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  • These music exams

    Clara Taylor

    A guide to ABRSM exams forcandidates, teachers and parents

    Chief Examiner

  • These music examsA guide to ABRSM exams forcandidates, teachers and parents

    Clara TaylorChief Examiner

    First published in 1982

    This edition published in 1998, with amendments 2001, 2005 and 2009,by ABRSM, 24 Portland Place, London W1B 1LU, United Kingdom

    Copyright 2009 by The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

    ISBN 978-1-84849-193-9

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be stored in a retrieval system,or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

    Cover design by kvik DesignPrinted in England by Headley Brothers Ltd, The Invicta Press, Ashford, Kent

  • Contents

    Introduction 4

    Outline plan 6

    Foreword 8

    1 Why take a music exam? 9

    2 Before the exam 10Preparation tips 11

    for candidates 11 mainly for teachers 13 for both teachers and parents 14

    Helpful hints AZ 15Access 15Accompanists 15Age limits 16Aural tests 16Date of exams 16Editions of music 17Grade 5 Theory, Practical Musicianship 18

    or Jazz as a prerequisiteMetronome marks 19Order of exam 19Ornaments 20Page-turns 20Playing from memory 21Repeats and da capo 21Scale requirements 21Sight-reading 21

    Other tests, other exams 22Prep Test 22Performance Assessment 22Jazz exams 22Ensembles 23Choral singing 23Music Medals 24

  • 3 On the day 25Nerves 25Warming up, tuning up 26

    For piano candidates 27For other instrumentalists 27

    Who will the examiner be? 28Exam timings 29Practical exam elements 29

    Pieces 30Technical requirements 30Recommended minimum speeds 31

    for scales and arpeggiosSight-reading 33Aural tests 33

    Hints and tips for candidates 34Practical exams 34

    How do examiners assess performance? 36Assessment objectives 36Assessment criteria 38

    The view from the examiners chair 43Theory exams 44

    Hints and tips for candidates 44How do markers assess theory papers? 45

    4 After the exam 48The examiners mark form 48The results and after 48

    But what if I fail? 50Next steps 51Diplomas 51Professional development 52

    Certificate of Teaching (CT ABRSM) course 52Teaching Music Effectively 53Introduction to Instrumental and Vocal Teaching 54Jazz courses 54

    5 Getting in touch 55

  • Introduction

    At the very heart of ABRSMs work lie three convictions: first, that thejourney towards musical accomplishment is of great intrinsic value tothose who embark purposefully upon it; secondly, that milestonesenable most travellers to travel faster and further; and, thirdly, thatABRSM exams are the best milestones for this particular journey.

    There is no need to use this Introduction to argue the first of thesepropositions. Almost every reader of this booklet will already beconvinced of the immense educational benefits, fulfilment and joywhich the development of musical skills can generate.

    Milestones should not be misused. Reaching the next one is never theultimate purpose of a journey. Their dual function is to provide animmediate goal and a measure of progress to date; and most of usneed both of these at regular intervals to help us on our way. This istrue irrespective of our starting point, the length of journeyundertaken, or the speed at which we travel.

    ABRSM exams have exactly these characteristics and qualities in thecontext of learning a musical instrument. They are the outcome oflong experience and a continuing collaborative and consultativeprocess amongst leading musicians, both teachers and performers,ensuring that each element of musicianship is fully explored andaccurately measured at each grade.


  • ABRSMs graded music exams for individual instruments, singing andtheory, as well as diplomas and Music Medals, are accredited by theregulatory authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland andare part of the National Qualifications Framework. The Universitiesand Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) includes Grades 68 in thetariff for university and college entrance.

    The examinations are now undertaken by over 600,000 studentsthroughout the world each year and so provide the internationalbenchmarks for the measurement of musical achievement. We remaindeeply conscious of our resultant responsibilities to teachers andcandidates and strive to maintain the highest levels of integrity andconsistency in our professional work.

    These Music Exams, written by ABRSMs Chief Examiner, Clara Taylor,provides expert practical advice to candidates, teachers and parentsand seeks to show the Boards professional work in as transparent away as possible. I commend it to you.

    Richard MorrisChief Executive

    Introduction 5

  • Outline plan



    Music Performance

    Music Direction

    Instrumental/Vocal Teaching


    Grade 8 Practical (and, forTeaching, Grade 6 Theory) orsubstitutions must be passedbefore taking DipABRSM

    Each level of diploma orits substitution must bepassed before proceedingto the next level


    Piano, Jazz Piano, Organ,Harpsichord

    Violin, Viola, Cello,Double Bass, Guitar, Harp

    Recorder, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet,Jazz Clarinet, Bassoon,Saxophone, Jazz Sax

    Horn, Trumpet, Jazz Trumpet,Cornet, Flugelhorn, Eb Horn,Trombone, Jazz Trombone, BassTrombone, Baritone,Euphonium, Tuba

    Percussion, Singing

    Theory, Practical Musicianship

    Graded music exams

    Candidates may be entered in anygrade without previously havingtaken any other Practical grade

    NB Jazz subjects:Grades 15 only

    Grade 5 or above in Theory,Practical Musicianship or solo jazzsubject must be passed before takingPractical Grades 6 or above



    Violin, Viola, Cello,Double Bass, Guitar

    Descant Recorder, Flute, Oboe,Clarinet, Bassoon, Saxophone

    Horn, Trumpet, Cornet,Flugelhorn, Eb Horn,Trombone, Baritone,Euphonium


    Unmarked assessment

    Designed for pupils after69 months tuition.It can be used to preparepupils for the gradedmusic exams.

    Prep Test

    Grade 1

    Grade 2

    Grade 3

    Grade 4

    Grade 5

    Grade 6

    Grade 7

    Grade 8




  • Outline plan 7


    Tunes/Basic exercises

    Set piece (or song)

    Piece (or song) of candidatesown choice

    Listening games/Aural tests


    Three set pieces (or songs)(Singing Grades 68: four songs)

    Scales & broken chords/arpeggios(Singing: unaccompanied traditionalsong)

    Sight-reading(Solo jazz subjects: quick study)

    Aural tests


    Section 1:Performance(Teaching: viva voce demonstration)

    Section 2:Viva voce including written work(Teaching: written submission)

    Quick study(Music Direction: arrangement)

    This outline plan is intended for generalguidance only. Please refer to the currentExamination Information & Regulationsbooklet and relevant syllabuses for exactdetails of all exams.

    Other exams

    Ensembles:Primary, Intermediate & Advanced levels

    Jazz Ensembles:Initial, Intermediate & Advanced levels

    Choral Singing:Initial, Intermediate & Advanced levels

    Performance Assessment:A non-graded and unmarked assessment foradults aged 21 or over and those below this agewith special needs.

    Music Medals:Assessments for individual instrumental pupilstaught as part of a group (initially available inthe UK only). Five levels: Copper, Bronze, Silver,Gold and Platinum.

    UK National Qualifications Framework

    ABRSMs instrumental, singing andtheory graded exams, diploma exams andMusic Medals have been accredited atthe following levels within the NationalQualifications Framework:

    ABRSMqualification NQF level

    MusicMedalsCopper Entry level 3Bronze, Silver, Gold 1Platinum 2

    Grades13 14 & 5 268 3

    DiplomasDipABRSM 4LRSM 6FRSM 7

  • Foreword

    Your exam will be at 10.45 on 15 March.Please attend 10 minutes beforehand.

    Candidates, teachers and parents will all feel the impact of those wordsin their own ways and it would be a rare being who did not experiencea quiver of anticipation. Whether you are a teacher, parent or candidate,you will find information, guidance and explanation in this booklet,which will help you through the preparation for the exam, the bigday itself and also the period just afterwards.

    At all stages, it is well worth remembering that whilst nothing focusesall round practice as effectively as an exam, it is the progress madeduring this preparation period that really matters.

    ABRSM has been giving structure and support and setting standardsfor over a hundred years. During that time much has been tried, testedand consolidated. We use that wealth of experience for the benefitand guidance of the many hundreds of thousands who regularly takethe grades, knowing that they are part of the most respected andvalued system of music exams in the world.

    The mark form written during the exam and the impressive certificateare permanent reminders, but it is the quality of achievement thatmakes this particular musical journey so valuable for each individual.

    Clara TaylorChief Examiner


  • 1 Why take a music exam?

    Enjoyment through achievement is a phrase that sums up ourphilosophy, and earning an ABRSM certificate is a rewardingexperience. If you are working hard to make progress with your musicyou need some way of recognising your success and reassurance thatyou are on the right road. This is exactly what music exams offer:

    motivation and inspiration, worki


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