MW Results 2021

View from my "MW exam hotel" window. 


The below is a summary of a few conversations I have had with many acquaintances in recent weeks.


Friend: “How did your exams go?”

“I failed.”

Friend: “Sorry to hear that. What happens now?”

Me: “I’m going to defer as I need to get my finances together and want more time to visit vineyards and wineries. So I’ll hopefully start the course from next September and take the exams again in 2023. We’ll see.”

Friend: “How much is the course again?”

Me: “It’s about £5,000 for tuition and £2,000 for the exam every year.”

Friend: “That’s a lot of money.”

Me: “Yep. I need to factor in more for additional tastings and travel too.”

Friend: “That’s a big commitment. So what will you do when you pass the MW?”

Me: “Well there is no guarantee I will pass, as the pass rate is around 10%. If I do get through, I’m not sure what I will “do” as such. I’m still figuring that out."

Friend: “Oh, so you don’t want to be a sommelier?”

Me: “No, it isn’t that kind of course. A sommelier is a wine professional who works on a restaurant floor. You don’t need to take the MW course to do that.”

Friend: “But why are you studying so hard for something when you don’t know if you will pass and what it will lead to?”

Me: Pause. “Enough about me, how are you?”

I came quite close to passing, certainly on the theory anyway. A, C and D for practical and B, B, C+, C, C for theory (Cs don’t count as passing grades at the IMW, something my partner Nick still can’t get his head round). Despite much disappointment, I feel these grades fairly reflect my performance over the course of the 4-day exam marathon. I am proud of what I achieved, particularly the A on Practical Paper 1, the white wine paper. Unfortunately, none of these passing grades can be kept. It’s very much an “all or nothing” kind of examination. So the slate is wiped clean and the whole process starts again.

When I received the news, I came to realise that I have been part of the education system for more of my life than not. 13 years of school, 4 years of university, 1.5 years of WSET and 2 years of IMW. That is 20.5 years of formal education in total out of my 32 years on the planet. Considering the first 5 years of my existence can’t be considered, for obvious reasons, I have been free of study for a grand total of 6 and a half years. I can’t bring myself to work out the number of “desk” hours, and I certainly don’t want to think about the amount of money spent and debt acrrued.

I know I am not alone. Plenty of people take additional qualifications later in life to further or change careers, provide mental stimulation and enjoyment, or to prove others wrong. The latter reason seems to be a bit of a theme with MW candidates. There is a sense of sheer resolve, grit and, dare I say, anger, that bubbles under the surface of some students, determined to demonstrate to the world “I can do it. I’ll show them. I’ll show them all.” Spoiler alert - I am this student.

But it’s challenging to keep up such drive and motivation, particularly when my recent grades haven’t hit the mark. After hours, days, weeks, months and years of study - it’s not good enough. I’m not good enough. Will I ever be good enough? Why am I even taking this qualification? What is the point? (Welcome to my internal monologue).

In order to digest, reflect and move forward, I’m taking a few months off from the MW programme with a view to start-up again next September. Between now and then, I aim to remind myself why I have chosen this particular path and what I would like to see at the end of it.

To be continued!

I must add a note of congratulations to my fellow students who did pass either or both parts of the exam. You are beyond incredible!!! I salute you!

1 comment

  • Getting an ‘A’ on paper 1 was an enormous achievement – it had a very low pass rate as a paper. Keep on going. It will be its own reward, honest.
    Have a lovely Christmas.


    Rod Smith

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