The Rules Advisor Exam is being discontinued

Brian Schenck
Level 3, Maryland (USA)

Brian Schenck
Level 3, Maryland (USA)

Several months ago Brian Schenck raised questions about the Rules Advisor exam and its placement in the program. Part of the discussion involved the relative difficulty of the exam (only about 30% of people pass the exam) and potential ways to address that. However, the question then became a deeper one… Which was, where does the Rules Advisor exam fit into things?

The original purpose of the exam was to serve as a recruitment tool for the Judge Program during a time when becoming a Level 1 was a lot harder, when the exam was longer than it is currently and you needed to approach a Level 3 judge or a few select Level 2 judges for certification. Since then a lot changed, permission was granted to all Level 2s to generate the Level 1 exam, all the certification exams received major overhauls, and organized play has changed a lot. Getting a Level 1 judge in a store to run events has become a much larger goal, one that was designed to be a more readily and directly attainable goal.

In the same period of time, two significant resources came online: the Judge Wiki and the Magic Judge Apps forum. Social media became much more prevalent in day-to-day life. This made it far easier to contact someone who could certify a person for Level 1, or otherwise get the resources they needed to become a Level 1. You didn’t have to be a Rules Advisor to contact a Level 3 through the Judge Center, as you could now send a message via Facebook to your local Level 2. Becoming a Level 1 judge is a lot more reasonable, let alone making certain someone is qualified to run Regular REL events.

Still, the changes to Level 1 created confusion in terms of what the Rules Advisor accomplished. Becoming a Rules Advisor didn’t give you access to anything more than the Level 1 Practice exam. Which was beneficial, but becoming a Rules Advisor to then take the Level 1 Practice exam didn’t overlap as well as desired. Furthermore, a Rules Advisor wasn’t a certified judge and the membership didn’t allow a person to Head Judge events that required a Level 1 judge. (This actually present a problem for those who thought it did.) The listserv that Rules Advisors used to have was shut down and sending messages via the Judge Center didn’t always work. While some stores required people to become a Rules Advisor to judge events in the store, there was never intended as a requirement for any kind of judge, and certainly not a requirement to become a Level 1 judge.

With the passing rate being as low as it was, the confusion the exam created, and the extra step just to get access to help someone become a certified judge (which has a much more profound impact)… Did we really need this exam anymore? We’d reached a point where the Rules Advisor exam is much more a hindrance than a help. And we saw plenty of people express frustration with how the Rules Advisor worked, both in principle and how it was “used” in practice.

While there are plenty of people who became judges as a result of the exam, trends show that it is no longer the recruitment tool it used to be. Our belief is that the Rules Advisor exam lacks one critical quality that is really important for developing judges… Community. This larger community of judges, especially at the local level, has proven to be a far better approach to recruiting new people into the program and making sure those people get the resources they need to serve their community of players. Likewise a community approach better aligns with goals for organized play. We’ve seen record growth in the last several years, which far outweighs the number of people who first become Rules Advisors and then become certified Judges.

Therefore, the following changes are being made…

  1. The Rules Advisor exam is available until the end of April. Passing the exam no longer grants or renews the Rules Advisor membership, and all existing memberships will expire normally. Once the exam is retired, all content in that exam pool will be either reassigned to another exam or retired from use.
  2. The online Level 1 Practice exam is now available to all users. People interested in becoming a judge now have direct access to this resource, and this exam shows up on your Judge Center profile when you pass it. (Keep in mind that passing the Level 1 Practice exam does not grant any special benefit or membership.) If a particular store truly wants to require something to judge FNM, passing the Level 1 Practice exam is a far more reasonable requirement and more supportive of organized play in the long term since it helps lead towards Level 1 certification.
  3. The online Level 1 Practice exam now has a 28-day cooldown period. This should make for a training resource that is more readily available to all users, balancing the limited content in the pool with the need to make sure people can study and practice towards earning the Level 1 certification. Level 2 and Level 3 judges can still create the online Level 1 Practice exam for others, and still have the ability to generate written Level 1 Practice exams to administer in person. Use the resource as necessary to help people to pass and join the judge community.

…and in the interim, we will be updating documentation on the Judge Center to make people more aware of the current resources and ensuring that anyone interested in becoming a Level 1 judge can get directed to the proper resource. The front page has already been updated to direct people to JudgeApps, as well as the Wizards Play Network and an explanation of the certification process from the Magic Judge Official Resources site. But other sections are being streamlined and adjusted to ensure the resources developed by the entire judge community are highlighted and given attention.

We want to integrate people into the Judge community and find their path towards certification. As well as find local judges with whom to communicate, interact, and continue to build on the success of the program from the last several years.

The decision to discontinue the Rules Advisor exam was not an easy one to make, and we realize that many will be disappointed. But an honest review and forthright discussion about the exam and its placement relative to the Judge program brought the realization that it’s not necessary anymore. Especially given the most recent realignment and refocus of Level 1 through Level 3.

It is time to bid a fond farewell to the Rules Advisor exam, and look forward to the changes to the Judge program and that bright future.