A Beer Judge’s Diary: the BJCP Test

Column update: Millie did pass, the second time… while keeping an eye out for online “quirks.”

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
  I’m Certified, my wife Millie is an Apprentice: a rank that will be disappearing soon. According to Mike Dixon on the Facebook BJCP judge page, probably April 1st. Millie just got confirmation: April 1st. We are both Legacy: having taken the old sit down test.
  Let’s start with “we all have our quirks.” One of Millie’s is from her mother: doing things late, or at the last moment. With her mother it’s a family joke, of sorts. Not Marilyn Jenny herself, no: everyone loves her. Nah, just Jenny last moment, or late-ism.
  The reason I’m telling you all this is she started studying, hoping to keep her BJCP status. Probably “started” 2 months ago: more I suspect. In school I was the B+ to C or D student. A’s for English, B’s History and everything else maybe a C, a few D’s. Yet when it comes to the online BJCP test this solid A student (Millie) has had a problem that makes the former high flying student fail the Legacy: twice, the online once.
 Let’s start with the obvious: students in school year after year have test taking abilities those out of school over 30 years have left behind. The BJCP can’t make a test for all, no matter how hard they try, but this must be noted. Another note: 200 questions, one hour to answer and many multiple choice, multiple answer on styles every judge ha& the guidelines in front of them for? Absolutely: it does help folks get to know styles; styles that do shift… to add a caveat to that claim. So, yes, asking such questions is appropriate, though perhaps too skewed towards those with photographic memories and the anal attention of a savant, or certain forms of ADHD.
 No, the problem she had was navigation. Press the digital button to go to the next page and it wouldn’t. Press it again it skipped a page. Sometimes it just skipped a page with one press. Then there was a server notice that connection had been lost. This was her work computer: “connection lost” highly unlikely. The only way to solve it was to get out then back in again. And navigation to the page for the test was odd, frustrating. All of which not needed in what’s a pressure cooker of just a few seconds per 200 questions. Needless to say almost half of the questions had been unanswered and she was, basically, screwed by unnecessary “glitches.”
 The next time she took it she went to a library computer with Internet Explorer. Once in: frustrating again despite having navigated it once IE was… better?
 But the new online, once past these snafus was pretty good according to her… except: one must wonder…
 While there are time constraints when judging, usually set by the organizer and the concept passed down from on high that 10 minutes is all one needs. Not strictly adhered to, for sure. But does just a handful of seconds per questions actually test one of the most crucial abilities a judge should have? That ability is to assess and reassess: contemplate, decide maybe there’s more there than you thought. I have judged with too many judges who judge like they’re taking the online test: who feel judging is a sentence, sometimes filled with snark, then quickly move on is proper judging. Usually they claim to absolutely know in a few seconds all the problems with an entry.
 That’s not my experience, and most judges who judge that way, in my experience, are wrong as much as they are right.
 Just a few observations, for whatever they’re worth. And that’s another talent I enjoy: listening to the observations others may have: consensus judging. So… what do you think about the “new” online?


 A Beer Judge’s Diary is a column that follows the judging adventures of BJCP judge Ken Carman and his wife, Millie; a column that celebrates both homebrewers and professionalism in beer judging.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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