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Getting started in WSET?


I currently hold my certification through the CMS and will be attending the Advanced Course this summer in Dallas. I am curious about starting the WSET program as well, but the website isn't terribly helpful. I'm wondering about the differences between classes/online study/home study, and how comparable the levels are to the CMS (should I jump into level 3?)

Any feedback would be appreciated.


  • I did the WSET advanced and went to classes and really enjoyed the classroom structure. It's a little more than the certified through CMS, but will help you prepare for advanced. Just my experience.

    Best of luck!

  • Hi Gigina, I took the online WSET Level 3 class last winter.  You can pretty much go at your own pace through the class and schedule an exam at your leisure (I think within a year of registering).  I found the online information to be fairly decent but gained most of my 'knowledge' through the provided book.  I will say this, the 'assignments' that are attached to each chapter/section of the online class really helped out as they prepared me for the exact types of questions on the test.  I felt that was the best part of the class.  But otherwise, I utilized the book for pretty much everything else.  Please reach out to me if you have more questions.  Cheers!

  • I'm at a similar point in the CMS progression as you are.  In WSET, I did the online level 2 about three years ago, and the level 3 in person two years ago.  I think the level 3 is a good step between CMS Certified and Advanced, and a reasonable level to jump into.  I do recommend doing it in person--WSET is very specific and forthright with acceptable terminology for tasting, and the in-person feedback is invaluable.

  • Honestly the best way to do level 3 is the week long intensive and go into the final exam having been tasting all week alongside tutors. 

    No chance of you completely losing it on one question either as you will have had atleast a brief summary of the region taught to you at some point in the last five days. 

  • I often hear people saying it’s harder than cms cert but after having just passed cert I honestly think it’s much easier in many regards. Their tasting grid is very straightforward and is not focused on deduction but rather an assessment of quality and the ageability of the wines. I find their syllabus makes it very easy to break down your studies into chunks and the textbooks are very much teaching to the exam. While I do think they go way deeper in viticulture, vinification, moderating topography/climatic factors once again the syllabus and included maps/workbook make it incredible digestible. I’d die to have had the court included something similar as I do believe the WSET teaching approach nets better results for long term understanding. There are little to no mention of producers, vintages, zero wine business math, sales, and obviously no service, aside from knowing storage/service temperatures. That said the actual test does include some short answer essays which require critical thinking and a depth of knowledge on the topics so you can lay out a good argument for your reasoning. I did level 2 in class, enjoyed it but took 3 online because whether doing it in class or online it requires a lot of independent study time. The classes are simply a fast paced review (similar to intro cms course) and while the tasting is great, just taste on your own or with a group! I passed w merit and loved doing it online. I felt over prepared by the time I took the test. 

    I reviewed the syllabus after after writing this and Man o Man do I wish the court did this. Check the WSET specification, it’s literally an exact tour guide of everything you need to do and nothing you don’t. 

  • I just signed up for my Level 3 WSET online and very much looking forward to the structure. I had met some fellow somm friends at SommCon who recommended the same jump to WSET 3 as I was working the floor, studying for my certified, etc. I have heard wonderful feedback about the structure and fingers crossed it will aid in further preparing me for the Certified Theory exam. Good Luck!

  • Here is a link to comparisons of most the various certifications available in the US.

  • I finished in December the Advanced of WSET and it was well worth the money.  I am studying now for June CMS Certified, and am very confident based upon the studying and information from the WSET Advanced.   In addition, of most value was the 6 wines we tasted in every week - the note taking and guidance on tastings was invaluable.   I think it can only be another feather in your cap at this point in your wine education.  Best of luck, Jackie

  • Hey!

    My experience with the WSET has been amazing so far. I studied throughout 2016 for the CMS certified exam first which I sat that October, and then sat the WSET advanced exam a few weeks after (skipping the WSET 1 and 2). The preparation for the certified in my opinion was more than enough to confidently take and pass the WSET advanced. I would say the theory was a little more in depth than the CMS certified since it was multiple choice as well as essay, and the tasting portion was similar to certified.

    Currently I'm completing the final two units of the WSET 4 Diploma and have had a great experience over the last year. The diploma level is broken up into 6 units that all dive deeper into the different aspects of the beverage world so its definitely helped strengthen my overall theory as I prepare for the CMS Advanced. By studying fortified, sparkling, spirits, still wine, etc. and taking individual written/tasting exams it really forces you to study very in depth for each.

    I've done either online or home study for all of my WSET exams which I've had positive experiences with both. Online offers the option to do discussions, assignments, and submit answers for review, as well as structures out your weekly prep and study hours. Home study has been beneficial too, I like to have the freedom to create my own timeline for preparing and build a "syllabus/curriculum" that has worked best for me.

    Overall I'd say jump right into level 3! Depending on where you live there are a few really great providers, I've gone through Philly Wine School in Philadelphia (home study), American Wine School in Chicago (classes), and Grape Experience in San Francisco (online).

    Hope this helps, feel free to reach out with any questions. Happy to help! See you in Dallas!


  • I completed the certified and WSET3 within a few weeks of each other; if you are preparing for the advanced exam you should be in fabulous shape.