Preparing for the Judge Test: Part 1

Written by Weedmonkey on May 15, 2010

This article, as well as all other articles and tournament coverage can be found on our coverage site.

Another 90 days has come and gone. Soon, the judge test reset will be upon us. A swarm of prospective judgelings, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed will tackle the level 1 judge test, hoping to achieve that magical 8/10 to join the judge ranks.

After completing the judge test and receiving their results, some players feel that they deserved a higher mark than they actually received. Others feel that the judge test is far too difficult for anyone but rules gurus to be able to pass. Others still feel that we manipulated their results because there was absolutely no way that they failed the test.

This article i am going to divide into two parts. The first part will address the makeup of the judge test in its current iteration, preconceptions of players and how to begin studying for the judge test. The second part of the article will get into the meat of the judge test. It will look at test technique and how to answer judge questions in order to maximize the chance of passing.

The Test

The test in its current iteration consists of 10 short answer questions. Candidates have 35 minutes in which to complete the test. The test's questions are divided into one very easy, four easy, four medium and one hard. A rough description of each difficulty is as follows:

  • Very Easy questions focus on the basic aspects of the game. These questions will usually ask nothing more of you than identifying certain rules.
  • Easy questions focus on common rules and most general concepts. These questions will usually focus on identifying rules and why they do/don't apply to a given situation. They may also focus on basic applications to a scenario. Successful testees should be able to answer all Very Easy and Easy questions correctly.
  • Medium questions can cover most concepts and card interactions you could expect to come across at a tournament. These questions will cover most general rules and applications to scenarios at a greater complexity level than an Easy question. They may also introduce a related concept to the question or scenario.
  • Hard questions contain scenarios and interactions that are less common, but still possible to come across at tournament level. These questions will often be in more depth and require complete knowledge of a rule/concept, as well as knowledge of slightly more obscure rules. Additionally, applications to scenarios can be complex and/or involve one or more related concepts.

  • To pass the judge test, you require a score of 8/10 or better. We are aware this is a mark higher than is required by the equivalent DCI L1 test. Although I don't know the 'official' reason behind the passing grade being set where it is, I feel that it's a positive thing and necessary to ensure the standard of our judges. Unlike DCI tournaments at a competitive level where you have a head judge and/or other judges to check with, on Magic-League there are times where you will be the only judge available to handle a ruling. In order to ensure that you have the knowledge background to handle these rulings independently a higher passing grade can be beneficial.

    Player Preconceptions

    As a judge, you hear a lot of comments about people who have taken the judge test (from both sides). From my point of view, there are a number of preconceptions that players have regarding the judge test.

    - The test is far harder than the DCI test.
    Based on my exposure to DCI questions I would put it at comparable in terms of difficulty level. Although some players might see it as more difficult because of the higher pass mark and the lack of multiple choice, the content is on average of the same difficulty and complexity as the DCI test. A player with sufficient understanding of the rules should attain approximately the same mark on both tests.

    - I could not have received the mark i did. It must have been marked wrong!
    While it's possible, the chances of a question being marked wrong are low. The judges who grade the test are experienced in rules knowledge. Additionally, there are recommended answers provided when grading judge tests. These are answers that would be along the lines of what we expect from a successful candidate, and contrary to popular belief judges are intelligent people ;).

    - The test is inconsistent and sometimes I won't know what the question is asking.
    This is actually a fact. The judge test is something that has grown and evolved over a number of years. We are not high-level DCI judges, nor are we rules gurus. However, we do the best we can. To this end, over the past three months there has been a big drive by judges in order to clean up the judge test and add more questions to the judge test in order to improve the quality of testing for candidates.

    - The judges don't like me. They will do anything to stop me from becoming a judge.

    Yes, this is an accusation that is directed at judges. One case I know of involved a candidate we will refer to as Joe. Joe had taken the judge test. I graded it, and it was not a passing mark. Believing that he could not possibly have failed, he accused judges of rigging test results so he could not become a judge, even though more than one judge had given him the same mark.

    Believe it or not, we want more judges in the judge ranks. More judges = more tournaments = more judges available to handle rulings = better Magic-League experience. There have been controversial judges that we have approved for training in order to give them a chance to prove themselves (a point which Gerrardfo addressed in his article last year). We don't automatically exclude players if they've misbehaved once or twice in the past - but we do want to make sure that our judges are professional, respectable members of the community.

    Hitting the Books

    This is where many prospective candidates fall apart. Every judge test reset we strongly advise candidates to study. Regardless, there are candidates that think that they can pass the judge test off the back of simply having tournament experience. This is rarely the case.

    Good study habits are something that is beneficial to every judge, regardless of level. In DCI tournaments judges don't have access to tournament documents, therefore it is integral that their knowledge base is in check. For all judges, keeping up to date on rules and interactions ensures quality judging in tournaments they are a part of. Even at level 3 on Magic-League, I will take time every so often to read rules updates (Mark Gottlieb's update bulletins are always interesting) and read up on sections of documents that I'm not as familiar with in order to ensure that I can provide the best service to the community as I possibly can.

    Because everybody thinks and learns in different ways, there is no 'silver bullet' study plan. Some people may find one strategy that works for them, while others may find a combination of approaches helpful to them.

  • Filtering the Known: This strategy involves the use of a text copy of the Comprehensive Rules. Go through the entire document rule by rule, and delete every rule that you know and understand. What you are left with are the rules that you can learn. While the approach is one suited more to logical-mathematical thinkers, as you become better acquainted with rules knowledge this can be a good strategy to identify weak areas in your understanding.
  • The Absorption Method: This strategy involves exposing yourself to 'live' rulings. Whether it's at a PTQ or on IRC (#mtgrules on EFNet is a great resource for prospective candidates), being able to experience rulings from judges can help in shaping your understanding of rules as well as how to tackle rulings yourself. Intrapersonal, interpersonal and linguistic thinkers will benefit most from this, as it has a heavy social element to it.
  • The Pop Quiz: This is good for playing with others if you have people you know well. Find a person (preferably a judge) who has the time in order to give you practice judge test questions. These are a good method for working on explanations, as well as exposing yourself to the sorts of situations you'll be tested on. Another benefit lies in being able to discuss results and through that be able to understand and correct any misconceptions you may have.
  • The Practice Tests: Over time, there have been a number of practice tests available online for prospective judges. The major independent one is the Delphi test. Although it is now quite outdated, it is still a good resource for familiarizing testees with the format of the questions asked. In addition to that, there are the DCI practice tests. These in my opinion are an excellent resource for honing your skills. They give you questions close to what you would expect on the Magic-League judge test, they provide answers with appropriate rules references, and you can also begin your judging career with the DCI through them (the Rules Advisor test).

  • That's it for Part 1! Take the time to start preparing your knowledge for when the sister part to this article begins to tackle the questions.

    Until next time, remember that hindsight is always 20/20.

    Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

    by Zelkaviour on 2010-05-16 15:08 CET

    nicely put Monkey.

    by JoshJ on 2010-05-18 03:53 CET

    The last time I looked at the Delphi test (3 years or so) I observed that you were really better off if you got most of the questions "wrong" and could explain why the "wrong" answer is actually correct under the current rules.

    (There may be an updated key to that test that uses current rules, but I'm sure post-m10 there are questions which do things which are literally impossible- like put damage on the stack.)

    by Steveman on 2010-05-21 00:20 CET

    How is this gonna help me get un j-banned

    All content on this page may not be reproduced without written consent of Magic-League Directors.
    Magic the Gathering is TM and copyright Wizards of the Coast, Inc, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Contact Us | Privacy Policy
    Join Swagbucks!