Becoming a Certified Cicerone® is as much a journey as it is a certification. While it can be a daunting process to begin, it is certainly a rewarding and worthwhile experience we would recommend to anyone serious about their craft or eager to learn as much about beer as possible. With that in mind, we wanted to help you get off on the right foot. Below is an essential guide to preparing for the Certified Cicerone® Exam. Check the upcoming Certified Cicerone Exam Dates!

Before You Take the Exam:

Before you decide that you are ready to take the Certified Cicerone® exam there are a few things you should know:

  1. To be eligible to take the exam you must have first completed your Certified Beer Server certification.  You can not sit for your Certified Cicerone® exam if you are not already a Certified Beer Server.
  2. The Certified Cicerone® exam is not easy!  It takes a considerable amount of preperation and commitment to pass.  You must be committed to studying and training your brain and of course your palate! There is no shortcut to becoming a Certified Cicerone®, but then again that’s what makes it such a great certification to obtain.

The Exam:

The Certified Cicerone® exam lasts about 4 hours. The test includes a written test, a tasting exam and a demonstration. This means you will need a broad set of skills and knowledge to pass the exam. The written exam is the first portion of the test. It consists of about 150 short answer questions and 3 essays. The short answer questions could be fill-in-the-blank or matching sections where you might have to match styles with a food pairing or something similar. The 3 essays are long-format essay questions where you will be given a prompt and must write an essay of about a page in length.

Tasting Portion: The tasting portion consists of a total of 12 samples, broken down into 3 groups of 4. You will be tested on styles and off flavours. Preparation for this section requires tasting commercial examples of various styles and at least 1 off-flavour training session (we recommend 2 off-flavour training sessions).

Demonstration: At the end of the day you will give a short 5-minute demonstration that usually has something to do with draught systems or beer service.

Study Timeline

IOB recommends that you allow a minimum of 6 months to prepare yourself for the Certified Cicerone® exam.  You should not consider undertaking the exam with less as it allows for time to go through all the required reading as well as doing all the style tastings and off-flavour training.

Other Study Tips

Throughout your preparation you should be doing weekly tastings as well as reading through the material suggested below. We also recommend that if you see if a local brewery can let you volunteer to help them for a day or two and show you how a commercial beer is brewed. Home brewing is another great way to learn about the brewing process! Along with learning about the brewing process, you should be familiarising yourself with draught systems, which can be difficult to access in working pubs and venues.  We suggest joining a study group and seeking draught system insights through a study group.

Study Resources

We have put together a list of the essential study items you should have at your disposal. The most important tool in your resource collection is the IOB Study Guide for taking the Certified Cicerone® Exam .  The study guide will give you a detailed description for every bullet point in the syllabus, along with flash cards and practice tests for studying. Perhaps just as important, the study guide contains all the information you need to know about the test itself, including breakdowns of what is typically on the written exam and also firsthand knowledge of the tasting and demonstration portion of the exam. Developed by Certified Cicerone® professionals, the Study Plan for Certified Cicerone® Exam has been developed to assist your with your self study for the Certified Cicerone® Exam. This is a free product to download.


This book list is by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds of great books about beer, brewing and beer history. What we have provided below is an essential reading list for preparing yourself to take the Certified Cicerone® Exam. This is a well-rounded, focused approach that will cover a wide variety of topics on the Certified Cicerone® Syllabus as well as prepare you for the depth of knowledge required for the essay section of the exam.




Tasting Beer

Randy Mosher

Beer Tasting, Beer Styles

The Brewmaster’s Table

Garret Oliver

Beer Styles, Beer & Food Pairing, Beer History

How to Brew

John J. Palmer


The Audacity Of Hops

Tom Acitelli

Beer History – American

Amber, Black and Gold

Martyn Cornell

Beer History – English


Horst D. Dornbusch

Beer History – German

Brew Like A Monk

Stan Hieronymus

Beer History – Belgian





Draught Quality Manual

Brewers Association

Draught Systems, Draught Beer Parts

BJCP 2015 Style Guidelines


Beer Styles

The Tasting Portion:

There is no way to shortcut your way to becoming knowledgeable about beer styles. The only way to train your palate is to taste beer. Of course, we think this is great news, but there are right and wrong ways to go about preparing yourself for the exam. There is a big difference between drinking beer and tasting beer. One main problem you will run into is reminding yourself that you are tasting for a purpose, and not drinking just for enjoyment. But don’t worry, tasting beer is an extremely enjoyable experience and when you start to see results in your training, you will find that drinking becomes even more enjoyable as well! We recommend that you have commercial examples of as many styles on the BJCP Style Guidelines that you can find. More importantly, make sure that you are having fresh examples of the style, as faults in the beer can be detrimental to your understanding of the style. To assist this, IOB has partnered with Bucket Boys to create Beer Tasting Packs which will guide you through some of the best commercially available, and freshest examples of almost all of the styles that could be tested in the exam.

Off-Flavour Training:

IOB has prepared an in-depth off-flavour training course to prepare you for the certified cicerone exam. We will be running these courses in various cities throughout Australia on a regular basis. Please take a look at our Faults & Flavours Course on this website.


The Certified Cicerone® exam is not for the faint of heart. However, the journey that you embark on when you start your preparation is just as rewarding than the certification itself. You will find yourself immersed in a world of beer knowledge and come away with a greater appreciation for beer than you thought possible.