Two weeks ago, our favorite sommelier, Adam Arlen, participated in the second hardest exam on the planet: the Advanced Sommelier Exam held at the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas. Read on to learn more about his experience taking this exam. Of course, the hardest exam on the planet is the Master Sommelier Exam. Adam is already a Certified Sommelier and has written about some of his experiences in Sommelier: Best Job in the World! —EH Stafford, Managing Editor
The second hardest exam on the planet
Two weeks ago, I flew to St Louis and sat for the Advanced Sommelier Exam. After 4 years of preparation, I finally got the chance to display my hard work. All the late nights and early mornings came to fruition. The exam lasts a total of 3 days. I can’t go into specifics of exam content. [See Court of Master Sommeliers Americas website for the details that can be shared. The exam is 3 days covering theory (written test), Tasting (verbal test), and service/salesmanship (practical test).—EH Stafford]
My experience—here’s how the it went
The week before, I received my times for each day. This is really when the nerves set in. I decided to put away all the books, notes, maps and flashcards and just try to relax. I went through a lot of tequila that week. I had a few things at work to accomplish to get my mind off the impending challenge. It didn’t work.
I flew out on the Sunday before and checked into my hotel. Thankfully, my commute to the exam was an elevator ride. I unpacked my case of wine that I had shipped out and made sure all my tools made it as well. After a few friends and I found the rooms where we would assemble for the exam, we sat out on the rooftop bar to relax. All of us were on edge and went to bed early.
Monday comes, and I have all morning to wait for my tee time. All the afternoon candidates had to check in at 1:15 for sequestration before our time to perform. I had to go for a walk to release all the nervous and caffeine fueled energy. In the waiting room, some were playing board games or reading to pass the time.
Tuesday was similar, but different. I had a chance to warm up with a great bottle on the rooftop before heading in. We checked in 20 minutes before our time and were held in a board room, waiting to be pulled out, one by one. We were sequestered after we did our flight. It was great for me since I went at 2:45. Those that went right out of the gate at 9 were stuck in the room all day.
All candidates sat for the theory portion of the exam Wednesday at once. We were in the ballroom and all the Master Sommeliers that helped proctor the exam were introduced. 43 in total! After I finished the theory portion, I had a big sigh of relief. It was done! Now just 6 long hours to wait for results and feedback. I took a nap after being mentally drained. We all reconvened at the rooftop bar and popped some bottles before heading to get our results.
In the end, 75 people sat for the exam. 17 passed. I was not one of them, but I did drink some killer wine. I will be ready for the March 2021 exam.
Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”