How to pass your WSET Level 3
The Must-Read Student Guide for Wine Students. Pass your wine exams and WSET Level 3 with the support of WineMasters.tv.
Why learn about wine?
"It will reshape your perception of aroma, flavour, and taste. It will change how you view food and how you think of dinner, an important service if you come from a culture not very big on those.
It will teach you more about nature than Attenborough and more about geography than the Champions League. It will also introduce you to some wonderful people."
Tim Atkin - Master of Wine
A Note to the Sophisticated
You probably already know That wine is a complex and dense topic. you know that studying wine isn't as fun as drinking it.
But it's worth it. It will enrich every day, every meal, and every travel experience in your life from this day forward. You're not only learning about wine, but also yourself. What you love, what you loathe, what you crave.
This guide was written for you: the brave and sophisticated wine student.
In these pages you'll find the tricks and tools scientifically proven to help master your WSET 3 with maximum efficiency. This guide will explain the research-backed study techniques that actually work and how to apply them in the world of wine.
We'll reveal how you can hack learning by watching half an hour of TV (WineMasters Class) per day. You'll absorb information faster and with the precision you need for a Pass with Distinction!
Why Should I Be Reading This?
You Don't Know Where To Start
This is the most common concern for all WSET Level 3 students.! I'll show you where to start and how to defeat study anxiety.
You Crave Efficiency
WSET advises spending 60 hours (in addition to class time!) studying for the level three exam. You can use the techniques in this guide to learn faster and waste less time on study methods that don't work.
You Want to Watch TV
Truth is, you can't absorb information osmotically by streaming videos in the background while you play on your phone. But, watching engaging, cinematic quality lessons taught by award-winning Sommeliers and Masters of Wine (something that only WineMasters.tv provides). is an essential element of modern learning.
So, if you like high-quality TV and learning from experts, hurry on in to this guide!
1. Why Do I Need a Learning Strategy?
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
― Albert Einstein
Illusions of Competence
If you assume you already know how to learn, you are suffering from the biggest learning error of them all: the illusion of competence.
Basically, it's when we think we understand something because we just read about it or highlighted our textbook. But we haven't really retained the knowledge.
Not Taught in School
Researchers have spent over a century learning how we learn. Sadly, most of this knowledge is not utilized in schools, so most people don't really know how to learn.
Some strategies make it seem like we understand the material, but when the test rolls around, we're caught up short.
Misconceptions About Learning
"I can't learn by watching TV"
Here's the thing: you can't learn by only watching TV, and you can't learn by watching the wrong videos. Videos are an essential part of modern learning but you need to treat them like a real class,. Put your phone away, take notes, and be selective about what you spend your time watching.
You've already invested a significant amount in signing up for your course. Now it's important to invest in the best quality study aids to build a resume you'll be proud of for the rest of your life. Imagine failing and having to pay the retake fee and being ineligible for a pass with distinction?
"It takes too much time"
The fact is, most learners waste time on ineffective study techniques. If you're re-reading chapters, using highlighters, and only studying one topic at a time, I'm sorry to say you are throwing away your study time.
"It's too hard"
If you think learning is hard you're doing it wrong. Learning should empower you, not overwhelm you. I'll teach you techniques to make the shift from 8th-grade Algebra style- cramming, to grown-up learning you will enjoy.
2. Scientifically Proven Learning Techniques
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
― Dr. Seuss
DO's & DONT's
A lot of the study methods we typically use waste time– I'm looking at you, rereading, and highlighting!
These actually inhibit learning.
In this section, I'll reveal the science behind the best modern learning techniques.
Elaborative Interrogation and Self Explanation
What is it?
While you’re learning, ask yourself to explain “why” a fact is true. For example:
Why does it make sense that…?
Why is it true that…?
Why is X true and not Y?
Or simply, why?
Why it works
In a study by Pressley, McDaniel, Turnure, Wood, and Ahmad (Pressley, 1987) participants were given a list of sentences. Each sentence was about the specific action of a specific man.
For example, “The hungry man got into the car.”
Elaborative Interrogation Group
After reading the sentence this group was asked "Why did the hungry man do that?"
After reading the sentence this group was told "The hungry man got into the car to go to the restaurant."
The control group simply read each sentence.
Participants were then tested and asked to recall which man did which action “Who got in the car?” The elaborative-Interrogation group scored an average of 72% accuracy, while both other groups only performed with 37% accuracy!
Elaborative Interrogation and Self Explanation:
How to Use It
This technique is particularly important on the short-written answer portion of the WSET Level 3 where you will be asked to link ideas and explain techniques. While you’re learning about Chardonnay for example, you might ask yourself:
Why does it make sense that Chardonnay can be grown in Burgundy? Why does it make sense that Chardonnay can be grown in Margaret River?
Why is it true that Vertical Shoot Positioning is especially important for Chardonnay in cool climate regions?
Why are some Chardonnays full-bodied and rich textured with notes of butter, hazelnut, sweet spice, toast, and vanilla and some are thinner with more dominant ripe tropical fruit aromas?
"The active recall of a fact from within is, as a rule, better than its impression from without”
– Edward Thorndike, 1906
What is it?
One of the most studied and highly regarded study techniques. As cited on the previous page, this technique has been recognized since 1906!
Basically, test yourself while you’re learning.
Test format can be:
• Fill in the Blank
• True/False or Multiple Choice*
• Free Recall (Short Written Answer)
*While all types of practice testing are beneficial, it’s important to note that we are learning from what we read on a test. True/false or multiple-choice testing can lead to the “mere truth effect.” Repeated exposure to a statement helps it build credibility, so that even a false statement may be judged more likely to be true from merely having been read multiple times on a practice exam.
Why it Works
This technique has immense value, especially for virtual learning environments (Butler, 2007). In Butler's experiment students watched three virtual lectures on three consecutive days, after each video, each group was given a task:
Free Recall Test Group
This group was given a free recall, short-written answer test.
Multiple Choice Group
This group was given a multiple choice question test.
This group was given a summary of the lecture in the form of a study guide.
The control group simply watched the lectures
One month later, all the students were given a free recall short answer test.
The free recall test group answered more correctly than all other groups, and more than two times more correctly than the group who did no activity other than watching the lecture.
How to use it
Statistically speaking the short-written answer portion of the WSET 3 exam is the cause of most exam failures. Using this technique will help get you in the habit of writing out an answer while reinforcing what you study. To utilize this technique:
After a study session, put a blank piece of paper down in front of yourself and write down everything you remember.
Use good old-fashioned index cards! Just make sure you really give yourself time to think of the answer before flipping to check.
If you think you know a region, try to draw it out on a blank sheet of paper. Next to each region, write the dominant grapes and tasting notes.
Distributed Practice & Interleaving
What is it?
This is the what and when of studying. You can’t learn everything at once, so interleaving is all about the order in which to study the various topics you need to understand, and distributed practice is about the schedule you use to study them.
Most of us assume intuitively that ”blocking” or focusing our studies on only one topic until we master it is the best way to tackle a complex subject. This is because, in the very immediate short term, blocking works very well. However, in a longer-term, final exam, winner-takes-all testing situation (like the WSET 3) interleaving far outperforms blocking.
Why it works
In a 2007 study, college students were asked to learn how to calculate the volumes of geometric solids (Dunlosky, 2013).
The students underwent two practice sessions one week apart, followed by a final criterion test one week later.
Blocked Learning Group
This group learned in a blocked-practice condition.
First, they read a tutorial on computing the volume for one specific solid
Then, they immediately filled out four practice problems for that solid.
They then repeated this process for a second, third, and fourth solid.
Interleaved Practice Group
This group read tutorials for all four solids together.
Then completed all practice problems about all four solids during both sessions.
On the practice problems, those who underwent blocked learning answered the problems with almost 90% accuracy, whereas those with interleaved learning only answered about 60% correctly.
However, this effect completely reversed in the final criterion exam. The blocked learners only answered about 22% accurately this time, whereas the interleaved learners answered nearly 65% correctly.
This means that the interleaved learners were 43% more accurate on the final test.
How to use it
It's common practice for wine students to learn country by country. This is how it's grouped in the book But at level 3, you need to make links across regions.
This technique sounds easy, but it’s actually very difficult. You’ll spend the first few study sessions feeling very confused, and like you aren’t learning (remember the results of the practice performance tests in the experiments).
But actually, this feeling means that you aren’t merely suffering from the “illusion of competence!” Your brain is building the neural networks you need to succeed on the final exam.
Step away from the highlighter
This is a waste of time, especially after the second reading session.
It might take multiple passes through the information to comprehend a subject, but it’s a better idea to vary your learning "modes" by using educational videos, audios, quizzes, etc. (Dunlosky, 2013)
This is a key culprit in the “Illusion of Competence.”
We think we are learning the important parts by highlighting, but we aren’t really retaining anything just because we drew a pretty color over it!
Don't confuse this with elaborative interrogation and self-explanation, which are good and focus on the “why” and “how” something works or matters.
Bullet point, summing up the facts and vocabulary won’t build the linked intelligence WSET 3 is looking for. (Dunlosky, 2013)
3. Where do I start?
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
A learning analogy
Everyone should have access to the world’s greatest yoga minds. Learn why it’s so crucial for your yoga practice to learn from the best. Another line of text so we see how it looks. Learning a new topic is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
First, you need to understand the big picture. Then, you begin sorting through all the little pieces. You organize these pieces by shape and color and then begin to fit the outside pieces and bold color blocks together, working through piece by piece until you finally complete the puzzle.
For the WSET Level 3, your goal or big picture is "Understanding Wines: Explaining style and quality" (It's literally the subtitle of the textbook.)
The big picture is - do you understand well enough to explain and justify a wine's style and quality to another person?
Start with WineMasters Class
Sticking with our puzzle analogy, the easiest way to start is by putting together all the outside pieces, right?
This is exactly what WineMaster's class does for you. Each video helps you develop the outline of understanding for each region. You build visual memory of the key facts and most important information. This then guides you when you later fill in the finer details by reading the textbook.
Build your Schedule
I'll break down step by step how to incorporate
Elaborative Interrogation and Self Explanation
Distributed Practice and Interleaving
into your study plan. The only tools you need are your WSET 3 textbook and a WineMasters.tv subscription!
Before Each Episode
Building our outline
The order you watch in doesn't matter, you need to know it all. So start with Class 1 (Austria) and watch them all in order from 1-48.
Skim through the relevant chapter in the WSET book (For example, Class 1, Austria). Read the headlines, bold and italicized words, and picture descriptions.
Look at the relevant maps, (Austria) and attempt to describe those maps in your head or out loud. Note any mountain ranges or bodies of water.
If you can find it, drink a wine from the region, any wine!
Perform an SAT written tasting on the wine following the guide in your Student Workbook.
Step 2: Watch
Do this during each episode
Take notes however you like, but be aware that you will be quizzing yourself after. Pay close attention. to grapes, climate, winemaking, etc.
WineMaster's programming is all in English with subtitles often available in English, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. Use them!
Put your phone away in another room. Pretend you're really in class with Masters of Wine Peter Richards or Susie Barrie.
The episodes are fast-paced and information-dense. Keep your remote handy to pause and rewind as needed to understand the content.
Step 3: After
Here is where Elaborative Interrogation, Self Explanation, and Practice Testing all come together!
Hide your notes. Pull out a blank sheet of paper and start writing!
On the next page, I'll give you some prompts to help focus on what the WSET will be looking for, but what's most important is that you write about what you learned for 10 minutes straight and do not stop writing!
Your Writing Prompt
You work in a wine store, a customer comes in who wants to learn more about wine.
First, he asks you about the experiment shown in the WineMasters video:
Why was this experiment shown? What did it demonstrate and how did it demonstrate it? Why is it important to winemaking?
Next, he asks you for information about the region shown in the WineMasters video.
Tell him why the region is important. What grapes are used? How are the wines made? How does the climate and geography impact the grape expression? Why do wines in this region taste the way they taste? What are the most common tasting notes?
Name a wine shown in the episode and explain to him why you would recommend this wine to him and how he should serve it (temperature, decanting, etc.).
Offer him another option from another region (can be in the same country or different). Compare the winemaking from the other region and explain how this impacts the resulting wine (aroma, taste, readiness for drinking).
Why it Works
In a 1992 study by Wheeler and Roediger (Wheeler, 1992) subjects were shown 60 pictures while listening to a story.
Triple Recall Group
After listening, this group was given three successive seven-minute tests. For each test, they were given a blank sheet of paper and seven minutes to recall as many items as possible from the story.. This group recalled 32, 35, and 36 pictures on average, respectively on each of the three successive tests.
Single Recall Group
This group was given a sheet of blank paper and asked to recall as many of the 60 pictures as possible in seven minutes,. This group remembered an average of 32 pictures on the single recall test.
This group was released after hearing the story.
However, the truly inspiring figures came from the testing one week later. The control group was able to recall 17.4 pictures on average, the single recall group recalled 23.3 pictures, and the triple recall group recalled 31.8 pictures – nearly 80% better recall than the group who didn’t take any tests!
Pencil & Paper
Your Secret Weapon
Studies show that learner retention improves when handwriting rather than typing.
You will write your exam in pencil and paper, so it's time to get used to it!
You'll only have two hours for the entire theory portion of the test, so you need to practice gathering your thoughts and writing them out by hand legibly and efficiently!
The Final Step
Your WSET Level 3 Textbook
Distributed Practice and Interleaving
Now that you have an outline of understanding from watching the videos, you can start to fill in the details from the text. Remember, if you watched a Class about Austria, don't read about Austria on the same day! Interleave and read about a different region or study the chapter on white and sweet winemaking.
Read it Cover to Cover
Klaas, Founder and Producer of WineMasters.tv, puts it best: "Read the Bloody Textbook!"
There's no substitute. You must read and understand every page of your textbook if you want to pass the test. For every 30 minutes you spend watching WineMasters Class, plan to spend 15 minutes quizzing yourself, and another 30 minutes reading.
Wine Masters Classes are the brains of the network, but the Wine Masters Documentaries are its heart and soul.
See behind the scenes at the world's most iconic wineries - Angelus, Gaja, Torres, Guigal, and Drouhin (to name just a few). Discover Sherry en situ, directly from the makers. Watch the grapes drying in their crates in Valpolicella.
Learn about the geological rewards and challenges in Alsace directly from Domaine Trimbach's 13th generation winemaker and Masters of Wine Tim Atkins, Jeannie Cho Lee., Sarah Heller, Christy Canterbury, and Richard Hemming.
These are really powerful revision tools, but don't watch more than one per day and be sure to treat them just like the classes - phones off!
Founder & Producer
Klaas de Jong is by trade an award-winning film director and producer. In less than twenty years he has produced 33 feature-length films and miniseries in Dutch and English and between 2005-2019 won 14 domestic and international film awards from the Accolade Competition, the Golden Film awards, and the Platin Film awards.
He uses eleven cinematic grade cameras and professional drones to capture the majesty of the world's greatest wine regions, spending 9 days (3 days in winter, 3 days in summer, and 3 days at harvest) with each wine family to capture the yearly life cycle of their vineyards in a 45-minute documentary.
From the Filmmaker
"Some people say if you have a movie without sound, you have no movie. But if you have sound without video, you still have a story. Some say you only need good acting. Some say you only need a good script.
They're all wrong. You need everything.
This is also true for learning. You need everything. You need to taste the wine, smell it, read about it, see where it was made and hear from the people who made it."
Klaas de Jong
Founder & Producer WineMasters.tv
Hi! I'm Patti, the author of this guide. I am 33 years old, founder of Awestruck Ciders. Since 2013, I built it from just 2 founders and zero sales to over 20 employees and 40,000 liters per month in sales. I am on a sabbatical to pursue my love of wine and academia. I wrote this guide for WineMasters.tv while studying for my WSET Level 3. I hope it helps you!
This project has been developed within the Erasmus Mundus Master on Wine Tourism Innovation (WINTOUR), funded from the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The Student Patricia Wilcox was holders of an Erasmus+ Scholarship assigned to WINTOUR program. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Atkin, T. (2019, July 10). Why you shouldn't care much about wine. Tim Atkin Master of Wine. https://timatkin.com/why-you-shouldnt-care-much-about-wine/.
Butler, Andrew & Roediger, Henry. (2007). Testing improves long-term retention in a simulated classroom setting. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY. 19. 514-527. 10.1080/09541440701326097.
Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100612453266.
Pressley, M., McDaniel, M. A., Turnure, J. E., Wood, E., Ahmad, M. (1987). Generation and precision of elaboration: Effects on intentional and incidental learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13, 291–300.
Roediger, Henry & Putnam, Adam & Sumeracki, Megan. (2011). Ten Benefits of Testing and Their Applications to Educational Practice. 10.1016/B978-0-12-387691-1.00001-6
Thorndike, E. L. (1906). The principles of teaching based on psychology. New York, NY: A.G. Seiler.
Wheeler, M. A., & Roediger, H. L. (1992). Disparate effects of repeated testing: Reconciling Ballard’s (1913) and Bartlett’s (1932) results. Psychological Science,3,240–245.
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