Now a month out from my MW exam I find myself staring at the bottom third of a basket filled with the last 10 years’ exam questions. Back in October of 2009 I decided that a good way to study would be to write essays (or at least good outlines) for every exam question asked on the theory paper for the last 10 years. The logic being that there was very little chance that the majority of the MW theory exam would be made up of questions from different topics than have been covered over that time span and I would have prepared at least one or more ways to answer them by the time I sat the exam. So I began downloading all the past exams, cutting and pasting my way through them into a large word document. Then I printed the word document with all the questions (all 19 pages!) and proceeded to cut them up into little slivers of paper. The folding of the paper slivers took the longest and around halfway through I began to question the sanity of this idea, however after about a week of folding in my spare time I ended up with a basket almost overflowing with little balls of paper containing every question that I would need to appropriately answer to pass the exam. I learned at the MW seminar this year that this is called the “fishbowl” approach to studying. So I then set off on my quest to answer every question. Some have been very straight-forward like today’s “A variety of new devices and systems have been introduced in recent years to enable winemakers to improve their musts…”. (Please, Please, Please let something like that be on the exam) and some have been very esoteric “A bad day tasting wine is better than a good day at work” (Ummm what if tasting wine is work???).
I have come across several that my initial reaction is “if this shows up on my exam I’m not going to answer that one”. I’ve learned to pay special attention to those because (and I’ll admit it to anyone) these are typically the ones that I really have no idea how to answer. They are the questions that represent the key to passing and why I delved into this crazy idea in the first place. I force myself to take my best shot at an outline under timed conditions (5-10 minutes max from the point of opening the ball of paper) then pour over the exam report for that question (also downloaded the last 10 years of those), add whatever it seems I was missing (or in some cases, completely start over), and then write an essay. I have been doing this for the last 6 months whenever I can and have managed to go through around two-thirds of the questions. Now I’m down to my last month and staring right in the face of the last one-third. One must power through!
So how many essays are too many? Can you write too many? Is there a point of diminishing returns? I don’t think so. In fact it’s energizing. Each time I come across one that stumps me now (fewer and fewer the more I answer) I feel excited. I feel that I have a chance to answer it now, read the examiner’s report, learn what I was missing and re write it so that this particular question will not stump me on the exam (should it be the one to show up). I’ve been living on adrenaline for the past month and it doesn’t show any sign of letting up soon. There is a certain thrill about reaching for the little ball of paper. What paper will it be from? Will it make me laugh? Cry? Jump for joy? Confidently write a passing essay? Who knows? I hope to keep this feeling going at least for one more month because it is fueling everything at this point. I feel May is going to be a very short month and there are so many questions left…We’ll see how it goes.