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How Hard Is It to Pass The Cicerone Exam?

Rich Higgins, head brewer at Social Kitchen & Brewery

 

How hard is it to pass the exam for the first level of the Cicerone Certification Program? I found out a couple of days ago.

First, some background. Though 7x7, like many other publications, has covered the topic of Cicerones previously, let’s review: In 2008, steadfast in his determination to improve service to beer consumers, Ray Daniels, renowned beer writer, judge, and festival organizer, established a certification program for beer professionals similar to the sommelier certifications for wine. Fast forward to today: There are more than 5,000 people certified at the first tier, Certified Beer Server; more than 200 at the second level, Certified Cicerone; and a scant three at the top of the hop heap, Master Cicerone.

The first level test can be taken anytime online. After correctly answering five out of five questions about the Cicerone Certification Program itself, you advance to a 60 multiple-choice and true-false questions. Answering 45 of these correctly earns you a certificate. The cost is $69 and if you fail on your first attempt, you can try a second time with a different set of questions. You have 30 minutes to complete the test, enough time to answer thoughtfully, but not enough to query Mr. Google for answers. Shame on you for even considering the option.

If you’re interested in certifying your beer geek knowledge, there are a few study aids that help prepare you for the test. 

Syllabus for the Program 

This document outlines the topics the test covers. I advise reading through it and flagging those areas you don’t completely understand. The link below can help you fill in the blanks in your knowledge.

Other Resources 

After reviewing the syllabus and determining what topics you need more information on, access this link and study up. First, you'll need to register here as a user at the Cicerone Certification Program.

BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) Style Guidelines

Started in 1985, BJCP is a non-profit organization that promotes beer literacy and appreciation. Their primary contribution to the beer community is to certify and rank beer judges. This file details the qualities, ingredients, history, and specifications for 23 beer categories. I spent the majority of my prep time reading this document.

After studying for and passing the test, it’s easy for me to see that beer servers or sales people would benefit from knowing the material it covers. But even serious beer consumers would do well to understand what to expect in the way of good service and product. And though a lot of us homebrewers understand sanitation, beer styles, and brewing techniques, I learned enough about other beer topics, such as properly storing and serving beer, that made studying for the test well worthwhile. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to add this certification to my LinkedIn account. Right after my entry as a Project Management Professional (PMP, which I like to pronounce as “pimp,”) will be Certified Beer Server.