How You Can Become a Judge

So, you’ve weighed your options, maybe having read my previous article on why you should become a judge, and now you’ve finally made the decision to bite the bullet and take your L1 exam. There are a few ways to study and a few ways to take your exam, which I’ll illustrate in this article. I’ll begin with a preliminary, “Welcome to the club!”

Getting Involved

This you can do whether or not you become a certified judge. Talk to your local judge or store owner, and tell him that you are looking at becoming a judge and would like some experience judging events. The store owner or local judge should have no issues with you helping him out at events, and you’ll get to have some experience with things like Wizards Event Reporter and giving out rulings to players. Be on the lookout for GPTs in your area since those require a certified judge and most certified judges I know love to have judge candidates help out with small events like that for experience. Don’t expect to get compensated much, but you have to start somewhere. GPTs will give you experience in competitive REL—you’ll get to see deck checks, pairings, match slips, and infractions. Another great place to start becoming involved in judging is the IRC channel #mtgjudge on EFNet. This is a great place that’s frequented by judges from all around the world (there are usually over a hundred people on at any given time), and you can talk about judging and ways to get involved locally. There are a lot of judges on there who are more than willing to help you. If you do decide to come on IRC (do it!), look me up. I am “Turner-.”

Studying for the L1 Exam

Judge Center

Wizards has given a pretty decent method of studying for the L1 exam in the Judge Center, which can be found at judge.wizards.com. Once you are set up to log in, head to the exams section. In the exams section, you will see some exams that you can take. There are easy practice, hard practice, and rules advisor tests that should be available to you.

A good way to just get a gauge on your learning is to take about three or four easy practices. They are only twelve questions each, and they have ten rules questions and two policy questions. Once you submit your answers, you will receive detailed information about each answer regardless of whether you were correct. These detailed answers will also cite Comprehensive Rules sections, which you can then go read for more information. Once you get the hang of easy practice and are scoring an average of 80% or better, go ahead and dive into the rules advisor test. The rules advisor test is a little bit harder—it’s twenty-five questions and requires an 84% to pass. If you fail, keep taking easy practices, but sprinkle in about one hard practice for every three easy practice exams you take.

When you pass the rules advisor exam, a new exam opens up for you: the L1 practice exam. If you take and pass this exam, it’s pretty safe to say you are ready to take and pass the real Level 1 exam. Contact a local L2 or, if you aren’t aware of who your local L2 is, your regional coordinator. Make sure you introduce yourself and talk about why you want to become a judge and what your plans as a judge would be. Also be sure to include what practice exams you have passed and when you passed them.

Judge Class

The Florida judge crew has developed a class for training Level 1 judges. This class, along with practice exams, can be found here. These classes are currently available in English, Spanish, and Russian, and more languages are on the way. As you can see from the wiki page, each class is broken down into pillars of L1 knowledge with an appropriate ten-question practice exam after each one. The classes are designed to be run in person by an L1 or L2 in front of a few judge candidates; however, we have had plenty of success with people just using the exam as a study guide. These classes are designed to be gone through at the rate of about one lesson per week. I know it’ll be tempting to just read through all of it in one afternoon, but then you’ll get to the exam and see that you weren’t able to retain all of it. If you keep a regular pace that is slow and deliberate, you’ll retain the knowledge and be prepared for the exam.

After you have completed the judge class, go ahead to judge.wizards.com and take the rules advisor exam. With your knowledge from the judge class, the rules advisor exam should be relatively easy to pass, and then you’ll have access to the Level 1 practice exam. Once you take and pass the Level 1 practice, as above, communicate with your local judge or regional coordinator, and we can find you ways to get certified.

Taking the L1 Exam

There are a few ways to go about this. The easiest will be to talk with your regional coordinator, who will lay out a plan for you; however, it’s perfectly fine to just do it on your own. Testing opportunities are available at any Grand Prix event. If there is a GP you are planning on attending, please email the judge manager for that event (ask the TO if it isn’t in the event info). The judge manager will be able to ask you a few questions and then schedule you to take your exam.

If you are fortunate enough to have a local L2 or higher judge, he or she can administer the exam at any time. Build a relationship with that person and keep him or her informed as you’re studying for your exam. Also be sure to work some events with that person so that when you go to take your exam, you are both on the same page and agree that you are ready for it. In Florida, we usually have an L2 or higher as the head judge for States, Regionals, and PTQs. This allows us to have L1 testing opportunities during the Top 8s of those events (the head judge isn’t nearly as busy then). Ask around, and be proactive!

The third method is used in extreme circumstances—and that’s remote certification. If you are in a remote area that has no nearby L2s, and there are no large events any time soon, the regional coordinator can remotely administer the exam for you online. I’ll stress here again that this is for extreme circumstances. The regional coordinator will usually exhaust every option before setting on this, however it is an option, so if you are in the boonies, don’t despair!

Okay, I’m a Level 1. Now What?

The sky is the limit! No, really—the judge program is what you make of it. Next week’s article is going to go into the different things you can do to become involved in the judge program as a certified judge. So, stay tuned, and I hope you guys join the club!