WSET Diploma Part 2: D2 The Business of Wine

aka: when SWOT Analysis tried to kill me.

In hindsight, I'm 100% sure that neglecting to use the SWOT analysis is what killed my dream of a distinction for the D2 Exam. Long story short - use it! WSET expects it, so use it!

Something I didn't mention in the previous post was how I joined the Diploma program one week before the first lecture. Don't do what I did!

A quick recap: the Diploma is divided into 6 modules. D1 Viticulture and Viniculture that you MUST write before attempting D3 (Light Wines of the World), D4 (Sparkling Wines), D5 (Fortified Wines) and D6 (Independent Research Assignment). You don't need to pass D1, but you must write the exam as it provides the foundation for all of the viti and vini in subsequent modules. D1 and D2 are purely written exams in a room with fellow students. D6 is a independent assignment that you research, write, and submit by the due date. D3, D4, and D5 are all comprised of tasting exams + written exams.

D2 (and overall) Study Strategy

Four words: spaced repetition + active recall. That is the be all and end all of my 2021/2022 study strategy.

In Level 3 I made notes on top of notes...with notes... around notes...over notes. I wasted so many trees printing out 3 sets of pretty much the same thing - my initial notes from the horrid textbook, a tabled version that contained only keywords, and a question and answer quiz. I started with flashcards because the Somm movie made me want to be a real wine student...but I quickly realised that they'd become my 4th set of notes if I continued down that mad path. And in the days leading up to the exam, I'd practice writing everything I knew about each region .I am so sorry for wasting that ludicrous amount of paper. One thing that I'm glad I did from the very beginning was make digital flashcards that I could use on the go.

So this time around, seeing as the Diploma doesn't provide you with a physical textbook (there's a PDF and eBook), I've decided to embrace digital. I'm choosing not to print my textbook (vaguely problematic in lectures, as I don't bring my computer to lectures....long story - it's a distance to travel, I'd get distracted by work, and I don't learn in this type of environment).

The Diploma textbook isn't half as horrific as the Level 3 coffee table book. Some modules are very pleasant to read. It's clear that they're not yet ready to print physical books as there is plenty of proof reading and editing to be done...but I am grateful to have a textbook -  something that wasn't available a few years ago (students needed to research their own information).

My weapons of choice are Notion and Anki. Both are free, well documented and hyped by the youths.

Notion is amazeballs - allowing you to create a myriad of documents, organise your life, create drop down arrows, quotes, name it...amazeballs. Notion is where I make my notes. It is web based, so I make sure to export a PDF that I can save to my desktop for safekeeping.

This looks overwhelming and a bit boring, but it's been the tool that's kept me accountable this year.

Anki seems to have found a die-hard following with mostly Med students. It's a digital flashcard app...but it has built in spaced repetition. You create your flashcard (the med students are way ahead of everyone and actually share the best sets of flashcards with each other), and each day you'll be presented with a series of new cards (brand new, yet to be learned) and revision cards (those that you've learned and need to revise). You have to rate each card as Repeat, Easy, Good, or Hard...and the built in algorithm keeps you honest.

I have to warn you that committing to Anki means committing to a daily routine of working your flashcards...if you miss a day, you'll have twice as many cards the following day. Miss a few days, and you could easily spend hours trying to work through the backlog of cards. If you choose Anki, you need to embrace the commitment to spaced repetition...and trust that Anki will keep you accountable if you are willing to show up every day. Don't be alarmed...there are ways of setting up the cards ahead of time, and suspending the cards until you're ready to start are also in control of how many new and revision cards you want to learn each day.

There are plenty of YouTube tutorials out there that can help you figure out both Anki and Notion.

Extra effort:

If you come from a marketing background or, better yet, a wine marketing background, you'll find this module easy peasy lemon squeezy. I'm a graphic designer and am fairly familiar with marketing strategies...but not from this perspective. I really struggled to wrap my head around how it all applied to the wine industry. From the horror of learning about how supermarkets work and how it offends my sense of ethics, to the frustration of having to apply my own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis...something that is usually provided to me in my day job.

I think I'm a diligent student. I don't think I'm the brightest crayon or sharpest pencil (I'm better suited to drawing a pretty picture with both of these analogies) but I believe in putting in the work and reaping what you sow. So I put in a shit load of work for this first module (for us, in SA, D2 was our first module in the 2021 program) . I had Wine Marketing Managers talk me through the list of previous exam questions (WSET provides a few examiners reports for previous exams - though, not for D1 - and they help immensely to guide your thinking and preparations). I forced an MBA graduate to take us through the SWOT analysis and apply it to a previous exam questions. I submitted a semi neatly handwritten mock exam to my lecturer, who's feedback was to use the SWOT Analysis or 5 P's (Product, Price, Promotion, Place, and People) in as many scenarios as you can.

The D2 Exam:

So come exam day...what did I do? I ignored them all. I wrote to my heart's content...I even tried to write neatly with my 'mouse hand'. I remembered most of the textbook facts and had an answer for almost all the essay questions. But not once did I use the fucking SWOT Analysis that I agonised over, or the more friendly and accessible 5 P's.

Because, after 2 months, I still had no clue as to how to apply these two techniques.

It was only after the exam, as a few of us headed towards a breath of fresh air and huddled under a doorway to escape the rain and second guess our answers that someone revealed HOW they'd used the SWOT analysis in their answer.

If I could have a do over:

Don't do what I did and try and write like a normal human being. WSET talk about the SWOT Analysis because they want your to USE the SWOT Analysis.

This module is surprisingly interesting, despite my complaints. You'll be astounded by how much you'll learn. As a South African who doesn't export wine, I found the USA's 3 Tier System absolutely fascinating, Systembologet thought provoking, and supermarkets absolutely horrifying. But if I'm being honest, I do not understand how this module accounts for 10% of the total Diploma (compared to 5% each for D4 Sparklings and D5 Fortifieds)...perhaps the answer lies in D3...but that's next year's problem.

Find more information:

Or if you're in South Africa, you can find the information here:

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