Author Topic: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?  (Read 1346 times)

Offline rainmaker

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I've done some reading on the tasting exam, but I haven't been able to find an answer to this? From what I understand, during a competition the style guidelines are accessible, so why not during the exam?

Is it to make the participant draw from his knowledge bank of descriptors, or to see if they can blindly recognize a style, a combination of both, or some other reason?

Offline dkfick

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2014, 07:41:01 AM »
because the exam is designed to access skill of identifying different aspects of a beer.  A good judge should only refer to the style guidelines in a competition after he has written down all his notes about the beer.  Really it's used mostly for the 'scoring' phase.  New judges and poor judges (IMHO) will go down the guidelines side by side while they evaluate a beer.  You'll notice they tend to pull things straight out of the guidelines as if they have found them while evaluating a beer.  It just guides what they perceive too much when you evaluate a beer this way and I think if you were allowed to use the guidelines on the exam the overall scores would actually decrease because of this.  Just my opinion... I have no clue on what the 'actual' reason behind not being allowed to use them was.
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Offline rainmaker

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2014, 07:49:10 AM »
Definitely an interesting thought. I'm very comfortable scoring beers and using descriptors, but truth be told, I'm really struggling to memorize all the categories and subcategories and subtle nuances between some.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2014, 07:54:53 AM »
It's a test of knowledge.  Any BJCP judge should really know all the BJCP styles, and flaws to watch out for according to the styles, by heart.  This shows the BJCP and everyone else that the judge truly has the knowledge and experience to go forth and judge beers independently.  Otherwise, any bum with one or two brain cells who knows how to read could theoretically be a judge, and we wouldn't want that, now, would we!?  I know I wouldn't!!

It's one thing to know how a beer should taste based on the BJCP's description of flavors and aromas, etc.  It's another thing altogether to have a strong, well rounded knowledge base of your own that happens to be aligned with the BJCP descriptors.  The BJCP wants your own knowledge to be aligned with theirs, in order to have a more consistent judging program.  A good judge needs to know all the BJCP stuff pretty well, by heart.  Otherwise, he/she is probably just an o.k., mediocre judge.  More robotic and less life-like.

This is just like Daniel Larusso on Karate Kid.... Mr. Miyagi comes into his apartment and says, "Oh... ka-ra-te!... Learn from book?"  Mr. Miyagi said this politely enough... but by the end of the movie, you know deep in your heart that "the book" just would not have been good enough for Daniel to perform very well.

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Offline rupert

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2014, 08:06:14 AM »
While I don't speak for the BJCP, I have some personal thoughts on why the guidelines aren't provided on the tasting exam. The goal of just about any test is to verify that the examinee has some knowledge about the subject matter. For the tasting exam, this knowledge is demonstrated in the areas of scoring, perception, descriptive ability, completeness, and feedback. Use of the guidelines during the exam would make it more difficult to determine if the examinee truly has this body of knowledge or if he/she is just regurgitating the guidelines. I have seen judges with perception biases just based on hearing the style category and sub-category such as immediately perceiving DMS in a sample because they know DMS is common for the style, even though it did not exist. This type of bias could be exacerbated with an examinee looking through the guidelines for information to write about.

Descriptive ability would be hard to score as an examinee allowed to use the guidelines would no longer have a need to know how to translate their perceptions into words. He could get all the descriptive terms he needs directly from the guidelines. Scoring and inherent knowledge about the styles would be harder to determine since the guidelines would be used to derive these details. The same could be said for completeness and feedback.

I think the bigger reason that style guidelines are not employed for the exam is that a judge, during competition, should only be relying on the guidelines after all perceptions and descriptive details about a beer being evaluated have been written. When I judge, I don't bother looking at the guidelines until the Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, and Mouthfeel perceptions and descriptions are complete. Once I have evaluated these aspects, I use the guidelines to determine how well the beer meets the style requirements, derive a score, and then write the Overall Impression. During a competition, there is not enough time to constantly read through the guidelines, especially when you are expected to judge a beer in 10 minutes.

One last real world argument is regarding Best of Show judging. If you want to be an excellent Best of Show judge, you need to have a pretty complete knowledge base about all the styles. When you are evaluating 23 or more beers in BOS, you do not have the time to read through the guidelines for style details. You need to apply the knowledge that you have about the beer styles to determine if a particular beer is the best example of style. How do you instill that knowledge into new judges if they don't need to know the guidelines in intimate detail? Granted, BOS usually employs more experienced and knowledgeable judges but those judges started out committing the guidelines to memory.

I think the ultimate goal of the tasting exam is to field qualified and knowledgeable judges. Can this be accomplished if the style guidelines are allowed on the exam? Is there an argument to be made that the use of the guidelines during an exam would result in better judges? If so, then these should be brought to the BJCP for consideration. Most judges and prospective judges I have met usually want to allow the use of the guidelines on the exam to make studying and passing easier which I personally don't think results in better judges.

Since the BJCP has changed the exam format, passing the tasting exam has gotten easier, not harder. If you have basic beer knowledge, can translate your perceptions into descriptions, and can generate a complete scoresheet, you should have no problem passing the tasting exam. The difficulty arises when you aspire to attain higher judging ranks like National or Master.


Offline Jimmy K

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2014, 08:22:17 AM »
I agree with the above comments. I would add 2 points, although the guidelines are available during judging, a judge only has enough time to refer to them to double check characteristics, not to use them up as a full-time judging aid.  Also you you do not need to fully memorize every detail of the guidelines in order to pass the exam. You need a broad understanding of what the style tastes like to pass.

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« Last Edit: May 09, 2014, 08:23:55 AM by mtnrockhopper »
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Offline AmandaK

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2014, 08:29:47 AM »
In most any other exam, you are not allowed to use your textbook even though you are allowed to use it in real life. How is the BJCP tasting exam different than a closed-book exam?
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2014, 09:12:53 AM »
...New judges and poor judges (IMHO) will go down the guidelines side by side while they evaluate a beer.  You'll notice they tend to pull things straight out of the guidelines as if they have found them while evaluating a beer...

So true - I found myself doing this, so I'll put the guidelines away until I'm done with the initial impression notes.

*Caution* New Judge Opinion Approaching.

FWIW:

I don't think memorization of any degree is required to pass (or even ace) the tasting exam. Its much more effective (and fun) to commit to memory the flavors/aromas of classic examples than the text of a guideline.

Its mind-boggling to me when high-ranking judges say they haven't had (or don't remember the flavors of) one or several ubiquitous commercial examples of a style, yet they are deemed so highly qualified to judge them.

Moral of the story: drink more beer, use BJCP as a tool instead of a crutch.
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2014, 09:26:43 AM »
In most any other exam, you are not allowed to use your textbook even though you are allowed to use it in real life. How is the BJCP tasting exam different than a closed-book exam?

This is exactly why.
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Offline dsmitch19

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2014, 09:50:58 AM »
You will not have to guess the beer styles on the exam. You will be told what to judge each beer as. You should have enough style knowledge to know the major hallmarks of the style. For example, if you are presented with a bohemian pilsner with low diacetyl, you should know that it is acceptable for that style and not fault the beer.


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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2014, 11:53:38 AM »
One decent method is read a style, note key features (2 or 3), key differences (1 or 2), find a commercial example or two, practice judging it/them. Don't study another style until you have internalized that knowledge. Then move on.

Offline Jimmy K

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2014, 01:08:05 PM »
I don't think memorization of any degree is required to pass (or even ace) the tasting exam. Its much more effective (and fun) to commit to memory the flavors/aromas of classic examples than the text of a guideline.

Exactly!
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Offline santoch

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2014, 02:36:03 PM »
I think Dave Taylor nailed it.  Internalization is the key. 

I always believed that the way to make National is to teach the BJCP exam class to a bunch of newbies and/or other re-takers. 
The act of preparing to teach each class forces you to internalize that information.  I know that it was a huge forcing function for me.
 
Similarly, I think the way to make Master be very active on boards like this one, brew (and taste) a lot of beer, and to become an exam grader.  These force you to internalize brewing ingredients, processes, etc, before you really feel confident enough to post advice which is wide open to public scrutiny.  Grading the exams will open your eyes to the intricacies of the exam itself, and the subtleties of what differentiates a really good answer from an outstanding one. 

Finally, it goes without saying you need to "internalize" all the beers you can, too, both literally and figuratively. <BSEG>.

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Offline johnf

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2014, 10:51:54 AM »
I got a score in the high 80s on the tasting and low 90s on the written with very little effort spent on rote memorization. If you understand beer styles all you have to remember are the sort of BJCP guideline idosyncracies (there are pale and dark dopplebocks, but no pale weizenbocks etc). Some styles are hard to gain an understanding of through experience, you might focus time on memorizing for those.

I'll echo what some others have said. A good judge in a competition setting can judge a beer in 10 minutes. That leaves little time for referencing the style guidelines. They should be referenced occasionally in the real world, not continuously. If you don't get them at all on the exam, as a grader I can tell whether or not you are good enough to not over-rely on them in the wild.

I want my physician to have reference material available to her, but I would look elsewhere if she had to look up answers to every single question I asked her.

Offline andrewhejl

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Why are style guidelines not provided?
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2014, 09:58:42 AM »
In most any other exam, you are not allowed to use your textbook even though you are allowed to use it in real life. How is the BJCP tasting exam different than a closed-book exam?

One other contributing factor is that until recently the BJCP exam was a 3 hour exam combining written and tasting portions that were done in an overlapping fashion.  It wouldn't have made sense to let examinees see what questions were on there and then give them guidelines for the tasting where they can just look up the style descriptions for the other answers.