Well, I have officially cleared my first hurdle in my WSET Diploma pursuit! Now there’s just four more exams and a research paper. As I mentioned in my previous post on the Diploma, Unit 2 is required to be taken before any of the other five Units are attempted. But, once you pass Unit 2, you’re free to move onto whichever Unit(s) you choose. (Editorial Note by Hubs: Ms. Noelle passed “with Distinction” – a designation akin to summa cum laude for this particular Unit – the highest honor awarded. The dogs and I simply couldn’t be more proud of her!!)
As I look back at my studies for Unit 2, there are definitely some habits that I will continue as I move forward with my Diploma pursuit (the “dos”) – and others that I absolutely will not (the “don’ts”). Now, anyone who grew up reading Glamour back in the day probably recalls their fabulous back page of DOs and DON’Ts. Although it wasn’t particularly PC – it was absolutely my favorite part of the magazine (admit it, yours too!). So, without further ado (and with a similar lack of PC) here are my WSET Diploma Unit 2 DOs and DON’Ts:
Unit 2 DOs
DO read the suggested readings. Even though all questions on the exam come from the actual Unit 2 textbook, I found the supplemental readings invaluable. Specifically, Viticulture by Stephen Skelton MW and Understanding Wine Technology by David Bird MW (future book review/blog post forthcoming!) Both of these books cover similar information as the Unit 2 text, but they go into more depth and detail. Being able to read about concepts such as the effects of nutrient deficiencies in a vineyard, or SO2 limitations in wine, in plain English helped me get a more fundamental understanding of the subject matter. As I might’ve mentioned before – I don’t “science” very well. 😉
DO study every day – even if it’s just a little bit. Some days I dove into the text for a few hours, and others I just reviewed my outlines and flashcards. But I honestly don’t think there was a single day in between when I had my first Unit 2 class and when I took my exam that I didn’t study for at least a short while. I wanted to keep what I learned at the forefront of my brain so it was easy to recall, because believe me, at 45 I have amassed a lot of useless crap in there. (If anyone wants to know the lyrics to any song on The Smiths “Louder Than Bombs” album, or the chronological order of deaths on The Walking Dead, I’m your gal).
DO practice the sample questions in the Unit 2 textbook. I won’t go into too much detail as to specific questions on the exam, but let’s just say that some of them were eerily similar to the sample questions in the textbook. Review these. You won’t regret it.
Unit 2 DON’Ts
DON’T get stuck in the minutiae. When studying, I have a habit of trying to learn – and memorize – everything. I tend to get bogged down in the details . . . sometimes at the expense of moving forward.
With Unit 2, I spent a lot of time memorizing types of vineyard pests and learning which rootstocks do best in which types of soil. And no, this wasn’t because I was fascinated with grapevine yellows or Vitis rupestris. I was just totally struggling with these areas and thought that if I memorized as much as I possibly could about them that I’d do better on the exam. So, I spent an exorbitant amount of time on these topics and, while there were a couple exam questions on them, there were more questions on quality control and herbicides – areas that I hadn’t spend much time on because I’d been so in the weeds (pun intended) with others.
DON’T overthink the exam questions. This advice came to me courtesy of Spitbucket.net after her experience with the exam, and it was spot-on. Come exam time, you’ve learned so much that you’re likely to overanalyze the test questions and wonder if the examiners are actually asking you something else or trying to trick you. (Answers: they’re not, and they’re not.) The Brits might be strict and reserved, but they’re a fair lot. Feel free to remind me of this quote when I don’t do well on one of my upcoming exams.
And finally, DON’T overdo it. Although I mention above that studying every day is a DO, it is possible to go overboard. Like accessories, sometimes less is more. So if you’re practicing flashcards while getting a bikini wax – you’ve probably taken this too far. Purely hypothetically, of course.
My next WSET class is in a few weeks – I’m tackling Unit 5: Sparkling Wines of the World. And yes, I’m already making my way through the recommended reading. But, lesson learned, I’m leaving the book at home before my next appointment at OC Wax.