BJCP Exam Structure

Last modified: March 18, 2019

Details about the requirements needed to take each component of the BJCP exams.

Definitions

BJCP Beer Judge Entrance Examination
A web-based examination of beer styles, ingredients, beer characteristics, brewing processes, and the BJCP program. Think of it as the online qualifier for the Beer Judging Examination.
BJCP Beer Judging Examination
A tasting examination that consists of completing scoresheets for the six examination beers. Taking this exam is the event that triggers membership in the BJCP, and is what causes a BJCP ID to be created.
BJCP Beer Judge Written Proficiency Examination
A revised version of the traditional BJCP essay examination, required to advance to the National or higher rank.
BJCP Legacy Beer Examination
The beer examination used prior to 1 April 2012 that consisted of an essay portion and a tasting portion where the portions were combined in a 70/30 ratio to determine a total (composite) examination score.
BJCP Legacy Mead Examination
The mead examination that existed before 1 November 2015.
BJCP Mead Judge Entrance Examination
A web-based examination of mead styles, ingredients, mead characteristics, mead-making processes, and the BJCP program. Think of it as the online qualifier for the Mead Judging Exam.
BJCP Mead Judging Examination
A tasting examination that consists of completing scoresheets for the six examination meads.
BJCP Cider Judge Entrance Examination
A web-based examination of cider styles, ingredients, cider characteristics, cider-making processes, and the BJCP program. Think of it as the online qualifier for the Cider Judging Exam.
BJCP Cider Judging Examination
A tasting examination that consists of completing scoresheets for the six examination ciders.
Provisional Judge
Someone who has passed the Entrance Exam, but not yet taken the Judging Exam. A Provisional Judge is not yet a BJCP member, and does not have a BJCP ID. Provisional is not a BJCP judge rank.
Apprentice Judge
Someone who has taken, but not passed, the Judging Exam. Apprentice is a judge rank, and an Apprentice Judge has a BJCP ID and is a BJCP member, although not yet with full membership rights.
Active Status
A BJCP judge who stays current in the program, generally by participating in BJCP events at least every two years (see the BJCP Member Guide for full details). Status is different than Rank; a BJCP member has both a rank and a status.
Affiliated Status
An Apprentice judge who does not meet the requirements in full membership within two years, regardless of activity level
Full member
An Active BJCP judge who has passed one of the initial judging exams; a beer judge is a full member if they have a rank of Recognized or higher.

Starting Points

There are three different entry points into the BJCP program for new judges. The most commonly used path is the one for becoming a beer judge. There are also entry points that allow one to start as a mead judge or as a cider judge. Existing BJCP judges may also use these entry points to attain additional credentials.

  1. If you wish to become a BJCP beer judge and have never taken a BJCP beer examination, see Taking the web-based Beer Entrance Exam.
  2. If you wish to become a BJCP mead judge and have never taken a BJCP mead examination, see Taking the web-based Mead Entrance Exam.
  3. If you wish to become a BJCP cider judge and have never taken a BJCP cider examination, see Taking the web-based Cider Entrance Exam.

If you are a BJCP Provisional Judge

If you are a BJCP Apprentice Judge

If you are already a ranked BJCP judge, there are several different paths for advancement depending on your existing scores and rank; see Section 3: Existing, Non-Apprentice BJCP Judges.

Existing, Non-Apprentice BJCP Judges

The exam structure has been carefully designed to be as compatible as possible with the beer legacy exam while being as fair as possible to current BJCP judges and to those entering the program. The minimum requirements for the basic judging levels are summarized in the Table 1 and are the basis for the criteria used to determine the required written and judging exam scores for current and new judges who wish to advance in the program. There are additional experience point requirements that are outlined in the BJCP Program Guide (generally, half the experience points required for any level must be judging points). Exam scores in Table 1 must be equal to or greater than the minimum requirement shown to qualify for advancement.

Exam Segment Recognized Certified National Master
Beer Entrance Exam or essay portion of Legacy Exam Pass the Entrance Exam or 60% on essay portion of Legacy Exam
Beer Judging Exam or tasting portion of Legacy Exam 60% on Beer Judging Exam 70% on Beer Judging Exam 80% on either tasting portion of Beer Legacy Exam or Beer Judging Exam 80% on either tasting portion of Beer Legacy Exam or Beer Judging Exam
Beer Written Proficiency Exam or composite score of Legacy Exam   Sufficiently high score to yield a comprehensive score of 70% Sufficiently high score to yield a comprehensive score of 80% Sufficiently high score to yield a comprehensive score of 90%

Table 1. Minimum Exam score criteria to Achieve a New Rank

The differences between the new and old exam structures may result in some existing judges having a rank without quite meeting the criteria in Table 1. However, they are grandfathered into their current level since Table 1 only applies for those needing a higher exam score to qualify for a promotion. Otherwise, their existing judging and tasting scores are retained and they continue on their current trajectory to the next judging level by earning experience points.

  1. Recognized judges who need a higher exam score to advance to the Certified rank have different paths, depending on their scores on the essay portion of the legacy exam. 
    1. Recognized judges who scored at least 60% on the essay portion of the legacy exam do not have to take the Beer Entrance Exam. As with new members, these judges may advance to the Certified rank by scoring at least 70% on the Beer Judging Exam. Their previous scores on the tasting exam will not be applied since the six-beer entrance exam presents a more rigorous challenge than judging four beers in the tasting portion of the legacy exam.
    2. Recognized judges who scored below 60% on the essay portion of the exam must first pass the Beer  Entrance Exam and then score at least 70% on the Beer Judging Exam, regardless of their score on the tasting portion of the legacy exam.
    3. Recognized judges who have at least ten judging points and have achieved a score of at least 80% on either the Beer Judging Exam or the tasting portion of the Legacy Beer Exam are permitted to take the Beer Written Exam.
  2. Certified judges who need a higher exam score to qualify for the National rank must have at least ten judging points and a minimum score of 80% on either the Beer Judging Exam or the tasting portion of the Legacy Beer Exam to gain approval to take the Beer Written Exam.
  3. Judges who are already National or qualified for the National rank under the legacy exam system can take either Beer Judging Exam or the Beer Written Exam at any time regardless of their previous examination scores.

When a composite exam score needs to be calculated for rank advancement (as shown in Table 1), the weighting of exam segments depends on which exams were taken. Under the legacy exam program, essay and tasting portions were weighted 70/30. Under the current exam program, written and judging exams are weighted 50/50. In both cases, the highest exam score for each specific type of test are used in the composite score calculation.

Judges who entered the program under the legacy system continue to have their scores weighted at 70/30; re-weighting under the 50/50 system is not automatic. However, if a judge in this situation subsequently takes either the Judging Exam or the Written Exam, the composite score can be re-weighted under the 50/50 system if the exam score on a current type of exam is equal to or greater than a previous score on the corresponding portion of the legacy exam (i.e., the Judging Exam score is compared against the Tasting Portion score, and the Written Exam score is compared against the Essay Portion score). The re-weighting will only occur if it results in an improvement in composite score; a reduction in judge rank or decrease in total score will not happen. 

The rationale for this rule is that judges have to demonstrate evidence of improvement or at least parity to benefit from the re-weighting of their component exam scores.

Taking the Web-based Beer Entrance Exam

The web-based Beer Entrance Exam is the online qualifier for the Beer Judging Exam. A prospective BJCP beer judge must pass this Beer Entrance Exam as the first step to gaining certification. The examinee must present a valid, unexpired certificate or certificate ID from the Beer Entrance Exam in order to sit for the Beer Judging Exam.

The portal for this exam is: http://bjcp.coursewebs.com.

The exam consists of 180 questions in a mixture of true-false, multiple-choice-single-answer, and multiple-choice-multiple-answer format. You are allowed 60 minutes to complete this test. The exam is graded automatically after it is submitted. Scoring is pass/fail; no numerical score will be provided, although major areas with below passing proficiency will be identified in the examination summary.

Those who fail are not in the BJCP program but can retake the Beer Entrance Exam after at least a one day wait. They must pay an additional fee each time they retake the exam.

Those that pass this exam are Provisional judges – this is not a BJCP rank, no BJCP ID is assigned, and those who pass are not yet BJCP members! Provisional status simply means that you have a valid certificate from the entrance exam and are permitted to sit for the judging exam. The certificate is good for one year from the date of the entrance exam. If you do not take a judging exam this one year period, you must pass the entrance exam again.

Provisional judges should see Beer Judging Exam for details on taking the Beer Judging Exam.

Beer Judging Exam

The Beer Judging Exam is the primary tool for evaluating practical skills of new beer judges, and has replaced the tasting portion of the legacy beer exam. It consists of completing scoresheets for six beers served at 15 minute intervals – a total of 90 minutes is allowed for this examination.

For existing BJCP judges who are full members of the program, their BJCP ID is sufficient to allow them to take the Beer Judging Exam. For Provisional judges, a copy of the email message or the certificate acknowledging passing the Beer Entrance Exam is required. Beer Judging Exams taken by ineligible participants will not be graded and the exam fee will not be returned.

Those taking the Beer Judging Exam cannot become full members of the BJCP until their exam score is determined, although a BJCP ID may be issued. These judges should mark their scoresheets with the Rank Pending box until notified of their rank; this indicates a judge who has taken the exam but not yet received their score.

For Provisional beer judges, the score on the Beer Judging Exam determines their rank. Those scoring less than 60% are Apprentice judges; those scoring at least 60% are Recognized judges; and those scoring at least 70% and with five or more experience points (at least 2.5 from judging) are Certified judges. Note that Apprentice judges are time-limited in their rank; they must qualify for a full member rank per the terms described in Active BJCP Apprentice Judges.

If the score on the Beer Judging Exam represents an improvement over prior scores, a change in composite score and/or a change in rank may occur. The rules and conditions for these improvements are described in Existing, Non-Apprentice BJCP Judges. If the judging/tasting score is not an improvement, there will be no change in composite score or rank.

Affiliated BJCP Judges

Affiliated judges are a special type of Inactive judges who cannot become Active again without restarting the exam process. Judges with the Affiliated status are known to the BJCP, have BJCP IDs, maintain their experience points, may continue to judge and accrue experience points, but are not considered full members. There are several paths to Affiliated status for a judge; one each for the Beer, Mead and Cider programs. Each of the three programs has a separate two year time-frame for passing the associated Judging Exam.

  1. An active Apprentice judge that did not retake and pass the Beer Judging Exam within two years of their initial attempt has their status changed from Active to Affiliated.
  2. An active Apprentice judge that did not retake and pass the Mead Judging Exam within two years of their initial attempt has their status changed from Active to Affiliated.
  3. An active Apprentice judge that did not retake and pass the Cider Judging Exam within two years of their initial attempt has their status changed from Active to Affiliated.

On 1 April 2014, all Active Apprentice judges who had been members on 1 April 2012 but who had not passed the Beer Judging Exam were reclassified as Affiliated, along with all Inactive Apprentice judges.

Judges with an Affiliated status start the path to full membership in the same way as new members; they must pass an Entrance Exam and then pass the associated Judging Exam.

Judges that already have attained a BJCP Judge rank via one path and then attempt one of the other paths do not have their rank reduced to Apprentice by failing the Judging Exam for that additional path. However, after two years without retaking and passing the same Judging Exam they revert to needing to restart that path with the Entrance Exam just as any other entrant. Likewise, their status will not be changed to Affiliated after two years without passing the associated Judging Exam following the rules pertaining to that specific exam.

Active BJCP Apprentice Judges

Apprentice is not a permanent BJCP judge rank; it is given to those who fail a Judging Exam, and has a two-year lifetime. Apprentice judges must retake and pass the Judging Exam they failed within two years or their status changes from Active to Affiliated. It is not necessary for Active Apprentice judges to retake the associated Entrance Exam in order to retake the Judging Exam. Those Active Apprentice judges who pass the Judging Exam become full members in the BJCP, and are assigned a rank per the rules described in the beer judge ranks reference.

All Apprentice judges under the legacy beer exam have either become full members or been converted to Affiliated status.

Beer Written Exam

The Beer Written Exam is required for anyone wishing to advance to the National rank or higher. This test consists of 20 true-false questions and five essay question. This examination must be completed in 90 minutes.

To qualify to take this examination, participants must be either (a) an existing National or higher ranked judge OR (b) must have scored at least 80% on either the Beer Judging Exam or the tasting component of the Legacy Beer Exam AND must have a minimum of 10 judging experience points. There will be no exception to these requirements. Exams submitted to the BJCP for grading that were written by participants not meeting these requirements at the time of the exam will not be graded and the fee will not be refunded.

The true-false questions cover the BJCP program and judging levels, the judging process, and judging ethics. Since everyone taking this examination is an experienced judge, the material covered in the true-false questions should be well ingrained. Each incorrect or omitted answer will result in a half-point reduction to the total score on this examination. There is no total score increase for correct answers but there is a penalty for each wrong answer – we expect every advanced BJCP judge to know this material.

The essay portion of the Beer Written Exam consists of five questions with each comprising 20% of the total score. Of the five questions, two are style-related, one is a recipe question, and two are technical questions related to ingredients or brewing process. The penalty resulting from incorrect or omitted answers to the true-false questions will be subtracted from the combined score on the five essay questions.

The full pool of true-false and essay questions on which the Written Exam is based may be found in the BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide

For judges with no previous scores from the Legacy Exam, a comprehensive exam score is computed using a 50/50 weighting of the judging and written components. This composite exam score determines whether the judge qualifies for the National or Master ranks, as described in the beer judge ranks reference.

For judges who have previously taken the Legacy Exam, the rules for determining the comprehensive exam score are described in Section 3: Existing, Non-Apprentice BJCP Judges.

Taking the Web-based Mead Entrance Exam

The web-based Mead Entrance Exam is the online qualifier for the Mead Judging Exam. A prospective BJCP mead judge must pass this Mead Entrance Exam as the first step to gaining certification. The examinee must present a valid, unexpired certificate or certificate ID from the Mead Entrance Exam in order to sit for the Mead Judging Exam.

The portal for this exam is: http://bjcp.coursewebs.com.

The exam consists of 200 questions in a mixture of true-false, multiple-choice-single-answer, and multiple-choice-multiple-answer format. You are allowed 60 minutes to complete this test. The exam is graded automatically after it is submitted. Scoring is pass/fail; no numerical score will be provided, although major areas with below passing proficiency will be identified in the examination summary.

Those who fail are not in the BJCP program but can retake the Mead Entrance Exam after at least a one day wait. They must pay an additional fee each time they retake the exam.

Those that pass this exam are Provisional judges – this is not a BJCP rank, no BJCP ID is assigned, and those who pass are not yet BJCP members! Provisional status simply means that you have a valid certificate from the entrance exam and are permitted to sit for the mead judging exam. The certificate is good for one year from the date of the mead entrance exam. If you do not take a mead judging exam this one year period, you must pass the mead entrance exam again.

Provisional mead judges should see Mead Judging Exam for details on taking the Mead Judging Exam.

Taking the Web-based Cider Entrance Exam

The web-based Cider Entrance Exam is the online qualifier for the Cider Judging Exam. A prospective BJCP cider judge must pass this Cider Entrance Exam as the first step to gaining certification. The examinee must present a valid, unexpired certificate or certificate ID from the Cider Entrance Exam in order to sit for the Cider Judging Exam.

The portal for this exam is: bjcp.coursewebs.com.

The exam consists of 100 questions in a mixture of true-false, multiple-choice-single-answer, and multiple-choice-multiple-answer format. You are allowed 30 minutes to complete this test. The exam is graded automatically after it is submitted. Scoring is pass/fail; no numerical score will be provided, although major areas with below passing proficiency will be identified in the examination summary.

Those who fail are not in the BJCP program but can retake the Cider Entrance Exam after at least a one day wait. They must pay an additional fee each time they retake the exam.

Those that pass this exam are Provisional judges – this is not a BJCP rank, no BJCP ID is assigned, and those who pass are not yet BJCP members! Provisional status simply means that you have a valid certificate from the entrance exam and are permitted to sit for the judging exam. The certificate is good for one year from the date of the cider entrance exam. If you do not take a cider judging exam this one year period, you must pass the cider entrance exam again.

Provisional cider judges should see Cider Judging Exam for details on taking the Cider Judging Exam.

Mead Judging Exam

The Mead Judging Exam is the primary tool for evaluating practical skills of new mead judges. It consists of completing scoresheets for six meads served at 15 minute intervals – a total of 90 minutes is allowed for this examination.

For both existing BJCP judges and provisional judges, a copy of the email message or the certificate acknowledging passing the Mead Entrance Exam is required. Mead Judging Exams taken by ineligible participants will not be graded and the exam fee will not be returned.

Non-BJCP members taking the Mead Judging Exam cannot become full members of the BJCP until their exam score is determined, although a BJCP ID may be issued. These judges should mark their scoresheets with the Rank Pending box until notified of their rank; this indicates a judge who has taken the exam but not yet received their score. Existing BJCP members can continue to mark their beer judge or cider judge rank.

For Provisional judges, the score on the Mead Judging Exam determines if they become a Mead Judge. For current beer judges, the score on the Mead Judging Exam determines if they receive the Mead Judge Endorsement. Cider judges who pass the Mead Judging Exam will hold both the Cider Judge and Mead Judge ranks. Those scoring less than 60% will be Apprentice judges; those scoring at least 60% will be Mead judges. Note that Apprentice judges are time-limited in their rank; they must qualify for a full member rank per the terms described in Section 7: Active BJCP Apprentice Judges.

Cider Judging Exam

The Cider Judging Exam is the primary tool for evaluating practical skills of new cider judges. It consists of completing scoresheets for six ciders served at 15 minute intervals – a total of 90 minutes is allowed for this examination.

For both existing BJCP judges and provisional judges, a copy of the email message or the certificate acknowledging passing the Cider Entrance Exam is required. Cider Judging Exams taken by ineligible participants will not be graded and the exam fee will not be returned.

Non-BJCP members taking the Cider Judging Exam cannot become full members of the BJCP until their exam score is determined, although a BJCP ID may be issued. These judges should mark their scoresheets with the Rank Pending box until notified of their rank; this indicates a judge who has taken the exam but not yet received their score. Existing BJCP members can continue to mark their beer judge or mead judge rank.

For Provisional judges, the score on the Cider Judging Exam determines if they become a Cider Judge. For current beer judges, the score on the Cider Judging Exam determines if they receive the Cider Judge Endorsement. Mead judges who pass the Cider Judging Exam will hold both the Mead Judge and Cider Judge ranks. Those scoring less than 60% will be Apprentice judges; those scoring at least 60% will be Cider judges. Note that Apprentice judges are time-limited in their rank; they must qualify for a full member rank per the terms described in Section 7: Active BJCP Apprentice Judges.

Frequently Asked Questions