Changes to the Certified Examination

Hi friends,

Level one here in preparation for the Certified Examination.  I've seen it mentioned a couple of different places, but there's been some apparent changes to the format of the Level 2 test.  There's a price change for the exam, as well as an addition of an extra white and red for the tasting section. The CMS website states, "Utilizing the Court of Master Sommelier Deductive Tasting Method, candidates must describe and identify four wines (two white and two red) to the best of their ability."  While those are subtle changes, one of the main things altered in the description is the service portion.  The website says, "Candidates may be asked to open still or sparkling wines, to recommend cocktails or spirits, to discuss food and wine paring options, and to generally show their abilities as a restaurant sommelier." 

So my question goes out to people who might have deeper knowledge than I: does that remove the possibility of decanting from the service portion?  Has anyone else noticed any differences that might be of note?

All the best enjoying wine in 2017 and good luck to those taking examinations!

  • While, I can't say that it has never happened, I think it's been generally accepted that you will perform sparkling service in the service element. Newly added in 2016, it seems, is pouring glass wines as well from a mock bar. Overall, not huge sweeping changes. If you're familiar with working a restaurant floor, it will be no big stretch for you.


  • In reply to Greg Carlstrom:

    Hi Corey. I took the intensive sommelier training course at ICC. One of the Master Somm's was leaving town to go sit at a Certified test a few hours away and he took the decanting basket with him just in case it was going to be needed. That being said, I think for the most part you will be asked to uncork a champagne bottle with the just an angel's whisper. I have to add that they use a rather cheap cava and I have noticed they are much more difficult to manipulate than a higher priced actual champagne. If you have issues like carpal tunnel on on the hand you will be using, you might want to practice. If you have to decant, just make sure the flame is away in front of the neck so it isn't "cooking" the wine.
  • Hey there Corey

    I took the certified last year in June, and at that point no one to my knowledge has ever been asked to decant a bottle of wine for service exam. That being said however, i would never rule it out as these examinations are there to test our skills and knowledge. How well do you present yourself, and how good are your service mechanics? Are you comfortable with using a service tray, and setting and removing glasses (up to 8). There is a great video on this website about champagne service and if you have not watched it already i would highly recommend it. They did indeed ask me questions about classic cocktails, and for wine pairings. Get to know some producers both old and new world as more often than not they will ask for a second pairing even if your first is the most perfect pairing in the world. And most importantly do not let yourself get flustered. This exam will test your patience and knowledge along with how you can recover when you dont know the answer. Pretend like your boss just walked up to you ans says this "table 40 is having a bad night, and we have already fucked up their reservation. Be a Rockstar and go save that table" Have fun with it, because after all if we are not having fun doing this then we are in the wrong industry. At the end of the day its just fermented grape juice. Best of luck to you in your studies. I will be retaking certified on March 5th and will be happy to give you a better look at the test if you have not already taken it this year.

  • A Master could very well counter me on this, but you won't be decanting. That's at the Advanced level, as well as more refined sparkling service, and just generally more refined service overall. Anyone who works the floor should pass the Certified service portion handily. From what I've heard from others, it is wholly possible to not pass the Advanced service though unless one is truly working at an above average level.

    Best wishes in your studying. Be determined and you'll pass.
  • In reply to Joe Kuka:

    Joe, how did your certified go? Curious about the 2 whites, 2 reds format for 2017, as well as changes in the service portion
  • In reply to Andrew Milliorn:

    Good afternoon Andrew

    Exam went well, very stressful and much more challenging than last year. They added and additional 5 questions to the theory and it was very broad and difficult as apposed to last year which dealt mainly in Europe. The court is really trying to push out anyone who is just doing this for fun, and not in the industry and i think with the pass rate at my exam they have succeeded. This is not to discourage you or anyone who wants to try, but if you are not working in a restaurant or wine heavy industry this exam will be very difficult. The 2 whites 2 reds is done first and you have 30 minutes to complete your blinds. At that point they will pick up your tasting grids and hand out the theory exam. When it comes to the grid make sure you are showing your work and really hone in on the structure of the wine as this will help in your conclusion. You will have 30 minutes for the theory exam as well. When you finish they will give you a time to return for your service exam. To my knowledge no one was asked to decant a red wine, but that is not to say they cannot do so as it is something you should be familiar with at the Certified level. Service last 15 minutes and you should be proficient in Champagne producers, both classic with their prestige cuves, and a vast array of smaller producers. Aperitifs, digestifs, cocktails, food and wine pairings, beers, sak├ęs, spirits, and the formal steps of service. You will have 1 master or possibly 2 at your tables, along with 2 to 4 empty seats represents additional guests. Treat these as actual guests, acknowledge special occasions, and any ladies present at the table during service. Make sure you can evenly pour for anywhere from 4 to 6 glasses of bubbles table side without pouring out the bottle. Should be extremely proficient in opening a bottle of bubbles using the knife from your corkscrew to remove foil, and serviette to keep remove cork and not making a sound. I passed my exam with very high scores and marks, and like i said this was a very hard exam. This was my experience and always keep in mind the exam changes on a regular basis and the court is keen on a forward momentum when it comes to these exams. hope this helps.