Italian Wine Scholar: Tackling This Boot Was No Small Feat

Nobody likes a braggart or a know-it-all.  If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know I can’t stand this type of personality and have even created a WSET Irritation Scale to evaluate them.  (Yes, I’ve been told that sometimes I take things too far).

Unfortunately, we (mostly women) are often so fearful of looking too egotistical that we don’t celebrate our accomplishments.  We downplay our successes, or qualify them by saying something like “I’m just a good test taker” or “I can memorize facts, but don’t retain them very well.” (I’ve uttered both of these phrases many times over).  Why is it so difficult to say “hey – I’m really proud of myself, I did this: [fill in the blank here with your awesome accomplishment].”  (Hubs Note:  And yet you don’t have any problem telling my friends that you kicked my ass in law school).

I think we need to be better at sharing our wins and encouraging each other to do the same. So, with that, I’m going to give it a shot- here goes: I passed my Italian Wine Scholar exam with Highest Honors!  I studied my ass off for this certification and I am thrilled with my results.

IWS certificate

And, because I’d like to see others succeed, here are some tips that will hopefully help other students rock their Italian Wine Scholar Unit 2 exam (my Unit 1 exam tips can be found here):

1. Study the glossary!

There were several questions relating to these terms and I know I answered at least one of them incorrectly.  Now I will never forget that Baglio is the name for a Sicilian farmhouse.  (However, the degree to which this particular question relates to wine knowledge is debatable IMO . . .)

2. Memorize this equation: The percentage of the text dedicated to a region = the number of exam questions on that region.

This may seem obvious, but it will help you schedule your time more efficiently if you keep this in mind.  You’re better off focusing a majority of your studies on Toscana, Sicilia and Campania than knowing all the little nuances of Molise or Basilicata.  And besides – you can use my outlines as a good starting point for both of those regions! 😉

For me, I found it best to tackle a larger region over the course of a week and then follow this up with a day covering a smaller one.  Being able to knock out a more minor region in such a short period gave me a much needed sense of accomplishment when I felt I was dragging.  Which happened more than I’d hoped!

3.  Read the answers carefully!

I know most people say read the question carefully, and clearly you should do that too, but Calabria and Campania were both options for a few questions.   Maybe it’s just me, but throughout my Italian Wine Scholar studies I would get these two regions mixed up.  Make sure you know which one you’re talking about!

4. If you don’t know the answer, move on and come back to it.

You very well may find a clue to the answer in a later question or something might trigger your memory.  This happened to me with an exam question on Verdicchio – I skipped it and a question later in the exam helped me recall the answer.  And don’t stress out too much if you have to temporarily skip a question – having an open and relaxed mind will make it easier for you to recall the information you need. (If that sounds like Headspace to you – it is!  I always do a short meditation the day of an exam . . . consider that another study tip.)   (Hubs note:  With the dogs.   She meditates with the dogs.  I don’t even know how this is possible).

5.  Don’t underestimate Sardegna.

I left Sardegna until last and, frankly, didn’t spend much study time on this region.  I figured that since it was an island, and not even the most “important” one, that there wouldn’t be many exam questions related to it.  However, I should have heeded my own advice above regarding “size of the chapter = exam importance” because based on this theory – about 8% of the exam questions would be related to Sardegna.  And although I didn’t count, there probably did end up being somewhere between 7-9 questions on it.  Thankfully, I read and reviewed Sardegna the morning of the exam so I was able to at least recall specifics relating to the island’s grape varieties.

And finally, this is not really a “tip” but something to keep in mind throughout your studies: enjoy learning.  After over a year of being in the Italian Wine Scholar program, I am so thankful to have a better understanding of, and appreciation for, Italy.  You don’t need a certificate or a pin to prove anything.  But if you have one – be proud of it.  I am!


25 thoughts on “Italian Wine Scholar: Tackling This Boot Was No Small Feat

      1. I agree. 🙂 I highly recommend sitting down and writing some practice essays as the exam date gets closer. Helps with handwriting (who besides WSET handwrites these days?!) and time management. As far as reading goes, I found both the Christie’s Sparkling Wines and Peter Liem’s book on Champagne to be the most relevant/helpful. And don’t forget all the info on the WSET global campus! (someone in my class didn’t realize this until last minute . . . )

        I really enjoyed this Unit and learned a ton. Keep me posted on how its going and I’m happy to help in any way I can!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey Noelle, I didn’t receive highest honors, yet, but that’s my goal. I’m halfway there! I agree with all you notes above. I think book one is easier than two? Is that your opinion, having taken both?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there! 🙂 I actually found Unit 2 info easier to retain for me than Unit 1. But, that might be because I had a better feel for what would be asked/what to study/etc. having done Unit 1 first. Plus I had an awesome class for Unit 2. 😉


  2. Congratulations! You worked hard and earned bragging rights. I worked incredibly hard to get my Commercial Drivers License at an age when my brain was beginning to rust as far as absorbing — and keeping! — new info. Few things made me so proud as that license because it took so much effort. And nothing made me madder than the people who saw school bus drivers as a bunch of housewives in hair curlers carpooling the kids to school. I let them know I was a trained professional, dammit! I had to study all parts of the bus chassis, pass rigid driving and written tests, know all the laws of the state and get recertified every two years. Not carpooling by a long shot. When I retired, I tried to keep that little license, it was so dear to me. But I missed too many questions in the new state I’d moved to. I just couldn’t face going back to studying just on the off-chance I might feel like subbing now and then. So it’s gone, but hey, I’m still proud. So as they say, you go, girl!


  3. Fantastic, congrats! I started studying for IWS concurrently with U3 Diploma – I don’t recommend it. In the end, I had to put IWS on the back burner while I focused on U3…but now that I’ve passed U3, I need to finish what I started! I enjoy your blog BTW – thanks for sharing all your experiences and academic pursuits. Please reach out when you start U3, I have tons of stuff to share.


    1. Thank you! I can imagine that IWS together with Unit 3 would be complete overload! I’m planning to tackle Unit 3 next year, and will definitely reach out for assistance – thanks for offering. 🙂 When you decide to pick up IWS again, let me know – I’d be happy to send you some of my outlines that I haven’t published on the site if you think they would be helpful!


    2. oh wow, I was set on doing my IWS at the beginning of September at the same time my U3 starts. I thought it would go concurrently with the WSET material and help with the Italian section of U3. After reading your post I’m rethinking it. Yikes! :O


      1. Is there any way you could get started on IWS now before your U3 starts? From what I’ve heard, U3 takes up almost all of your time . . . would be really challenging to do both that and IWS simultaneously.


      2. lol I would but right now I’m studying for the U6 and U1 exams in a few weeks. They put it on the same day to torture us I reckon. I also signed up for FWS long before I decided to do Diploma so I’ll be studying for that in between. Looks like IWS will have to wait but thanks for the wake up call; need to be realistic. When do you start U3 btw? I think we might be on similar schedules.


      3. My school breaks up Unit 3 into two sections – I think the first one will be most of December, and the next in March, for the June exam. Are you planning to take it next June??

        I’m just wrapping up a post on my experience with Unit 1 too. Best of luck with it! 🙂


  4. My school does 1 class a week all year (minus holidays) starting this September with our exam next June.

    I’m looking forward to reading your U1 thoughts; it might give me some insight on how to study for it 😛


  5. I started unit 1 earlier in the year and really thought that I would have finished it and started on unit 2 by now, but there was a set back. I ruptured a tendon in my leg in June and have just started to apply myself to the course again. Getting into it again is difficult but rewarding My plan is to write my exam in November.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you – it’s challenging to have to put down your studies for awhile and then pick them back up. Best of luck on your exam! And please reach out if I can help answer any questions. 🙂


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