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1. General Coffee Knowledge Test (1 Test)

The General Coffee Knowledge exam is the only written test in the Q Grader course, which consists of 100 multiple choice questions about coffee cultivation, harvesting, processing, cupping, grading, roasting, and brewing. Candidates have 60 minutes to complete the test with 75% accuracy as the passing score. 


2. Sensory Skills Test (3 Tests)

The Sensory Skills Test sets a baseline standard for taste acuity. Candidates are tested on their ability to identify three varying intensities of salty, sour, and sweet odorless solutions. The test is divided into three parts:

    Part I: Reference (Passing Score: 100%) 

          Candidates rank the intensity of each base solution presorted by taste group;

    Part II: Blind identification (Passing Score: 80%)

           Candidates identify the intensity and taste group of each unsorted base solution in a blind test;

    Part III: Mixture set (Passing Score 70%)

           Candidates identify the intensity and taste group of the two base solutions in the mixed samples.


3. Olfactory Skills Test (4 Tests)

The Olfactory Skills Test evaluates a candidate’s ability to recognize 36 common aromatic scents using the Lenoir Le Nez de Café vial kit. There are four tests with 30 minutes each, and a passing score of 75%, whereby candidates have to match six among nine blind pairs, then identify three specified vials of scents for each of four groups:

  • Enzymatic: scents originating from cultivation and processing;
  • Sugar browning: scents originating from earlier stages of roasting;
  • Dry distillation: scents originating from the later stages of roasting;
  • Aromatic taints: scents resulting from storage, handling and processing errors.


4. Cupping Skills Test (4 Tests)

The Cupping Skills Test requires candidates to grade coffees using the Q Cupping Form, which is a set of criteria used to officially grade coffee qualities. There are four tests with 60 minutes each, and a passing score of 80%, whereby candidates are scored based on accuracy and consistency of grading and descriptions. Candidates must grade six different coffee samples from each of the four flights:

  • Central American Mild Arabica
  • East African Arabica
  • Asia Pacific / Indonesian Arabica
  • Dry Natural Processed Arabica


5. Triangulation Skills Test (4 Tests)

The Triangulation Skills Test refines the sensitivity of candidates in distinguishing minor differences in coffee characteristics, and teaches them the methodology of comparing cups for quality control. The four tests with 45 minutes each, and a passing score of 83%, are conducted in a dark room as the lack of light eliminates any visible differences between the coffee samples. Candidates are presented with six sets of three cups, and have to identify the odd one out.


6. Organic Acids Matching Pairs Exam (1 Test)

The Organic Acids Matching Pairs Exam evaluates candidates on their ability to identify the common acids found in coffee, by naming and matching two of four weak brewed cups of coffee containing those acids, in a total of eight sets. The six primary acid components of coffee include acetic, citric, lactic, malic, phosphoric, and quinic acid. Candidates are allowed 40 minutes for this test which has a passing score of 75 points.


7. Arabica Green Coffee Grading Test (3 Test)

The Arabica Green Coffee Grading Test requires candidates to identify the defects and calculate the adjusted defect count from each of the three 350g green coffee samples provided, before labelling them as “Specialty Coffee”, “Premium Coffee”, or “Commercial Coffee” based on SCAA standards. Candidates are allowed 20 minutes for each of the three samples and must have at least two samples graded correctly in order to pass. The exam is an open book whereby candidates are welcome to use the SCAA Green Arabica Defect Handbook and other supporting materials as reference.


8. Arabica Roasted Coffee Grading Test (1 Test)

The Arabica Roasted Coffee Grading Test is similar to the Arabica Green Coffee Grading Test. Candidates are required to identify the number of roast defects in the form of quakers (underdeveloped beans that were not roasted properly) found in one 100g roasted coffee sample, before labelling them as “specialty coffee”, “premium coffee”, or “commercial coffee” based on SCAA standards. This is also an open book exam, whereby candidates are allowed 15 minutes and must have a passing score of 100%.


9. Sample Roast Identification Test (1 Test)

The Sample Roast Identification Test requires candidates to determine an ideal roast for coffee cupping, by utilizing their sense of taste and smell to evaluate brewed coffee samples and identify each of its roast type under red light. Candidates will be presented with four of five possible roasts – correct, under roasted, over roasted, baked (long roast), and underdeveloped (short roast). The time for this test is 60 minutes and the passing score is 75 points.