Back in January I posted some strategy ideas for the BJCP written exam which are still good advice, but there’s more to the story. First off let’s discuss how the exam is structured. There are 20 T/F questions which can only count against you. You must know these cold and there are a couple of ways to go about it. If you have a photographic memory just remember the number of the question and the corresponding answer since the numbers are on the exam. In reality I prefer to know the material and answer appropriately. This won’t take a lot of study, just the time to go through them in prep. During the real exam I suggested to allow 5 minutes, but in reality you can rip through these in 2-3 minutes.
The first question is a three style question and I’d actually suggest you answer this one first taking no more than 15 minutes to accomplish the task. My reasoning behind this strategy is it is the first thing the graders see so make a good impression. Be sure to hit all the elements required to maximize your score. The best thing to do IMO is memorize a commercial example for all of the queried styles as well as an aspect of the ingredients/history. Even better would be multiple aspects, but be sure to memorize them for all styles. Some graders frown upon grids so you may want to just three section all the answers with the exception of the similarities and differences and just make one paragraph at the end.
The next question is a recipe question and if you use BJCP Exam For Dummies as your guide you can formulate a strategy to make this a long, but fairly easy question. Don’t take more than 20 minutes for this one, but do hit every single aspect you can think of in the brewing process and be sure to elaborate on how the recipe meets the style guidelines. Memorization is the key for the stats, grists and hops and the rest is putting down what you do when you brew on the page. Write it out, don’t leave it to chance.
After those two questions I would answer the rest based on knowledge knowing that you need to save 15 minutes for the last question. The next question will be another three styles question. After that will come two questions from the BJCP Study Guide. The fourth question is always the troubleshooting and the last rotates through the rest of the questions in the guide. As far as study for these I would suggest you write out answers to each and practice remembering your answers so they flow when the exam time comes.
So how to study? It’s up to you, but I’d suggest for styles you do the following. Study two styles every day of the queried styles and write down the AAFM, and aspect of the history/ingredients, and a commercial example. That should take you around a month if you do it every day. Then for the next month do two to three of the style combination questions aiming for 15 min per response. It’s not fun, but come exam time you’ll be a champ with them. For the recipe its styles already being tested so no need to worry too much about the styles, simply why your recipe meets the styles. You have memorized the stats, grists, etc. so this should be a gimme. For the remaining questions write out a concise and awesome answer and then memorize it and practice getting it on the paper in 15 min or less.
Another couple of tips come exam time. Take the exam in pen and bring a correction tape for mistakes. Pen does not cause as much fatigue and you can quickly swipe a correction tape to cover up any messiness. Trust me, using a pen will not make your hand hurt as much while you regurgitate on the page. Another tip is to keep some scratch paper off to the side. That can come in handy for brain farts or something you need to note immediately to not lose the thought. Also it is handy if you need to straighten out temperatures or percentages.
When you bring in your calculator be sure you know the formulas. So malt is ~33ppg and sugar ~46ppg. As suggested use 75% efficiency and one other thing I suggest is to memorize OG-FG as whole numbers x 0.131 – %ABV. So in the recipe question if you have a brain fart on the amount of malt it would be batch size x OG (whole number) = points / (ppg x efficiency) = lbs. So 1.050 is 50 x 5 gallons = 250 points. Divide by 33 ppg x 0.75 = 10 lb. Knowing how to manipulate the numbers can save your bacon if by some chance you forget 10 lb of malt for a 1.050 beer. For ABV if that beer finished as 1.010 it goes (50 – 10) x 0.131 = 5.25%.
That’s what I have for now, I’m sure something else will pop in my head. One thing I would suggest is to write everything out long hand up until two days prior to the exam and to refrain from writing during that last two days to rest the hand before the exam. In reality a judge well versed in the styles could take the exam with only prepping the questions, but to really absorb the material I’d suggest a 60 day study plan might be best.