Tag Archives: MW exam

Insanity is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over…

One of the most common questions that I have encountered over the past few weeks is “What did you change?”  What did I do differently this time that I didn’t do the other 5 times that I sat the exam.  It’s hard to pinpoint an exact one or two things.  In truth, I changed a whole lot about what I was doing, however it’s hard to say if changing these things would have made a difference if I hadn’t done the other things that didn’t work the first 5 times.

Anyway, here are the things that I thought made the most difference.

I went all in. I said to myself “I am NOT doing this again!”

Having multiple attempts gives one a certain level of comfort.  You end up mentally saying to yourself “Well, I’m going to give it everything but at least I have X more attempts if I don’t pass.”  As soon as you start to mentally say “if I don’t pass” you are not going to.  I went into this year with the personal objective of all or nothing.  If I only passed half, I still was done.  There would be no more attempts.   This personal goal gave me extra urgency to get it done in one shot.

I changed Mentors

I have been fortunate to consider many MW’s my mentors even beyond the formal “mentor program”.  This year I was taken under the wing of DC Flynt, who whipped me not just into tasting shape but SUPER READY, EVERY POINT COUNTS, DON’T THINK THAT EVEN A TINY SLIP WILL GET YOU BY tasting shape.  He nit-picked every word, phrasing, and structure of my answers.  I didn’t do more tasting than I did in previous years but the tasting that I did was far more highly scrutinized to the point where my answers were scalpel sharp and short.  Get in, get points, get out.  Done.

I gave up doing Theory Essays

Now don’t for one second think that you can come into this program and not write a single essay and pass the theory on your first try.  You can’t, so don’t think that is what I’m saying.  I wrote essays for EVERY SINGLE QUESTION from the exams 2000-2011 during my first few attempts and I passed in 2012.  The fish bowl technique is fantastic for getting to know what you need to know.  I just was at the point this year where I knew I could hammer out an essay in the time limit easily if I had a great mind map.  I wrote the three or four required essays for the formal Assignment Marking Scheme but that was it.  Everything else was was mind mapping.  I fishbowled the questions from 2012-2015 and mind mapped like crazy.  No essays.  You cover more ground in a shorter amount of time and I was able to go into the exam ready to cover whatever they could throw at me.

I was Hypnotized

No Really!  I was!  I went to a Hypnotist at ROC Hypnosis (See her website here) and she helped me understand what was holding me back mentally.  It took two sessions which were incredibly enlightening and relaxing.  She asked me questions like “What would be the worst thing that happened to you if you passed?” I had never contemplated that before and it opened up some mental blocks that I had put on myself that I had never thought of.  I was able to mentally let go of all the stress and worry that was holding me back.  It was incredible and I highly recommend it.

I Prayed

LOTS!  I am a Christian and I believe in the power of prayer so I spent two hours in the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church the Monday before the exam.  I attended mass, sat and meditated, read scripture, and even prayed to St Rita, Patroness of Impossible Causes, because I knew I could not accomplish this task on my own. I am not Catholic but this particular day it felt right like the right place to be.  Now I’m sure there are some who will read this who don’t believe, that think this was just something to make myself feel better.  I will not judge you for it because everyone is entitled to their own system of beliefs.  I also am acutely aware that I am not perfect, so I try to be as good of a person as possible and not bible thump on a regular basis.  However, I can tell you that I had not prayed as fervently in the past as I did this day, with a desperation that I can truly say I had not felt before any of the other exams and I felt that God was with me in those hours and finally gave his blessing for me to pass.

So that’s it. I did the best I could and really went for it.  I removed every mental block that I had put on myself and had nothing else to lose.  I put it all in God’s hands and gave up the thought that I could accomplish this impossible task on my own.  I’m so thankful that I got good news finally and am so excited (and still pinching myself) to be a Stage 3 student!!!!

Best of luck to all that are still striving for the exam!  I hope this helps in some way.

Countdown to the MW Exam. 

My journey to the MW exam is almost complete for this year. The exam is the second week in June and I traditionally stop studying about a month before. Why? Because you don’t cram for this exam. It’s not about just memorizing facts. It’s about being relaxed and showing that you have the mastery of the subject to prove that you are an MW. I’ve taken a much more relaxed approach this year. I haven’t gone crazy with essays. I’ve done a few mind maps a week on past questions. I’ve done a few really intensive tasting events of full mock exams between weeks of tasting classics with dinner. My last one before the exam will be next week with my mentor and a few other students in Louisiana. After that I’ll have about one more good week and then I’m going to let it lie and the chips will fall where they may come exam time. I’m going to enjoy the Spring in NY, time with my family, and our upcoming vacation purposely scheduled two weeks before the exam. I’m flying out to California the week after the Louisiana trip to visit Yosemite for our annual company Technical conference. It will be nice to see the Redwoods again and do some hiking before it starts in earnest. 

My biggest problem in the past with the exam is that I always tended to overthink my answers. In hindsight, I probably over thought my studies as well. This year I’ve been more relaxed about it all. I’m always a bit afraid that I’ll be in the thick of the exam and momentarily regret that I didn’t go back and review something critical however I’m working harder at trusting myself and the vast amount of knowledge I’ve collected over the years.  So far, I haven’t developed the eye twitches that plagued my 2nd-4th attempts. I think that is a good sign in and of itself. 

So here I am, down to the final weeks.  I plan on reviewing my examples, updating my business stats, and enjoying the preparations that go along with calmly closing the books. Right now I can picture myself walking into the room in June feeling ready and excited to take on the exam. There is not much else to do but enjoy the moments of possibilities prior to turning in the last paper on June 10th. 

Master of Wine Exam Week 2015

This week, many students from around the world will converge on three cities to sit the rigorous 4 day long exam for the Master of Wine. I have mixed feelings this week. This is the first time in 6 years that I haven’t been prepping to sit myself. I have numerous friends who will be there yet I will not. There have been several key learnings that helped me in my quest that I though would be good to share with those sitting this week.

1) Don’t overthink the question and don’t get bogged down in the weeds.

2) Make a point then argue the counterpoint to make your point stronger.

3) Don’t volunteer more than the question asks.

4) Don’t forget, it is possible to be correct but inappropriate. (Calling Viura “Macabeo” is correct  but not for Rioja) Don’t make my same mistake!

5) Remember, when you are trying to overcome the panic of not knowing what the wines are, start writing. Much of the exam can be answered by tasting the wine but not knowing the origin and most of the time you figure the wine out as you go along.

6) It is wine. We are not curing cancer or doing brain surgery. When you get stressed, just remember that.

7) Compartmentalize! When the two hours and 15 minutes is up for Practical paper 1, forget it and turn your mental strength to viticulture (Theory Paper 1). When that is over, forget it and start thinking about the next part.

8) Stay away from toxic people.

9) Don’t change your plans at the last minute. Your technique has gotten you this far. Trust it.

10) Don’t listen to past MW students lament about when they were in the program…Oops. Too late for you if you are reading this.

Best of luck to everyone sitting! Go crush it! Most of all, enjoy the feeling of possibilities in the three months between the end of the exam and the results coming out. That was always the toughest time for me. This year, however, I am waiting for something that I haven’t waited for in a long time. I’m waiting for the applications to come out to get back into the program. I have some unfinished business with the exam and a year from now, I plan to be sitting the exam yet another time. Hopefully for the last time.