The Judge Test: Avoiding Pitfalls

Written by Weedmonkey on September 22, 2010

We are now approaching a month after the reset of the judge test, and there have been a great many people who have gone for one of the few exams that they actually want to take. At the time of writing this, our pass rate is a little higher than normal at around 15% - this is a positive indicator that relaxing the passing rate has had an impact on encouraging new judges into the ranks.

As a teacher, grading tests isn't something I'm a stranger to. Since I began grading judge tests on here, I've seen a range of tests; from the people who have no idea at all to those who have a good understanding of the rules. What I want to explore today is common errors that candidates make on their judge test.

Note: What is explored in this article is based on both what I have seen, and my personal views as a teacher. While I do have a background of sorts in this area, I am by no means an expert. Don't take everything said here as gospel, but rather as a guideline to improving your own abilities.

So without further ado, I present to you...


The Top 5 Pitfalls Made by Candidates


Pitfall #5: Not Using Correct Terminology

This is an issue that stems more from lack of rules knowledge than answering the question incorrectly. Something I see occasionally is that in a candidate's explanation they use the incorrect terminology when explaining their answers (and this is different to not using jargon at all). For example, a candidate may explain a triggered ability when they should instead be explaining replacement effects. While they started off with the correct answer, what happens is some candidates then take the wrong direction with their explanation and thus arrive at an incorrect one.

Before taking the judge test, candidates should make sure that their knowledge of game terms is proficient. One tool that candidates may find useful is writing down definitions of as many game terms as they can, and then cross-reference it with the glossary in the Comprehensive Rules. This can potentially aid candidates by being able to explain game terms succinctly, and thus be able to explain game terms clearly when answering questions.


Explain the difference between Planar Void and Leyline of the Void.

Explain what would happen when the following cards would attempt to be sent to the graveyard with 1) Planar Void in play 2) Leyline of the Void in play

a) Kingfisher

b) Reveillark

c) Progenitus


Pitfall #4: Not Answering the Question

This is more of a silly error on the part of candidates. There are some questions where the candidate either:

1) Goes off on an explanation without providing any answer at all

2) Goes completely off-topic in an answer

One trait that both teachers and judges share is the inability to read minds. There is only so much that can be inferred based on what you say. If you go off topic or only explain a question without providing an answer, then you haven't demonstrated the necessary knowledge and understanding that the question is asking.

After you have completed your answers for the judge test, read over your answers again and ask yourself the following questions:

- Does this answer make sense to me?

- Am I explaining myself clearly?

- Would this be the kind of answer that I would give to a person asking the same question in #judges4you ?

If you aren't satisfied with the answers to any of those questions, you should take any spare time you have rewriting  your answer. There are only benefits to be gained from clarifying your thoughts.

Note: There are still some people who don't explain their answers at all on the judge test. It is something that is said every reset, and answers without explanations are marked as incorrect.


Pitfall #3: Incorrect Explanations

This is a straight-up issue of rules knowledge. All serious prospective candidates should be scoring 5/10 without difficulty on the test (5/10 questions consisting of Very Easy and Easy questions in difficulty). This means that candidates only require 2/5 correct answers from questions that are Medium and Hard in difficulty.

From what I have seen, there are a number of candidates who understand how a certain element of the game works from a player's perspective. However, when it comes to depth of knowledge and applying that knowledge to an issue it becomes apparent where a candidate's shortcomings are.

The answer to this is to study, study, study. The Glossary of the Comprehensive Rules is a good start point. The Glossary contains definitions of game mechanics, along with references to the specific rules that apply to it. This should assist candidates in developing their knowledge from a player's level to that of a judge.


Define the following game elements and provide two examples of an application of that game element:

a) State-based actions

b) The cleanup step

c) Leaves-the-battlefield abilities

d) Replacement effects

e) Exchanging control of permanents


Pitfall #2: Not Reading the Question

This is far more common than I like to see, and it's an issue with a simple solution. There are some candidates who either:

1) Provide answers to questions that are completely off-topic

2) Fail to answer a part of the question

This is a pitfall with a simple answer - read the question! Reading it once and then tackling the answer can potentially lead you into misunderstanding what the question is asking you. This becomes especially apparent when the question has two parts - there has been more than one candidate that I have seen miss answering one part of a question.

When you read a question, read it over it a couple of times before considering the answer. If necessary, read the question aloud. Often you can become aware of things you have missed.


And the number one pitfall?


Pitfall #1: Not studying before the test

This is by far the most common pitfall candidates make. One thing that I harp on about is how all serious candidates should be achieving a minimum 5/10 on the judge test (which is the number of Very Easy and Easy questions on the test). There are far too many judge tests for my liking that are are 3s and 4s (and as low as 1/10 before that I've seen). These tests often clearly show a lack of technical rules knowledge and are taken by players who feel that their experience in the game is all that is necessary in order to become a judge. While for a small number of candidates that is true, for the vast majority you do need to study in order to pass the test.

There are a lot of resources available for studying purposes. Players should take the time to do the necessary study before attempting the judge test. It's a positive habit to get into for once you do become a judge, and it helps to avoid disappointment if you do take the judge test and not receive a desirable grade.


That's All She Wrote

I hope that this article does help prospective candidates in making the most out of their opportunity to pass the judge test from the point of view of a person familiar with grading exams.

Good luck with everyone planning on taking the judge test soon!

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by Conkisstador on 2010-09-22 02:08 CET

what about being marketable as a judge?

by Steveman on 2010-09-22 03:00 CET

Why am I still not banned

by Stork on 2010-09-22 14:24 CET

I beat the test and judges dont like me. What to do? Need an articel of how I become popular.

by Lynolf on 2010-09-22 21:02 CET

Sucks to be you, bitch!

by Weedmonkey on 2010-09-22 22:08 CET

Steveman: You're still banned.

Stork: The Judge Director rejects candidates who have passed the judge test if they haven't shown the maturity necessary to be in a judge role.

by Mykrob56 on 2010-09-23 02:08 CET

exactly. passing the test doesn't mean you automatically will become a judge.

by Sebas_ on 2010-09-23 08:11 CET

How can i know if i have the enough maturity?

by Farseer on 2010-09-23 20:14 CET

"Explain the difference between Planar Void and Leyline of the Void." -> {2}{B}


by Nickname7 on 2010-09-24 10:20 CET

I'm not able to pass the exam;<

by GreenBear on 2010-09-24 18:42 CET

Maybe, telling people before they take the test if they are deemed a suitable candidate or not would save alot of aggro.

by MotC on 2010-09-25 03:09 CET

I got a 6/10 due to the fact that I had 2 minutes left on the clock and rushed through the last question and submitted. I only knew I got it wrong because i realized I missed part of the question. So, if it wasn't for that error I would have passed.

by Ashmatan on 2010-09-28 02:23 CET

As I've said before, most real learning comes from trial and error. Knowing which question you got wrong and where you erred answering the question is where the learning curve grows. As I have learned, experience is the best teacher. The "hard" questions can really only be answered correctly if you have been in that scenario before with the card(s) in question. Also, in these judge tests, you only get one message with a twofold answer: whether you have passed or failed. Even if you have passed, it doesn't mean you will be a judge as stated earlier. In either case, the question(s) that were incorrect are not explained so that void of knowledge still remains after the test. That being said, I believe that the tests are defunct in that right. I mean, the purpose of the test is to test knowledge of the game, but if the person taking the test never finds where he went wrong, then what did he learn from his mistakes? Nothing. He/She is back to square 1 waiting another 3 months to fail again. It's a negative endless loop of failure that accomplishes nothing but exploiting their own weaknesses at explaining the rules of the game.

P.S.: I'm sorry if this post is hard to follow, but this topic has been a thorn in my side for as long as I have been a member. All I really want is to see more minis ran (drafts in particular) and to give the J1s that are idle (you know who you are Clariax, first and foremost) the perverbial boot. I haven't seen him run a mini in years, I swear. I don't mean to name-drop and it's nothing personal, but he is the first one that comes to mind.

by Weedmonkey on 2010-10-02 00:03 CET

Ashmatan: As a teacher, I understand your grievance perfectly. The issue with releasing questions at this stage is that we simply don't have the pool size available. If we had more judge test questions, then I couldn't see any reason why we couldn't discuss results with candidates.

The solution is easy - create more questions. However, it is...difficult to come up with a broad pool of questions. I've contributed a good number of questions to the test. Keeping that momentum and getting that through to the entire judge department is the challenge we currently face.

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