein Category (1)
- Influence of category on style (4)
- Region of production (1)
- General characteristic of wines from the region (4)
- A brief "tasting note," with 2 possible marks for appearance, 3 for nose, and 5 for palate.
An answer which would garner all available marks (25), following the category sequences listed above, would be:
- Riesling (1)
- Produces white wines with high acidity and floral or petrol aromas, fresh apple, citrus, mineral and peach flavors (4)
- Spätlese (1)
- A quality category given to wines in Germany, which are made from late harvest grapes which have extra ripeness and sugar levels giving extra flavor to the wine (4)
- Rheingau (1)
- One of the classic regions for quality Riesling wines, which are considered elegant with fuller body and rich fruit character (4)
- "Tasting note":
- Appearance: deep yellow or gold due to maturity of the wine (2)
- Nose, mention of petrol due to the maturity of the wine from the 1989 vintage (3)
- Palate, off dry (Halbtrocken on label), crisp acidity, light/medium bodied, (Spätlese on label), mineral and peach flavors, light alcohol and good length (based on the grape variety, vintage and alcohol level on the label) (5)
To get a passing grade for that particular question, you would need 55% of the available 24 marks, or 13.5 marks. But, please don't feel intimidated. You would get 3 marks just for copying “riesling,” “Rheingau,” and “Spätlese” from the label; and, assuming you have tasted a mature German Riesling (usually poured during the German class) you should get close to the available total of 10 marks for the "tasting note."
And, of course, this is just one of four questions within this segment, so you could get, say, only 10 points and earn the other points you need from other parts of the theory exam.
Here is the second sample question:
A customer who regularly purchases classic French wines requests New World alternatives. Recommend a suitable New World wine as a substitute for the following wines, stating reasons for the selections.
The five French wines are Pouilly-Fume, Côte Rôtie, Saint Emilion, Margaux, and Chablis. For each, you could get up to 2 marks for identifying a correct New World wine type and up to 3 points for your rationale, for a possible total of 24 points.
As with the first question, here are suggested answers that would earn the maximum available (24) marks.
- For Pouilly Fume, the New World substitute could be either California Fume Blanc, South African or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, or any New World Sauvignon Blanc; rationale- same grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc, grown or vinified in such a way to enhance the "gunflint" character of the Loire classic.
- For Côte Rôtie, either Australian Shiraz, California Syrah, or any New World Shiraz or Syrah, possibly with a small proportion of aromatic white (e.g. Viognier)
- For Saint Emilion, either Chilean Merlot, South African or California Merlot, or any New World "Bordeaux blend" with a high proportion of Merlot; rationale- same grape variety (Merlot), wine grown and/or vinified in such a way to mimic the velvety, plummy right bank Bordeaux classic.
- For Margaux, either California Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentinian or Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, or any New World "Bordeaux blend" with a high proportion of Cabernet; rationale- same grape variety (Cabernet Sauvignon), wine grown and/or vinified in such a way to mimic the firm, robust yet aromatic left bank Bordeaux classic.
- For Chablis, unoaked Chardonnay from Italy, Calif., Australia, New Zealand, or any New World unoaked Chardonnay; rationale- same grape variety (Chardonnay), wine grown and/or vinified in such a way as to mimic the steely, mineral-infused northern Burgundy classic.
You would need enough marks from this question so that, when they are added to your totals for the other short answer questions and the multiple choice questions they total 83 (55% of the 150 total for the 50 multiple choice questions, the four 24-point questions and the 4 point short answer question).