WSET Diploma Part 6: How to stand a chance at passing D3 Theory

First and foremost - do not stress!

If you've been diligently studying, then you know this stuff. Find your confidence!

I couldn't find mine. I decided to split the D3 Tasting and Theory (i.e. wrote only the Tasting exam in October 2022, received a Fail Unclassified for Theory with no option of attaining a Distinction, and paid to 'rewrite' the Theory exam in May 2023. In a different country with a different APP, I've no doubt that I could have submitted multiple doctor's notes to prove that I was the primary caregiver in a trying situation...but I honestly had no confidence left at this stage.)

So here's what you do.

If you have the cash, sign up for Erica Dent and Jim Gore's  . I was over it and needed my life back. I needed the closest guarantee of passing. Therefore I invested in this course. It's absolutely worth the money! I knew the theory...I didn't know how to use what I knew!

Even if I hadn't passed, it was worth it. If I was rolling in cash...I'd sign up for their next course just for fun. THAT's how much I enjoyed them! Sign up sooner rather than later because you'll want to action the tools they give you. I had only 3 weeks to do so. And while waiting for my results I felt little to no stress about possibly rewriting in October because they'd given me so many tools to succeed.  In mine and others opinion, their words are straight from the bible. Drink up from their fountain of knowledge and receive bibles of truths!

But in case you're tapped out from spending your savings on sample wines, wine clubs, and the crazy amount of money you've spent on your Diploma course:

  1. Join the facebook group . One of the active admins received a distinction for the October 2023 D3 exam. He is still active and generous with his advice (he hosted a Zoom exam advice session for the May kids even after he had passed). There are also a number of other people on this group who are a wealth of information. This group sticks to the WSET rules but don't believe in gatekeeping - they share their knowledge like their soil overviews, grape overviews...much of the additional learning material that you've come across has most likely originated from this group.
  2. Noelle and Amber passed their Diploma relatively recently with the current curriculum (so they understand). They're both active on the Facebook group and are both MW students. They run Elevage Wine Coaching.
  3. You'll want to sign up for the paid-for WSET Theory Revision exams. It is BRILLIANT as they create mock exams AND supply the answers that detail what is required for a Pass, Merit and Distinction!
  4. From all of the above you'll learn that this isn't so much about memorising all the yields - it's about understanding the question and answering with understanding to get a pass. If you're able to  add 1-2 accurate yields/ha/sales figures/producers etc, that gets you to a Merit. Add 3-4 sexy accurate stats, and you'll be playing in the Distinction league. But there's no extra credit until you've proven that you understand the answer. I.e. don't bother memorising every single number etc. if it's not your thing. High/low/warmer/cooler counts as understanding.
  5. You MUST understand how to use the linking words detailed in the Specification Guide. Keep asking why! Use words like because, thus, therefore, compared to, etc. It's all in in the specification guide.
  6. WSET expects loads of detail on anything in the L2 textbook. They expect you to know quite a bit from L3. They don't expect you to know as much detail from L4. So go back to L2 and if you see a grape, country, law mentioned - you need to know it bloody well. Then go back to L3 and do the same. SO MANY people have run out of time and fallen back on fully understanding L3 knowledge and just adding the  D1 and D2 (it's touch or go...I don't recommend this)! As an example, I got wrapped over the knuckles for not saying much about Sauvignon Blanc in a question about notable regions for Semillon...L4 doesn't give much detail because it was all in the L2 textbook.
  7. Know ALL the major grapes and where they come from. If you see a question about a grape, start with the characteristics of the grape. If they ask about how a grape is suited to a country - link every single characteristic you know about the grape to that country's climate/soil/conditions etc. If they ask about natural/human factors in a region for a grape - start with the SAT and work from there, look at the grape characteristics and work from there. Link all the characteristics/SAT to the question being asked.
  8. Know the Grape growing options in the Specification Guide and D1 textbook. Know the Winemaking options listed in the Specification Guide andD1 textbook.  Know and memorise the process for growing & making premium high quality and inexpensive bulk for white, red, rosé, sweet (it's almost always the same for different regions). Remember the tables at end of the D1 textbook (memorise this because you can slot it in everywhere.) There WILL be a question that requires this information. Start thinking about these as creating a template that you're able to drop in to any premium/budget example that needs you to talk about grape growing and winemaking.
  9. Same goes for SWOT - most of it can be repeated for similar regions.
  10. Know the 5 P's in the D2 book. Product is always the most NB. Link People, Place, Price, Promotion to Product! Product (imagine it in your hands, where's it from, how is it packaged, what does it taste like, how is it grown & made). Price (what price is it and why is it that price). Place (where is it sold and why e.g. supermarket, export/domestic market). People (who will buy it?). Promo ( think about it as if you were the one marketing/selling the stuff). Again, this is template just need an essay on one high end product and one low end product and you're done.
  11. Essays ARE good. But, rather than write them a million times to test your memory, treat them as a template for multiple regions/styles/answers. Premium wine production is a template that you can use for multiple regions...and vice versa for entry level. SWOTs are interchangeable. Do these essays open book to perfect your answer - then memorise the format of your answer as a template. It's less of a test of your knowledge vs a tool to help you craft the correct answer.
  12. Practice active learning. I used:
    • flashcards for active recall
    • some maps (mostly visualising maps and the climatic/geological influences)
    • podcasts (but active learning, where I might pause and expand on what I knew from the textbook)
    • talking to the cat (teaching is one of the best ways of learning)
    • and writing essays

Start with your L3 knowledge. Then add some D1 / D2 as appropriate. Look at the past exam papers (that use the current curriculum).

So you wanna know how I did?

I studied for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours at night every single day for just under 2 years (D1, D2, D4, D5, D6, and D3). I wrote the Tasting exam in October 2022. I took some time off to gather my strength and willpower. After finding out in January that I passed the Tasting with Merit (failed the D4 and D5 tastings), I found my second wind and started with D3 Theory studies in February (it was much easier and faster since I'd worked hard at this for an entire year). Signed up for Matchfit in April. Wrote Theory in early May. Received my results in early August: I passed Theory with Merit.

Good luck! You've got this!

Leave a Reply