As I have recently been furloughed and I have a bit more time on my hands, I am considering doing my WSET 3 online. Has anyone here done the online version of the course? How would you describe your experience?
I was also considering doing it online! But I thought I might be a bit sad & it might be expensive not sharing the wines
I’ve not got any experience of WSET online stuff, but I agree with Hannah, it’d be expensive online given the number of “required” wines. It’d also be tough due to the tasting exam being, which is usually marked by your tutor, so you spend the x days or weeks tuning your pallet to theirs.
Might be worth looking at Wine Scholar Guild courses, which are more in-depth, but don’t have a tasting component and then going back to WSET3 once we’re allowed near people again?
I agree with @HannahHamblin and @strawpig. WSET 3 requires quite a depth of knowledge, and as you need to calibrate your palate with that of your tutor - doing this remotely sounds like a serious disadvantage. Level 2 is doable, I reckon - but with a tasting exam on level 3 I wouldn’t recommend it as a remote learning.
Agree with Patrick that the Wine Scholar Guild courses are much more suitable for that sort of learning, being theory-focused, but again, I got a huge amount from the in-class tasting and discussions.
Thank you for all the replies. I would normally do it in person, but unfortunately my working hours as well as being a parent to a 7 week old precludes it. The only reason I can consider this is that I have been furloughed for the duration of the current crisis.
In terms of calibrating your palate to your tutor, is the test not blind anyway? Surely it is your own palate no? The course does include a full tasting day, so hopefully One would “key in” to the WSET tasting identifiers. Maybe I am being naive though.
It’s a bit of an odd one, actually! I found it the most challenging bit. Your tutor is the one marking your blind tasting, so over the course of time, you need to calibrate your palate to theirs. There is a degree of flexibility in marking you (e.g. they thought a wine had high acidity, but you put medium+… you will stil get the mark), but if you state the wine is fully developed and your tutor did not judge it to be the case - you lose that mark, even if that’s what your palate told you.
So tuning into your tutor’s palate is crucial. Though I guess they will find ways around it in an on-line delivery. I really hope we don’t put you off…! It’s just an opinion
Strongly agree with @Inbar - I have done level 2 and 3 and the essence of them is the tasting system. Yes, you really do calibrate your palate to your tutor…but usually your tutor is a very experienced, knowledgable person who in all likelihood is a better taster and can judge the acidity, tannin, body, sweetness etc better than you can. That’s what is usually meant by the palate aspect - They give an excellent judge of context from one wine to the next. You might say something is a ‘pronounced’ aroma, but is it really?; say compared to a very full sweet dessert wine, marlborough sauvignon etc.
My recommendation would be to wait for the in-person experience and spend your time now just reading wine for your own pleasure. I bet £100 would buy a king’s ransom of books on amazon marketplace and this sort of general knowledge will be immensely useful for when going into the course.
You can also look at some example questions, which is the other bit of the exam. If like me you hadn’t done an exam for over 10 years then just the process of breaking down an answer into the classic exam technique is what flummocks people.
Also, it’s just quite nice to have a bit of camaradierie with your fellow students
I agree, the tasting element is a bit of a strange one to navigate. As it is just the one person marking, there’s bound to be a certain level of subjectivity in what should be an entirely objective process, but as @Inbar said, there’s always a bit of flexibility. They’re not out to trick you in the exam so will pick the best possible representation of a style.
From the theory side of things it’s more doable. When I did mine, it wasn’t an online course, but we only ever had 2 tutored sessions for sparkling and fortified. For the rest it was up to you to read and understand the material. That being said, I feel like it would’ve been more beneficial to actually have some more tutored time to fully understand everything and how to apply it in the exam.
If there is a tasting day then it is okay to do the rest remotely. That is what I did. Also at the tasting you just need to forget that you are drinking wine, it is a mechanical exercise. Most probably you will recognise at least one of the wines and just need to remember the typical descriptors and then be as generic about the other wine as you dare. Unless your aim is to get a distinction of course. My opinion only.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t use a tutor for any of my WSET level 3 study, and just went to London for the exam. I am not sure if that is still an option, but perhaps my experience might help you decide what you should do anyway…?
The material for the written part of the exam is all in the book anyway. So read that, and learn a fair chunk of it, and you will be fine. And if you buy the full learning pack, which I would very much recommend, you get sample exam questions and other learning material, all of which were very useful.
As others have mentioned, the tasting element is more tricky. At the time I was tasting quite widely anyway, and additionally got together with some friends to follow the excercises in Michael Schuster book Essential Winetasting. Yes, I was concerned about what WSET would consider to be low, medium and high on the various dimensions, but judging by my grade on that part I seemed to get it within the examiner’s tolerances.
Obviously I missed the social aspect of attending a class, and only you can decide how important that might be to you. But I did still study the full breadth of the curriculum (a lot of which I might have ignored otherwise), and got some sort of certification for what I learned.
I fear to give a definitive answer but please note that there’s a fair bit of normalisation in the marking of the tasting as there is a significant level of remarking back at WSET Awards and there is also a fairly rigorous level of both teaching of the tutors in terms of how to mark (through both the original Educator training and also in terms of what is a correct marking key for a particular wine).
As Steve alludes to it is however very important for students to understand what the WSET archetypes are for levels of acidity etc and this is the crucial advantage of face-to-face courses. Caveat is that although I think I’m still a certified educator I have not been directly involved at Level 3 since September 2016.
I completed Level 3 last year. From my point of view ( and as someone in his mid-70s) I don’t think the online course would have been suitable for me. I attended a taught course (one day a week - but there are other alternatives) with the Yorkshire Wine School in Leeds. I agree with many of the previous contributors about the importance of calibrating one’s palate with that of the tutor but would also add that the course offered so many opportunities to taste a fantastic range of wines, some of which were new to me. Each day consisted of tasting between 20 and 30 wines along with all the theory work. The theory exam seems to be based entirely on the content in the Course Handbook, so there was no point in any extraneous reading. My final comment is that L3 is a massive step up from L2. I found L2 to be a bit of a doddle, but L3 was quite challenging!