While there is a document which gives you some strategies to pass the BJCP Beer Exam I could not locate anything to assist with the BJCP Mead Exam. I thought it might be useful to give some strategies for passing. In reality if you are an avid meadmaker and have judged meads often the Mead Exam will be fairly easy and just take a cursory review. I would suggest you devote a few weeks of review focused on the Mead Study Guide and Ingredient List. Keep in mind these two documents have over 150 pages. Also you will need to study the Mead Style Guidelines and be familiar with the Mead Score Sheet. In fact everyone taking the exam will need to absorb that material. If you are an occasional meadmaker and judge I would suggest you spend an additional week of preparation so three weeks out you will need to begin your study sessions with the same materials. If however you are like me and rarely make a mead and only judge the styles on occasion you should devote a substantial amount of time to preparation, starting at least a month ahead of time. These suggestions are really for those people who have the lowest amount of experience in mead making and judging the styles.
The strategy for the BJCP Mead Exam is quite different from the BJCP Beer Exam. With the beer exam whether tasting or written you want to maximize your score to obtain the highest rank possible. For the Mead Exam all you really want to achieve is a passing score. If your tasting score exceeds 80 then you can proctor the exam in the future so my suggestion would be to shoot for that level of performance on the tasting portion. Now here’s the rub, there are currently 167 Mead Judges, but only 45 or so potential proctors who are Mead Judges and some of those may be proctors as a result of being a Master level judge as opposed to achieving 80 or greater on the tasting portion of the Mead Exam. So your chances of getting a high taste score are low, but not impossible. The taste exam is only three meads evaluated in 45 minutes after the written portion is completed, so palate fatigue will not be an issue. Evaluate the entries fully and completely and I would suggest you judge meads in a few competitions before you sit for the exam as your preparation. If you have not judged much at all then purchase a variety of meads and fill out score sheets as you evaluate the meads. Strive for 10 minutes per mead and that will leave you an extra five minutes for each if needed. Scoring is a bit of a crapshoot, but look at the ranges as a clue to what the score should be and you can always work backwards into the points in each area. The scores are dramatically different from the beer score sheet and there is no mouthfeel section.
For the written portion the exam questions are given in the Study Guide and in a separate document called the Mead Exam Question Pool. There is no easy way to study for the exam, but first read the study guide and the ingredients and then start to answer the questions. You will have two hours to take the written exam so use it wisely. Spend no more than 15 minutes per written question and 10 minutes for the first portion and you’ll still have 20 minutes left to fill in where needed. The key is to put something on the paper for everything. There are 10 points devoted to the program, the first five points are fill in the blank and the next five are T/F. Memorize these and be prepared because it is an easy 10 points on the exam. Next you will have six essay questions worth 15 points each. If your goal is passing, and it should be, you will need to get at least 9 on every section. In reality if you get that first section correct and 9 out of 15 on every question you will easily pass provided your taste exam is passing or just below passing. The exam is scored as 70% written and 30% taste so the composite score is what needs to achieve a 60.
The first essay question will be on Balance and Style and there are six potential questions. Just write out answers to each and you’ll be all set. The second essay question is on Honey and there will be three on the exam one from each column. The Ingredient document lists descriptions and you should know them all. For someone who does not make meads and only judges on occasion this question will be quite difficult. There are 21 honeys to memorize and just use whatever method you find effective. The third essay question is Ingredients and while there are only seven potential questions there is a tome of information which can be queried. You will need to know the Pyment, Cyser, Melomel, and Metheglin styles, but also all the spice and grape ingredients. This question may be challenging for all examinees, including those who regularly make meads. It will require quite a bit of time to put to memory. The fourth question is Identifying and Troubleshooting and there are only 18 to memorize and all are listed in the Study Guide. Three of them will be on the exam. The fifth exam question is on Process Control and has six potential questions. Write out answers for each. The last essay question is Scenario-based Troubleshooting and it has 15 potential scenarios. Again, write out answers for each since one will be on the exam.
So your goal is simple, to pass. In order to pass you need a 60 on the written and a 60 on the taste or some variation of the two with written being 70% of the score and the taste being 30% of the score. You’re probably asking why you should study so much and if you review the material you’ll fully understand. I would think about an hour a day should be sufficient prep over a four-week period for those who don’t make mead. That would be ~28 hours and should put you in a good position to easily pass without feeling stressed. If you haven’t judged meads or haven’t judged them in a while fill out 5-10 score sheets until you are familiar with the sheet and you should be ready for the exam. I would suggest you do this the last week prior to the exam so it is fresh and after you have studied the scenarios in the sixth essay question so you can provide the best possible feedback. Hopefully this quick synopsis will help you prepare for the BJCP Mead Exam.