What are the most frequent mistakes made on the WSET Level 3 tasting exam?

March 12 of 2019 - WSET

The Wine Studio team has made an enormous effort to increase the pass rate of the WSET Level 3, and we’ve achieved that goal. Our school has always been above the international average, aiming to help our students thrive in both the theory and the tasting exam. This course is demanding, and students need to master the writing techniques as well as what we call “SAT” or Systematic Approach to Tasting in “WSET-speak”. After many years of correcting tasting exams, we’ve narrowed down the mistakes that come up regularly, and we want to draw your attention to them so that you can correct and/or avoid them. Here we go!

The Wine Studio team has made an enormous effort to increase the pass rate of the WSET Level 3, and we’ve achieved that goal. Our school has always been above the international average, aiming to help our students thrive in both the theory and the tasting exam. This course is demanding, and students need to master the writing techniques as well as what we call “SAT” or Systematic Approach to Tasting in “WSET-speak”. After many years of correcting tasting exams, we’ve narrowed down the mistakes that come up regularly, and we want to draw your attention to them so that you can correct and/or avoid them. Here we go!

1) FORGETTING TO INCLUDE CATEGORIES FROM THE WSET SYSTEMATIC APPROACH TO TASTING (SAT).

a. This mistake is the main source of points lost on the tasting exam. Once the tasting exam has begun, we always recommend that students use a blank sheet of paper to make a quick outline of the categories that they’ll need to describe related to Appearance, Nose, Palate, and Conclusions. As much as students think they know the SAT by memory, the stress of exam conditions can cause us to forget things.

2) NOT USING THE EXACT TERMS OF THE SAT. For example:

a. “deep/pronounced alcohol” instead of “high alcohol”.

b. “deep intensity” instead of “pronounced intensity”.

c. “high body” instead of “full body”

d. “a wine for saving/storing” instead of “has potential for ageing”

e. “can drink now” without making it clear if the wine can age further or not.

3) USING A DESCRIPTOR THAT DOESN’T EXIST IN THE SAT. For example:

a. alcohol medium (+) or alcohol medium (-) do not exist, only low, medium, or high alcohol.

b. subjective descriptors, such as lemon cake, soap, perfume for babies are not considered valid... It’s important to remember that the goal of the WSET is to use language that is both universal and objective.

4) WRITING THE MINIMUM NUMBER OF AROMA AND FLAVOR DESCRIPTORS NEEDED TO PASS (OR WRITING EVEN LESS THAN THE MINIMUM!!). On the Nose, at least 5 are needed, and on the Palate, at least 3.

a. It is likely that one of the descriptors listed will not be correct, and as incorrect descriptors are not penalized, we always recommend that students include all the descriptors they find.

5) NOT INCLUDING THE SAME FLAVOR DESCRIPTORS ON THE PALATE AS THOSE THAT WERE FOUND AS AROMA DESCRIPTORS ON THE NOSE.

6) FINDING A NEW FLAVOR ON THE PALATE, WHICH YOU DIDN’T FIND ON THE NOSE, AND FORGETTING TO GO BACK AND ADD THAT DESCRIPTOR AS AN AROMA ON THE NOSE.

7) WRITING CATEGORIES INSTEAD OF ACTUAL AROMA AND FLAVOR DESCRIPTORS.

a. For example: “green fruit” instead of “pear”. Categories alone will not be awarded any points.

8) WRITING A RANGE OF LEVELS INSTEAD OF ONE EXACT LEVEL.

a. For example: acidity is medium / medium (+).

9) FOR THE CATEOGRY OF “DEVELOPMENT” (FOUND WITHIN “NOSE”), WRITING “FULLY DEVELOPED” WHEN YOU’VE INCLUDED MULTIPLE PRIMARY AROMAS IN YOUR TASTING NOTE.

a. Another common mistake is to write “youthful” when multiple tertiary aromas have been included.

10) NOT INCLUDING THE WORD “SIMPLE”, BOTH ON THE NOSE AND ON THE PALATE, FOR A WINE THAT SHOWS AROMAS AND FLAVORS THAT ARE GENERIC AND LACKING IN COMPLEXITY.

a. In appropriate examples of exam wines, a point is assigned to the word “simple” both on the nose and on the palate. If the exam wine truly is simple, students will not be able to obtain the maximum points available if they do not include the word “simple” in their tasting note.

b. Another common mistake is to include the word “simple” on the Nose, but forget to include it on the Palate.