6 Things We Learned About The Test To Become A Certified Cheese Professional

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Today I learned that there’s an entire group of people to envy that I was unaware of: Certified Cheese Professionals. To become one of these special cheesemongers, there’s a very demanding test that I was a little sad to find out isn’t so much like tasting samples at the supermarket, but more akin to taking a grueling, standardized test in high school.

NPR’s All Things Considered reported on this year’s exam, which was held today in Des Moines, IA at the American Cheese Society’s annual conference. Let’s just say yours truly is very sad not to have attended said conference, but I did learn a few things from NPR’s story so I can start studying as soon as possible.

1. The Certified Cheese Professional Exam was offered for the first time in 2012, and has passed about 600 people so far. Today’s test was slated to have about 200 cheesemongers in the hot seat. Or the cold, creamy dairy seat, whichever.

2. According to the ACS, a CCP, as they’re known, “is a person who has successfully passed the ACS Certification exam, demonstrated the knowledge and competencies necessary to work effectively within all domains of the cheese industry, and is dedicated to continuing their professional development.”

3. People study for months. NPR talked to one cheesemonger who has been hitting the books since January in preparation. He says studying has been “very intense.”

4. And they cram hard for a good reason: There are 150 multiple choice questions which are delivered via paper using Scantron technology. Candidates have three hours to complete it. That does not sound as fun as eating a lot of cheese to figure out which one is the tastiest, which is the only exercise on my personal cheese exam.

5. Questions range from cheese-making to milk composition to breeds of animals, cheese types, and varieties, as well as importation and distribution laws. For example, as NPR notes, “Why is blue cheese pierced with needles?” or, “What’s the lactation schedule for sheep?”

6. Though the test is still young, it’s got many backers in the industry who say it can help cheesemongers become more marketable.

“It is a big deal,” said the guy who’s been studying since January. “It is, like I said, a big feather in your cap. So in certain people’s eyes it makes you more respectable, more of an authority.”