8 Steps to Practical Exam Success

By Paul Sorgule, M.S., AAC

Preparation is the key to practical exam success.  The practical exam is the ultimate testing of your skills as a chef at each level.  There are many things that need to be done in preparation, such as the initial application, budgeting, practicing, and contacting the test administrator.

Your success in this endeavor is the ultimate goal, so review the tips below.  Each of these will aid you in preparation for successful completion of your practical exam.

  1.  Complete your Initial Application first: The education and work experience required for the initial application are meant to prepare you for the practical exam.
  2. Know your expectations: Review the practical exam handbook for your level and preview the score sheet before taking the exam.
  3. Create a budget: For the ACF, you will be required to pay $50 if you are a member and $100 if you are a non-member, but don’t forget to budget for the other expenses, such as the host site fee (contact test administrator) and groceries for practices and exams.
  4. Find a mentor: Local chapters can often help you find a chef who has taken the exam before.  Mentors can give advice, address your concerns, or critique your menu.
  5. Conduct self-assessments: Take the time to monitor yourself and critique your progress.
  6. Create a checklist: Verify that you have everything you need before you go to the exam.
  7. Engage your employer:  You may want to ask your employers for help.  The quality controls in a kitchen can help you perfect a necessary skill, while improving quality for their customers. Each of you will get something positive out of the process.
  8. Practice, Practice, Practice:  Make sure that you have the timing, taste, and techniques down to a science.

Are you looking to schedule your practical exams?  Find a local test site.

Looking for more advice? Read about Chef Pereira’s journey through CEC® Certification and how it has advanced his career.

Have you taken the practical exam? Share your experience in the comments below!

we are chefs


Paul Sorgule has been a chef and educator for more than four decades holding positions as hotel executive chef, food and beverage director, faculty member, dean of culinary arts and provost at a prominent culinary college. Sorgule is president of Harvest America Ventures, a restaurant and culinary school consulting and training company he formed in 2012. He blogs about culinary issues and finding that work/life balance at www.harvestamericaventures.com.

One thought

  1. If you are thinking of taking an ACF Practical exam, this is a straight forward and solid blue print in which to build your own personal plan to take the exam. Each of the 8 steps listed by Chef Sorgule will be most helpful in helping you succeed. Perhaps, don’t look at this as advice, but instead, look at it as the necessary information needed to give you the best opportunity to be as prepared as possible. The rest is up to you. Your success is our success. Each step provided here will lead you on many worthwhile personal journeys which in turn strengthens our profession. ACF Certification is an excellent starting point to the next step in your career.


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