Students were reportedly told, “This year will not be considered an attempt.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events and activities have been halted around the globe. Schools at all levels of education have been forced to shut—and yesterday, The Institute of the Masters of Wine announced that would include a significant chunk of its program as well.

“We have notified students that the 2020 closed book part of the MW exam and the stage one assessment are both cancelled,” IMW Chair Adrian Garforth wrote in a message posted to their website. “The final part of the MW exam, the research paper, will continue as usual with consideration given for short-term timing issues.”

To become a Master of Wine, candidates must complete a three-stage program. The stage one assessment—which is held in early June—is the first exam students take to prove they are able to proceed with the program. The “closed book” part of the MW exam—which also happens in early June—is the culmination of the program’s second stage, allowing candidates to advance to the third and final stage, the research paper. In 2019, 160 students reportedly took this exam.

Two sommeliers, male and female tasting red wine and making notes at degustation card
Credit: LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

“We are all experiencing some exceptionally tough challenges, and understand this will impact our lives for many more months,” Garforth wrote about the coronavirus outbreak. “The IMW executive team are working remotely. We continue to plan for a new set of circumstances in which the IMW will strengthen its position as a viable body that can help support the rebuilding of the global wine industry.”

Beyond testing, the IMW explained that upcoming tastings and seminars have also been postponed, with new dates set to be released later in the year. However, applications for the 2020/2021 study program will remain open. “As our introductory courses and information sessions are all postponed, we are looking into developing online alternatives, within an extended timeframe,” Garforth stated.

Meanwhile, for students who are already in the program, additional leniency will be provided. “This year (2020) will not be considered an attempt and you will not be required to repeat coursework you have already completed this year,” Sarah Harrison, IMW’s head of study program and development, said in a letter to students, according to Decanter. “We recognize how hard you have all worked to prepare for the June exam or the S1A and appreciate that this will be difficult news for many of you… As such, our discussions have been focused on ensuring that the solutions that we offer you all are guided by fairness, empathy and compassion, while maintaining the quality and integrity of the closed book exam and S1A.”