Certified, Is Three Months Enough?

Hello all,

If you're a naysayer or will suggest a year of preparation, for the sake of my confidence, please don't.  However, I would love to hear from a few more focused individuals who have passed Certified with three months prep time.  I know it's possible as a close friend has done it.

I passed Intro late last year and planned to take some time to prepare for Certified but, some big changes are taking place and I have to complete this goal before June or it won't happen.  I have one shot in three months time and that's that.  I have been studying at a consistent but, leisurely pace for a year (for Intro).  As of November 2018, I've been going very deep into the blue chip regions with a more Advanced study approach.  

My current situation allows for 3 days a week of uninterrupted study.  I currently do not work the floor but, can practice (role play) service daily.  The tasting portion I'm very confident on and will continue to practice.  My concern is theory and service.  How many of you have gone from zero to Certified in three months? 

Thank you!

  • I know you said that you are confident in tasting but I’d dedicate at least one of your three days to finding a tasting group. Anything can be done, it just depends on your commitment and diligence towards studying.

  • Awesome!  Thank you.  Been attending a regular tasting group for about a year.  It's theory and service that concern me.

  • Hi Michael, 

    i took intro almost 2.5 years ago and signed up for the certified exam late November and just took it this week, passing. I studied 6-7 days a week, 2-4 hours a day, and blind tasted 1-2 times a week. Though the holidays threw a wrench in some. That being said, I manage a program and am also on the floor every night. It was simultaneously the worst/best/hardest day of my life! I’d say go for it, hard work will pay off, and even if you don’t pass you’ll have more of an idea what to expect next time! 

  • Have you worked the floor before? I'd be looking to stage at a restaurant if you haven't, because that will potentially trip you up. However, with strong, focused studying plus your tasting group, it's within the realm of possibility.

    I passed my certified just over 3 months after my intro with the very strong caveats that I had been working as a wine director for a few years prior, working service (more as a bar manager in practice) and hospitality for 12 years. I was a part of a couple of tasting groups too. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't impossible either. The pressure of having one shot might be a good motivator for you! 

  • Hi!

    So I will say it's not easy but can be done. I took my Intro late May (May 21st & 22nd) last year and then my Certified (August 11) in August at TexSom. So technically 2 1/2 months. However, I had no free time. I was meeting with my tasting group two times a week. Studying at home  when before work, listening to audiobooks/podcasts to and from work. I was studying at work.Then studying until 3 AM. It can be done, but I knew I needed to put the effort in. For background, I did study wine in college so I did have a knowledge on the subject.

  • I’d certainly say it’s possible but takes commitment. I passed my intro in late October of 2018 and passed my certified yesterday.  So a little longer than 3 months but felt comfortable. However I certainly over prepared for intro which helped a ton having a head start for certified. Also started tasting/learning about wine about 3 years ago so was already comfortable with a lot of things. For service I work in a high end restaurant as a server so was exposed to the format of the service everyday so it felt natural. I’d say not working the floor would be what might cause you the most trouble in terms of nerves/your flow. For theory, it’s what you put into it. If you don’t put in the time, you won’t pass. But is it doable? Absolutely. Basically, if you felt like intro was a breeze, then thats a good sign and just build on that 

  • While possible and you do see quite a few people that have achieved this, I'd like to say that if you haven't already started studying for the exam as if you plan to take the test then you may want to wait until the opportunity after June. it will take a few days to even develop a curriculum to study all around the world of wine while adding cocktails, sake styles and fermentation method, beer of multiple styles, vermouth producers and where they come from, and the laundry list of tete de cuvees. Everything in that list was touched on during the service portion of my Certified, if you feel as if you can comfortably answer those question while serving a Master Sommelier for about 15 minutes to the court standard, AND stick to your rigorous study curriculum then you just might do it. I had 6 mo in between my Intro and Cert, but had been studying for certified for about a year before the actual exam.

  • Thank you to all who replied!  I signed up and am beyond motivated.  I have three months to the day with a very rigorous curriculum mapped out and I’m well on my way.  I hope to post here after completing the test!  

  • I'm taking my certified in June in Florida and would love to see your curriculum if you're willing to share

  • Nothing is impossible. I gave myself a full year. This sounds like a unique situation. I feel like the decision is already made, you either take it and try or you don’t get an opportunity with the 3 years? What do you have to lose? Give it your best and if not try again when you can, good luck sir.

  • The theory and service portions are extremely intense and in-depth.  If the intro felt like a breeze to you, and if you have an extremely rigorous study habit, you can do it.  I took my intro in late January, and just passed my certified in Portland two days ago, but I spent the last year (I knew nothing about wine a year ago) preparing very steadily and diligently; though my mindset was not pass now or never or even studying for the sole purpose of passing a test.

    But once I took the intro and felt like my studies up to that point had prepared me for well beyond the intro, it boosted my confidence to pursue the certified almost immediately.  I studied rigorously (3 or more hours every day) since January asking myself more practical questions (things that actually create a good experience for people rather than just regurgitating facts) to prepare.  For example:

         If I were trying to put together a great wine list from every wine-producing country on earth, what subregions / producers would I look at? (And I put together and memorized my own wine list from all over the world which helped tremendously in service.  I also would go to total wine or their website and pretend shop to see how much it would cost me to put together that list)

         Why should I choose wines from X subregion instead of Y subregion in Austria (Chile, Argentina, etc)? (And that helped drive home sub regions especially from the less glamorous or famous regions. And it opened my eyes up to the cool stories that exist among the winemakers in the less famous regions, which in turn made the wines easier to pitch on my list because at that point they had more value than just a memorized list)

         How can I be prepared to offer drink options for a guy or girl at a table who doesn't like wine at all and make them feel just as valued as the guests ordering wine? (And that helped drive home cocktails and what they're made of. And I went out and bought the stuff to make a new cocktail every night for my wife, or guests at my house, etc. I also practiced making variations on the major cocktails once I gained a better understanding of the basic structures of how most are made)

         How can I carry a tray around without looking like an idiot? (So I practiced carrying a cookie sheet with a napkin on it filled with wine glasses up and down the stairs a few times each night before I went to sleep)

    How can I open a bottle of still wine with a serviette on hand without making a bunch of clumsy changes of hand? (and I practiced literally hundreds of times with empty bottles until I had a nice natural flowing method that met the CMS service requirements and I could do it without thinking.  I also created a different flow of opening with a serviette for sparkling and champagne because they are absolutely different.  Practiced literally hundreds of times with empty bottles until I could do it without thinking.  This helped because I was actually able to listen to the "guest" instead of concentrating on mechanics during the service exam).

    etc. etc. etc.

    But, you can do it, and you'll definitely have to "go hard in the paint" until the exam with your study schedule. And as someone else stated, it's not the end of the world if you fail.  You'll be smarter and better having devoted so much time to it regardless of outcome.

  • Hello Morgan! 

    would be so kind and contact me via my email (natmowery@gmail.com) to give me a bit more info about questions you remember from the test? 

    I would greatly appreciate that!

    thank you in advance,


  • I took my intro and certified on the same day and passed. So, can be done. I hadn’t heard of the court 3 months before that. Not unusual in India, where I am from. But I was a beverage manager already by then, working in the industry for past 8 years. So, guess it depends on you working in the industry and hands on experience for the service exam. Theory can be done in 3 months, but you may need 3 to 4 hours a day, unless you have been studying all this while anyway and only revision is required. 

    Good luck. It’s possible 

  • Hi Natalia, to put it simply there were questions on everything, from everywhere. There is no easy “study this don’t worry about that” answer (even if there was, doesn’t that defeat the point?). I have talked with a friend who took the exam across the country a month before and we had completely different exams. So basically anything I could tell you would be pointless! Study hard, and broad, I personally made a plan when I started to focus on areas I was weak in, and then the couple weeks before reviewed what I felt my strengths were. At the end of the day even if you don’t pass you’ll learn a lot! Good luck!