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by Michelle McGovern

The Certified Specialist of Wine certification, offered by the Society of Wine Educators, is a self-study, multiple choice exam that is written exclusively from the material presented in their course pack study guide. And because you’re being tested on only that material, it provides a big advantage when comparing it to other programs of study because it standardizes the materials that you are responsible for learning.

It also makes studying more approachable; rather than having to mesmerize some esoteric fact about the one-off producer in the Loire Valley who is using semi-carbonic fermentation with Grüner grapes (surely this is happening), you get to learn about: wine chemistry, fermentation, geography, topography, grapes and regions–with the goal of providing you a benchmark of education about the global wine industry.

Other than your sworn commitment to studying, another benefit is that there is no prerequisite for the exam. And, after passing, you get to use a cool post-nominal (CSW or CWE).

Below are 8 study tips to keep on, keeping on:

  1. READ THE MATERIAL BEFORE THE PREP COURSE. There are a lot of details you will be responsible for knowing and it is not your instructor’s job to teach you, but rather, they are there to enhance your understanding of the materials.
  2. BREAK IT UP. Chunk the material out into sections and make a study plan. Establish a schedule and stick to it.
  3. DON’T JUST MEMORIZE. The study guide presents a comprehensive overview of the wine industry and you will be responsible for knowing the facts but you must also be able to understand what the text is saying and apply the information when answering questions.
  4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SUPPLEMENTAL STUDY TOOLS. I know it seems like a lot of information but working with the material in multiple mediums will help the facts to stick better in the creases of your brain. There are even awesome webinars to take advantage of!
  5. THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT. Rather than scrolling through Facebook for the umpteenth time in a day, use your idle time to look at maps and take quizzes to test your learning. #multitasking
  6. READ BETWEEN THE LINES. Meaning read the FYI paragraphs, the tables, charts, figures. It all matters. This can also help you to make more sense–visually–of the material above.
  7. FIND A BUDDY. How persuasive are you? Having a study cohort can really help keep you motivated. Also, you will not feel so isolated after the exam when you try to discuss the taste effects of Pinot Noir in concrete vessels versus stainless steel tanks.
  8. HAVE FUN. I know this sounds cliché but it is wine after all. It has been enjoyed for centuries and knowing more about what’s in your glass only deepens the appreciation.

Michelle McGovern, WSET Advanced. While studying Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, Michelle worked in many facets of the restaurant and hotel business learning the intricacies of the industry. Having such sincere enthusiasm and a keen sense of leadership, she was selected to be a corporate trainer for the Seasons 52 concept and traveled throughout the US opening new restaurants. It was during these long hours of training and travels that she started to develop a passion for wine. Working closely with Master Sommelier George Miliotes, she first experienced wine not as an elite beverage but as something fascinating and accessible. After moving to Napa Valley in 2012 to further explore her passion for wine, Michelle landed at Shafer Vineyards and currently is a brand manager throughout the state of California. Recipient of a James Beard Scholarship for wine studies, Michelle is a perpetual student of wine and is currently in pursuit of her WSET Diploma Certification. When she is not gearing up for a Diploma exam, she is out traveling the world learning about local customs, gastronomy, and (of course) oenology. Michelle currently teaches CSW and WSET courses for Napa Valley Wine Academy in Tampa and Miami, Florida.